University and EnWin officialsUWindsor VP Sandra Aversa, Enwin CEO Helga Reidel, Windsor mayor Drew Dilkens, UWindsor president Alan Wildeman, facilities manager Danny Castellan, and sustainability advocate Tanya Basok pose for a photo with a rebate cheque from Enwin Utilities on Thursday, April 19. The University received the utility’s GreenStar award for making conservation a priority on campus.

Conservation efforts earn UWindsor a green star

UWindsor president Alan Wildeman was joined by Windsor mayor Drew Dilkens and Enwin CEO Helga Reidel and their teams at a campus event yesterday to recognize the University’s receipt of the utility’s GreenStar Award and conservation incentive rebate.

The award acknowledges excellence in conservation initiatives, and is given to organizations that make conservation and sustainability a key part of their business plan.

“The University recognizes the value of the environment and of sustainability, and focuses on a goal of constant improvement in the field of energy conservation,” said Dr. Wildeman. “We strive to achieve the highest level of sustainability on campus, while maintaining a top level of efficiency.”

This is the second time UWindsor has received the GreenStar Award, which came with an incentive payment of nearly $158,700 for 885,407KWh of energy savings achieved in 2017.

“This has been a prime goal for us on campus and many capital investments have been made to reduce energy — through lighting enhancements, HVAC improvements, and also through improving the awareness on campus for all of our students on how we can make that difference in conserving energy,” said Sandra Aversa, vice-president, planning and administration.

“We’re honoured to receive this award and these monies will be used to further invest in capital investments to reduce energy use.”

UWindsor biological sciences PhD student Katrina Switzer is working with 3D-printed yellow toads in the forests of Costa Rica to see how females choose among similarly coloured males.UWindsor biological sciences PhD student Katrina Switzer is working with 3D-printed yellow toads in the forests of Costa Rica to see how females choose among similarly coloured males.

Researchers use 3D printed toads in the wild

When the rains eventually blanket northwest Costa Rica, ushering in the country’s wet season, a booming chorus of yellow toads will fill the tropical forest.

And the moment that rain starts to fall, UWindsor’s Katrina Switzer will race to a pond in Santa Rosa National Park where she’ll match 3D printed “Robotoads” with unsuspecting mates.

“The Neotropical Yellow Toads have a large breeding event that really only happens once a year during the first massive rainfall,” Switzer explained, adding the rain usually starts falling in the middle of the night.

“You can hear the toads from several kilometres away and as you’re walking to the pond, trying not to step on toads, you look up and see this beautiful sea of yellow.”

Switzer, who’s completing her PhD at the University of Windsor in biological sciences, has been in Costa Rica since the beginning of April to prepare for the intense breeding event.

Studying under the supervision of Daniel Mennill and Stéphanie Doucet, Switzer said the male toads turn from their normal dull brown to a luminous lemon-yellow during the mating ritual.

Dr. Mennill and Dr. Doucet’s previous research revealed that male toads transition to their yellow state to help males distinguish between males and females, but Switzer will be examining how females choose from the similarly coloured-males.

While in Costa Rica, Switzer lives and works in a rustic three-bedroom cinderblock house that students use for accommodations inside a national park called the Guanacaste Conservation Area.

To communicate with the outside world, she travels two kilometres down the road to a fire station equipped with wavering Wi-Fi.

“It’s my third year coming down here so by now I’m used to being this unplugged,” Switzer laughed.

“But it can be a total shock to the system for some people.”

UWindsor biological sciences master's student Lincoln Savi displays his 3D printed Neotropical Yellow Toads.

UWindsor biological sciences master's student Lincoln Savi displays his 3D-printed Neotropical Yellow Toads.

While she waits for the rain, Switzer has been creating triangular arenas where she’ll place two male robotic toads of two slightly different colours and a wild female toad.

The toads were 3D created by biological sciences master’s student Lincoln Savi and carefully modelled to the exact shades of yellow for the research project.

Savi said he created the 3D toad by taking photos during his fieldwork in Costa Rica last year and using the process of photogrammetry to take measurements.

“The photos only really covered his back, up his spine and to his head,” Savi explained.

“I then had to do more traditional digital sculpting and merge the two which was a lot of work.”

Switzer said through data from Mennill and Doucet, they were able to capture the colour of the top 10 per cent and bottom 10 per cent of natural toad colour variation.

The male Neotropical Yellow Toad changes from a dull brown to a vibrant lemon-yellow during the short mating season.

The male Neotropical Yellow Toad changes from a dull brown to a vibrant lemon-yellow during the short mating season.

Previous studies of the Neotropical Yellow Toad have been completed by hand-sculpting toads from plasticine or modeling clay. But Switzer said the realistic models, with small motors to mimic the movements of a living amphibian, should result in a stronger reaction from the toads.

“We’ve had a previous master’s student use clay models that he pulled with a string and he was still able to get a strong reaction,” Switzer said.

“But I’m hoping that if we are trying to see if they can pick up on subtle differences, then having realistic models will be the best way to detect it.”

Savi said he had such a positive response from the 3D toads, that he’s launched his own business called Savi Made.

“It’s an interesting way of still being involved in research while focusing on a more creative aspect of it,” he said.

By Dylan Kristy

Chris Weisener, Nicholas Falk, Shawn Tanner, Mahnoz AkhtariUWindsor professor Chris Weisener (left) and PhD student Nicholas Falk (right) flank Shawn Tanner and Mahnoz Akhtari, who will represent Windsor in the Canada-Wide Science Fair.

Campus lab spells science fair success for high school team

A couple of young scientists from Walkerville Collegiate Institute are headed to Ottawa to compete in the Canada-Wide Science Fair with the winning water filtration project they completed in a Great Lakes Institute for Environmental Research (GLIER) laboratory.

Shawn Tanner and Mahnoz Akhtari’s project, Using Zebra Mussels as a Water Filtration Substrate, won the duo five awards at the Windsor Regional Science, Technology and Engineering Fair (WRSTEF) in March, and an invitation to compete against 500 of Canada’s top young minds at this year’s national science fair in May.

The 12th graders initially joined earth and environmental sciences professor and GLIER researcher Chris Weisener’s laboratory as co-op students. Their work with environmental science doctoral candidate Nicholas Falk (BSc 2013, MSc 2017) evolved into their own project of using zebra mussel shells to clean polluted waste water left over from mining industrial practices.

The students created their own effluent, or acid mine drainage, by adding to water metals that would be found in a contaminated industrial site.

Akhtari says they pumped the effluent through two reactants: one pure sand and one with sand and zebra mussel shells. They tested the acidity and metal concentrations of the simulated acid mine drainage and found the shells did successfully pull out metals.

“We had a lot of help from Falk and Weisener and I learned a lot, from DNA extraction, to using a scanning electron microscope to take pictures of various reactant products from the experiments,” she says. “Now I have an edge on everyone else entering university, so I am lucky.”

Tanner says it is the shells’ bacteria that promotes the removal of metals from the effluent. Before heading to Ottawa, the two will test the bacteria community’s DNA to identify types of bacteria present in the two reactants, to add to their project.

“This research is important, and it is interesting to take something that is negative on the environment, like invasive zebra mussels, and turn it into a positive for the environment, like cleaning up industrial waste,” says Tanner.

“It was also great to be learning about current scientific technologies and theories in my high school biology class and then actually applying it to my university research.”

Falk says he was impressed to by the students who stayed committed to swinging by the lab every few weeks, all year, to take samples.

“They are really smart, obviously, and they ran with it, but I really commend them because at that age they already have a lot of other responsibilities from classes, to applying to university to sports and extracurricular activities,” he says. “So I was proud of them for wanting to come in and for getting it done.”

Tanner and Akhtari won five awards at the WRSTEF:

  • Gold Medal in the Senior Division for top project.
  • Al-Hijra Academy Environmental Science Award for demonstrating excellence in environmental conservation, preservation, or regeneration.
  • Santec Consulting Award for projects related to application of engineering principles or research for improving the quality of our environment and/or infrastructure. 
  • Essex Region Conservation Authority Award for projects related to either the conservation of soil, wildlife, forests, or flood and erosion protection.
  • Canada Wide Science Fair Scholarship award sponsored by ophthalmologist Robin Deans and the University of Windsor, which qualifies them to participate in the Canada-Wide Science Fair.

Both Tanner and Akhtari are future Lancers: Akhtari is set to major in biochemistry at UWindsor in Fall 2018, and Tanner will enroll in engineering.

Sara Elliott

Michael Cappucci (BASc 2011) was one of three alumni named the Top Three Under 30 by Windsor’s Engineering Month Committee during a ceremony April 13 at the Fogolar Furlan Club.Michael Cappucci (BASc 2011) was one of three alumni named the Top Three Under 30 by Windsor’s Engineering Month Committee during a ceremony April 13 at the Fogolar Furlan Club.

UWindsor students and alumni honoured by engineering community

Several University of Windsor engineering students and alumni were among those honoured last week during a local celebration of the engineering profession.

Windsor’s Engineering Month Committee hosts an annual awards luncheon to “bring public awareness to the diversity and importance of the exciting fields of engineering and technology and invite prospective students to consider these professions,” said Tina Hawco, chair of the Engineering Month Committee.

The committee is comprised of engineers and technologists from local municipalities, consulting engineering firms, the University of Windsor, St. Clair College, professional associations and industry.

Priscilla Williams, a PhD candidate in the civil and environmental engineering department, Michael Cappucci (BASc 2011), and Aaron Blata (BASc 2014) were named the Top Three Under 30 during a ceremony April 13 at the Fogolar Furlan Club for demonstrating higher-than-average abilities to undertake engineering projects, outstanding work ethic, and leadership early in their careers.

The Windsor-Essex County Engineer of the Year Award went to Wanda Juricic (BASc 2000), an electrical engineer at Union Gas. Juricic was recognized for being a role model and significant contributor to the advancement of the engineering profession as exhibited by her dedication to her career as well as community service.

Steven Vrantsidis, a third-year mechanical engineering student, received the Windsor-Essex County Engineering Month Award, conferred annually on an outstanding third-year engineering student at the University of Windsor.

The Heavy Construction Association awarded three UWindsor students with cash prizes based on construction reports submitted during their co-op placements. First place went to Joseph Bressan, second place to Abdelrahman Salem, and third place to Jesse Golding.

View photos from the event on the UWindsor Engineering Facebook page.

Kristie Pearce

Student to challenge use of war as metaphor for argument

When describing the nature of argument, war is one of the most popular metaphors — and one of the most misused, says Michael Yong-Set.

“For all the ways this metaphor helpfully guides us in understanding argument, there seem to be several very troubling ways that it can misdirect our thinking and miscalibrate our expectations when we argue,” he says.

A doctoral candidate in the argumentation studies program, Yong-Set will explore this idea in his free public lecture “Ending the War of Argument: A New Challenger Approaches,” Friday, April 20, at 3 p.m. in room 105, Memorial Hall.

Yong-Set is a student fellow of the Centre for Research in Reasoning, Argumentation and Rhetoric.