Gault Nature Reserve

This is a great time of year to get outdoors in a big scarf and take a walk, listening to the crunching of the leaves under your feet. You don’t have to venture too far outside Montreal to get a nature fix and find some nice hiking trails. Close by, in Mont Saint-Hilaire, you’ll find the Gault Nature Reserve, a private Reserve affiliated with the Faculty of Science of McGill University. From their website:

Gault Nature Reserve of McGill University is a private Reserve which protects 1000 hectares of natural primeval forests of the St. Lawrence Valley. Situated at Mont-Saint-Hilaire approximately 40 km from Montreal, this panoramic natural landscape is ideal for discovering nature, teaching and university research. The public sector with 25 km of trail network is open 365 days per year for visitors’ enjoyment.

Affiliated with the Faculty of Science of McGill University, the Gault team offers support to research and teaching of natural sciences while providing a wide range of services to the university community and the general public.

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Stay Alert

Are you looking for a way to stay on top of new research in your field or on a particular topic? Consider setting up an email alert in one or more research databases that you search regularly. Email alerts are messages sent after every weekly database update that contain any new records matching a saved query. To create alerts, most databases require that you register or set up a personal account. Registration in research databases is free and it’s a good idea to set up an account anyway, as you may want to take advantage of other features available to you when you are signed in.

It’s as simple as signing in, plugging in your search and then on the results page, clicking on “Create Alert” (or some variation on that, depending on the database). You will now receive an email each time new content matching your search is added to the database. Compendex, the premier research database for engineers, has a “Create Alert” option and this is what the button looks like:

Once you click on it, the alert is created, and if you want to remove it, you click on “Remove Alert”. If you need help, click on the “help” button at the top of the page (most, if not all, databases have a help button). These help pages are very well organized and within the table of contents, look for the topic about creating and working with email alerts.

Food for thought

I love hamburgers. What’s not to love? I’m not really a gourmet burger type of girl (brie cheese and pear chutney – no thanks) or a McDonald’s junkie (I have been known to rhapsodize once in a while though, about the perfection of the McDonald’s cheeseburger). My poison is the simple diner burger, dressed with lettuce, cheese, tomato and pickle. The key to my enjoyment of these tasty delights is that I enjoy them in moderation. I’m certainly not the poster girl for moderation but I do have a basic understanding of over-consumption and the toll this can take on the body and the earth. I learned a lot about this cause and effect from The hidden costs of hamburgers, a short animated video produced by The Center for Investigative Reporting. You may have heard it all before, but the animation and the script are really well done, and at the very least, it’s a basic review of the environmental impact of beef production on an unsustainable scale.

Image by Andy Potts for Scientific American

Oliver Sacks – Hallucinations

I gave several workshops in the past two weeks, as did many of my fellow librarians. One of the topics we cover in our workshops is the importance of making the distinction between popular and scholarly literature, namely the difference between scientific articles that are written for the general public and those that are meant to communicate ideas and results of scientific studies among academic researchers. Today’s post is about a scientist who most certainly writes for the general public but is no less fascinating or important for it. Just don’t cite one of his popular publications if you’ve been asked to find scholarly and peer-reviewed articles :-/

Oliver Sacks is a physician, best-selling author, and professor of neurology at the NYU School of Medicine. He writes primarily about people with neurological disorders, but it doesn’t stop there. His latest book, Hallucinations, comes out in November and the title is pretty self-explanatory. If you’d like a taste, read an excerpt called Altered States from The New Yorker (Vol. 88 Issue 25, p40-47) published this summer. Just search for The New Yorker from the Journals tab on the Library homepage and then, from within the journal, search for this volume/issue and read it online. Easy! Oh, and here’s a video from The New Yorker of Sacks, in anticipation of his new book, discussing the hallucinogenic mind…

Check out some other classic titles in the McGill Library catalogue including: The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat: and Other Clinical Tales and of course Awakenings, the book that the 1990 film of the same name is based on. Happy reading…

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Welcome / Welcome Back!

For those new to McGill, welcome, and for those returning for another year, welcome back!

It’s a busy time of the year, as students scramble to find their classrooms, course reserves, student service centres, etc. You can take solace in the fact that McGill Library has organized fun and informative orientation activities that demystify library loans and research and help you get the most out of the library. You will learn about all the collections and services and how to find everything you need.

Schulich Library is leading tours and giving workshops everyday for the next couple of weeks and they are all on a drop-in basis. To see a schedule and to read more about Library Orientation at Schulich as well as at other library branches, click here.

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Ready, Set, Get Oriented!

It’s that time of year again! Dust off your book belts and make sure your alarm clock is in good working order because it’s Back to School! McGill Library is ready to ease you into the new academic year with a lot of fun and informative Library Orientation activities. Attend all three, on a drop-in basis: Library Tour, Getting Started and Finding the Right Stuff, at Schulich Library or any other McGill Library branch and receive a free USB bracelet! Here’s how you win:

  1. Pick up your Orientation Passport at any library branch, during Discover McGill Street Fest or at the Discover McGill Service Fair. We will also distribute these at the Tours and Workshops if you don’t already have one.
  2. Get your passport sticker after each session you attend.
  3. Once you’ve collected all three stickers, drop your passport off at any Library Information Desk to receive your free McGill Library USB memory bracelet!

After each Workshop you attend at Schulich Library, your name is entered in a draw and you could win a nifty McGill mug. For a schedule of Schulich Library’s Tours and Workshops click here.

Don’t forget about The Amazing Library Race being held on Thursday August 30, from 3-5 pm.  For more information or to register click here. Please note that if you participate in the Amazing Library Race, you can earn a sticker for your Orientation Passport in lieu of a Tour. Sound good? See you at the finish line!

Image by Nikki Tummon

We’ve come a long way, baby…right?

Inspired by my colleague Giovanna’s post about the Science Hall of Fame and their all male Top 10, I want to introduce you to a fantastic Canadian not-for-profit organization, the Society for Canadian Women in Science and Technology (SCWIST). Perhaps you’ve heard of them, maybe you’re even a member, and if that’s the case, bravo!

SCWIST has a clear aim and it’s to “support and promote the education of girls and women through programs and activities that [they] develop in partnership with the community…boost the numbers, retention and status of women in the workplace by facilitating networking, mentoring and advocating woman-friendly policies [and] highlight opportunities, achievements and positive messages for and about women in the field. [They] do this by raising public awareness and guiding policy implementation.”

SCWIST has been around since 1981. 31 years ago, there’s no question that SCWIST’s influence would have been greatly needed. The times, yes, they’ve changed (how much they’ve changed is somewhat debatable of course), so if you’re wondering why SCWIST soldiers on, they’ve anticipated this question and provided some excellent answers:

  • Out-dated assumptions persist about women as leaders in science and technology. Men continue to dominate senior leadership positions within these areas, despite the equal ability of their female colleagues

  • There are growing numbers of highly-trained women who have immigrated to Canada who do not work in their chosen fields. Our IWIS program provides support to these women

  • SCWIST grows with the new realities: we support and promote women in their education and career choices

  • As part of our ms infinity program we delight in encouraging girls to imagine science, engineering and technology as part of their future

So, hats off to SCWIST, and to all the girls and women pursuing an education or excelling at a career in science and technology!

Oh, and as an aside, while I was perusing SCWIST’s blog I found the most recent post very interesting. It’s a thoughtful and nuanced piece, wherein the author reacts to the backlash on the blogosphere and Twitterverse, after the European Commission developed and distributed, what turned out to be, a very controversial video as part of their campaign to encourage more girls to pursue STEM careers. If you’re so inclined, watch the video (it’s actually quite hilarious), read the post, and discuss!

Image from Indiana University’s website

Surf’s up!

I just spent a week in PEI and Nova Scotia, enjoying the sun and the surf. It is a true pleasure to be seaside, relaxing in the warm sand, cooling off in the waves and afterwards, at a small seafood shack, getting your fingers greasy eating fried clams and lobster rolls. It’s fair to say that I am rather romantic when it comes to the ocean and the less I know about it, the better. If you’re not like me and you’re actually a budding or seasoned scientist or oceanographer, please visit Fisheries and Oceans Canada and explore their Scientific Data and Products page. This is an online portal to “[o]ceanographic information and data collected and aggregated by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. Data is collected through several national and international programs.” You can browse the different websites and databases by topic (Biology and Chemistry; Ocean Physics; Meterorology) or alphabetically by title. Bookmark it!

Image courtesy of Library of Congress

Big money in physics?

Yuri Milner

Who knew? As a scientist in the field of physics, you have the chance to be awarded the most lucrative academic prize in the world. Nine physicists became multimillionaires after Yuri Milner, a billionaire who made his fortune investing in Internet companies like Facebook and Groupon after quitting his PhD in physics, and then established the Fundamental Physics Prize, dropped $3 million into their bank accounts. The prize is larger than the Nobel Prize, which is currently $1.2 million, split among 2 or 3 people and differs from the Nobel Prize in crucial ways. The Fundamental Physics Prize can go to younger scientists who are still in the experimental stage of their research. The nomination and voting process is also different, with anyone being able to nominate a winner online and the selection panel is public. Milner hopes that the significant size of the prize will shine a spotlight on fundamental physics and drive home the importance of the field. To read more about Yuri Milner, the Fundamental Physics Prize and its recipients, check out this article in The Guardian.

Image from The New York Times

Air France Flight 447: the complete pilot transcript

At the beginning of July of this year, the French aviation safety authority BEA, presented its final report on the 2009 crash of an Air France flight from Rio to Paris that killed 228 people. Pilot error was found to be at fault. I apologize for the morbid topic. I know that accidents like plane crashes haunt people, and that against our better judgement, knowing full well that it’s safer to be in the sky at a safe cruising altitude with a reputable airline than it is to merge onto just about any highway at 100 kilometers per hour, some of us still get the jitters when we fly. If you’re anything like me, you stare out the window on takeoff and reflect on your own mortality. You might consider this an over-share, but it’s actually not as depressing as it sounds. It’s deep okay!

As well, if you’re anything like me, reading the full pilot transcript taken from the flight-data recorders, retrieved from beneath two miles of ocean, is absolutely fascinating. In December 2011, before the final report came out but after the black boxes were found, Popular Mechanics published this article with the full pilot transcript in French and English, with explanatory notes throughout. Perhaps this is not for the faint of heart, but it is for anyone interested in aviation, the automation of airplanes and the ensuing problems this presents for pilots and those who train and certify them, and of course the fallibility of both machines and humans.