I’ve been editing the weekly (bi-weekly in summer) newsletter for science journalists in Canada since February 2018. The newsletter shares with authorized subscribers the Science Media Centre’s top newsworthy picks, with pithy descriptions, from among all the embargoed articles on Eurekalert and peer-reviewed journal sites by Canadian researchers that are scheduled to be published that week. It also includes brief synopses of recently published articles, policy papers, science-related government announcements, and job notices of interest to Canadian science journalists.

View past editions of the newsletter>

Chanterelle mushrooms are the fruiting bodies of a mycorrhizal fungus. Photo © Charle de Mille-Isles via flickr/Creative Commons

November 29—Celebrating a three-tined tribute to the stuff that makes gardens grow seems odd at this time of year. But Global Soil Week, punctuates the end of the U.N.’s International Year of Soils and ends in a trifecta with Saturday’s World Soil Day, relates as much to winter here as it does to places with growing seasons that span the turn of the year.

During Victoria’s damp season, grass gone brown during summer sprouts green, winter heathers bloom, and mushrooms burst forth from the soil.

The chanterelles, pine mushrooms, morels, and other late-year treats are signposts of the complexity and mystery of our coastal soils.

This much we know about soil—we depend on it. To paraphrase the U.N. Food and Agricultural Organization’s website, soil makes possible food, feed, fuel and fibre production. It helps us manage water and prevent drought, and provides supports ecosystem and human wellbeing. Soil does so much for us.

This much we also prefer to overlook. More »

Seeing a patient. Photo © Seattle Municipal Archives

I recently asked Nature Boy when he had last seen a doctor.

He answered, “Not since the final season of House M.D.

Other British Columbians share a similar rate of exposure to medical practice. Most of us are more familiar with characters who take medical license on TV than with doctors licensed by the College of Physicians and Surgeons of B.C.

Television physicians, after all, make weekly house calls to our living rooms. That practice has largely disappeared in the real world. More »

Carolling. Photo © Dwight Sipler, via flickr and creative commons

“This qualifies as a barbaric cultural practice,” Nature Boy said the other day when we were grocery shopping. “I’m sure I’m not the only person who feels deep and lasting psychological distress at being subjected to holiday carols non-stop from November 1 through December.”

He paused to survey the candy-cane display. “Wasn’t there supposed to be a hotline I could report this to?”

Neurologists have already determined that music primes our reactions. That the Academy of Motion Pictures of America awards Oscars to best original scores and sound editing underscores the role music plays in playing on our emotions. More »

Human Rights Defenders Exhibit

Canadian Museum for Human Rights

Human Rights Defenders Gallery, © Canadian Museum for Human Rights

Human Rights Defenders Gallery © Canadian Museum for Human Rights

This exhibit features Canadians and others who have contributed significantly to human rights through their work and personal lives.

View samples of my writing for this exhibit.


CMHR_Atrocities table by Scott Mair

Breaking the Silence interactive study table

Canadian Museum for Human Rights

In Breaking the Silence, a giant interactive table sits in the centre of the gallery, with points that expand with information when you touch them.

The table explores 19 examples of genocide and mass atrocity from around the world, and breaks each event down into four stages that are common to all genocides and major atrocities:

  1. The build up, when the stage is set for violence
  2. The violation, or the actual committing of genocide or atrocity
  3. Distortion and denial, or the cover up and refusal to acknowledge the atrocity; and
  4. Breaking the silence, when the truth becomes known and the violence is acknowledged—by the larger, global community, if not by the perpetrators.

The interactive display emphasizes the importance of speaking out to protect human rights before human rights violations escalate. More »

Protecting Rights in Canada. Photo © CMHR

Protecting Rights in Canada Gallery

Protecting Rights in Canada multimedia debate stations

Canadian Museum for Human Rights

The Protecting Rights in Canada exhibit includes a series of interactive stations where visitors watch news clips about, and read arguments for and against, key Canadian court cases that have defined humans rights in Canada—often on very divisive issues.

Visitors are then asked to “vote” for which side they think is correct. After everyone at the station has voted, the results are displayed alongside a running tally of all the ballots people who have cast at the exhibit before them. More »