Celebrating Volunteers

Council E-News
March 2011
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Letter from the Editors 

Welcome to the fourth issue of Council E-News, your source for updates on the Council's assessments, corporate activities, its member academies (The Royal Society of Canada (RSC), the Canadian Academy of Engineering, and the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences) and science in Canada.

With National Volunteer Week coming up, from April 10-16th, the Council is pleased to shine a light on the critical role that volunteers play in the work that the Council undertakes. The Council would not be able to achieve its mandate without the significant intellectual contribution that is made by numerous experts from across Canada each and every day.

This issue also features Dr. Sherrill Grace, Fellow of the RSC, and University Killam Professor at the University of British Columbia, in our Fellow in Focus series. Dr. Grace’s research and teaching interests lie in the areas of 20th century Canadian literature and culture, drama, biography, and autobiography.

This issue’s Perspectives article reports on Canada’s performance on the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development Program for International Student Assessment (OECD PISA) test, one of the most prominent tests used to compare performance of education systems across the country, by Dane Berry, a Research Associate at the Council.

We hope you enjoy these and other articles in this spring issue of Council E-News!

Questions? Comments? Email us at editors@scienceadvice.ca.

President's Message 

From April 10th to 16th volunteers across Canada will be recognized during National Volunteer Week. In anticipation of this week, the Council would like to take this opportunity to express our appreciation for our own dedicated group of volunteers, as well as to celebrate the culture of volunteerism in Canada.

In This Issue: 

President's Message 
Expert Panels at Work
Fellow in Focus: Dr. Sherrill Grace, FRSC
Spotlight on Citizen Science
Around the Council
News from the Academies 
Perspectives - The State of Science Education in Canada: Are We Keeping Up?
The Council’s interns reflect on their experience at the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s Annual Meeting
Did You Know...?


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Did You Know...?

Spring has officially sprung and gardens will soon be filled with the fragrance of flowers and the buzzing of bees. But have you ever given much thought to the bee? They are a fascinating species:

-Bees don’t always sleep in the hive. If the bee happens to be very far from home it can clutch a flower or a blade of grass with its mandibles (a.k.a., its jaws) and spend the night in a field.

-We are most familiar with their stinger as a weapon, but some species of bee have another defense mechanism. They protect the hive against an invading insect by a process known as balling. The bees will cluster around a foreign invader in a tight ball until it overheats.

-A queen bee can alter the sex ratio of the larva produced. Females come from fertilized eggs while males come from unfertilized eggs. The queen selectively releases sperm and so is able to produce more males or females as required by the hive. Queen bees develop from fertilized larvae fed a diet exclusively of royal jelly.

-Bees produce one pound of honey from up to two million flowers, and are the only insects that provide us with a food source. In fact, they are responsible for one third of all the food on our plates.

A worrisome trend, however, has been noticed worldwide. Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) is characterized by the near total abandonment of the worker and drone bees from a colony. With no one to tend her, the queen and larvae die out. Some areas of the United States in particular have reported yearly losses 15 per cent higher than average since 2006. With roughly three million honey bee colonies in the U.S. alone, the number of colonies disappearing annually is in the hundreds of thousands.

Scientists and beekeepers alike are stymied and debates surround the exact reason for CCD. Theories include pesticide use, air pollution, climate change, various bee diseases and mites. It may be a combination of these pressures, which ultimately increase the colony’s susceptibility to stressors such as low food availability or disease.

Visit Pollination Canada for more info on honey bees and to learn how you can become a volunteer pollinator observer.

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