sherilee harper

EcoHealth Research with Indigenous Communities


Second month in Davis, California!

Written by Anna Manore, MSc Candidate

Things have been progressing well in Davis!

In February, I presented mine and People, Animals, Water, and Sustenance (PAWS) project’s work at the Northern California Parasitologists’ Spring Meeting at San Francisco State University (SFSU). The meeting was attended by faculty and students, mainly from SFSU, and who seemed to mainly work on Lyme disease. Some of the presentations brought back memories of a PopMed Seminar at the University of Guelph, where some preserved ticks were passed around…

Because the meeting was on the Saturday before Presidents’ Day, I spent the rest of the long weekend (along with a housemate of mine) exploring the city. Riding a cable car, climbing Telegraph Hill, and seeing sea lions on Pier 39 were some highlights of the visit.

I was lucky enough to return to the city the following weekend with a friend from home, and got to explore even more! Biking across the Golden Gate Bridge and a trip to Point Reyes National Seashore were the main activities, and they were both excellent.

In the lab at the University of California, Davis (UC Davis), I’ve been working closely with lab technicians Beatriz and Brittany to make sure everything is ready to start testing the Nunavut clam samples for Cryptosporidium and Giardia. In fact, we tested our first batch of clam samples just last week. Things are progressing well, and there’s still lots of work to be done!


People, Animals, Water, and Sustenance (PAWS) project: Update from Iqaluit

Written by Anna Manore, MSc Candidate

It’s a beautiful, sunny, summer day in Iqaluit, Nunavut, and a dozen rambunctious sled dogs are happily barking and jumping around. Three researchers from the University of Guelph are moving among the dogs, stooping and scooping to collect the stool of these rambunctious animals.

This isn’t just a community service – the three researchers are collecting dog stool in order to detect infectious diseases that could pose a danger to humans. Danielle Julien, Stephanie Masina, and Anna Manore are three graduate students whose work on the PAWS (People, Animals, Water, and Sustenance) project aims to shed some light on potential sources of enteric illness in Iqaluit. Cryptosporidium and Giardia are the two pathogens of interest, and the PAWS project is investigating dogs, surface water, and clams as potential sources for these two potentially harmful protozoans.

“PAWS is a great example of taking a systems approach to health and social issues,” says project manager Anna Bunce, from McGill University. “This is important because it gives us an holistic understanding of a number of issues and how they fit together to create the contemporary context of Iqaluit.”

EcoHealth and OneHealth approaches are being used to guide this project forward, which, in the words of Danielle Julien, offers “an incredible opportunity to work together with fellow researchers from various disciplines within our department [Department of Population Medicine] to accomplish an understanding of health in the North”

“This project couldn’t be done without our wonderful collaborators from the Nunavut Research Institute, Jamal Shirley and Jean Allen,” says Stephanie Masina. Jamal, Jean, and Stephanie have been sampling surface water since the beginning of June, at sites where local residents gather drinking water.

Anna Manore’s project, which will be looking at clams, is gearing up for sample collection to begin in the Fall. “It’s been so helpful being in Iqaluit, being able to meet people and ask questions, and to get feedback on what might or might not work in terms of sampling. Of course, helping out with the dog sampling is a big plus!”

The PAWS team hopes that their work, as a whole, will provide new understanding of the sources of enteric illness in Iqaluit, and inform potential future public health interventions.


Update from the Collaborative Arctic Seminars in Epidemiology course in Yellowknife, NWT

Written by Kate Bishop-Williams

Last week, Carlee, Lindsay, and I had the pleasure of attending the Collaborative Arctic Seminars in Epidemiology course in Yellowknife, NWT from August 3rd-7th, 2015.

The course was hosted by the University of Alberta, and open to PhD and MSc/MA students from the circumpolar countries. Representative from Canada, USA, and Norway were a part of both the student and teaching teams.

We arrived in Yellowknife on Sunday evening, and enjoyed a lovely group dinner to get to know each other at the Explorer Hotel. This was the first of many excellently facilitated networking opportunities that allowed up to get to know each other a little better.

Monday morning we assembled at the airbase (Air Tindi) for our first sea-plane flight! We were flying about 100 km from Yellowknife, to Blachford Lake Lodge, away from all of the distractions of a city. I was so excited for my first sea-plane! I have a tendency to associate small planes with big fun! (To be fair, I have only used them to get to Rigolet and Bwindi, so I am right in doing so I think!)

Monday was a great chance to explore the lodge, and settle into our cabins. We spent the afternoon in seminars, touching on the basics of circumpolar health and an introduction to environmental epidemiology. We wrapped up the evening with a lovely wine and cheese event, and the first of our amazing suppers at the lodge. On Monday evening we even went swimming!

Tuesday was a long course day, and we covered microbial quality of water, contaminants in the Arctic, radiation and health, and spatial analysis in ArcGIS. ArcGIS was my favourite session of the week, based on my background in spatial analysis. I learned a new software and I am excited to apply it to my current work! I also got the chance to present my past and future research, and loved the opportunity to chat with people about my work!

On Wednesday we took the sea-planes back into Yellowknife for a public panel talk on environment and health in the North. This was a great chance to interact with policy makers and government officials from the region, and meet many people who these issues affect directly. We went back to the Institute for Circumpolar Health Research in the afternoon for networking activities, and boarded the plane back to Blachford Lake Lodge in the evening.

Thursday was another long seminar day, and we covered environmental genomics, health impact assessments, risk communications, and cancer cluster investigations. We took a break at lunch for a wonderful fish fry on Royal Island. Late in the night we saw the Aurora Borealis! They were beautiful dancing yellow streaks across the sky.

On Friday we boarded the sea-planes early in the morning and headed off to the airport in Yellowknife.

What a great week!


Arctic Change Conference 2014: Ottawa ON, Day 2

Reflection Written by Manpreet Saini

IMG_20141211_152919The second day of the conference has been an incredibly busy and interesting day. Today’s Student Day program consisted of three student day workshops in which various topics were discussed.

The first session I got to attend was titled “Navigating Northern Research: Inuit Research Advisor’s Guide to Research in Canadian North”. In this half hour talk, a panel of Inuit Research Advisors described appropriate approaches to take when doing research within the North, in particular they advocated the use of Inuit Research Advisors who serve as liaisons between the Inuit community and the researchers who wish to work with the community.

The next session that I attended was the “Community Cooperative Research Roundtable”. This hour long discussion focused on a panel of researchers who worked with Inuit communities and the importance of involving communities in the research. The session allowed for the audience to ask questions and share their experiences working with communities as well. Many Inuit were there as well and their comments provided great insight into the thoughts and perspectives of these communities and how best to approach them.

The last session that I attended was the “Communicating Science” workshop. Margret Brady, a freelance writer, and Grant Gilchrist, a professor at Carleton University, presented appropriate ways of communicating the science that we discover as researchers to the general public or the communities in which we do the work. They emphasized key strategies such as keeping the language simple and using a story-telling technique to be effective communicators.

We finished off the day with the poster session in which Carlee, Kate and Lindsay were all presenting. Their posters were very informative and appealing! There were also booths set up by various organizations and companies where we got a lot of information about research, products and services that were being offered in the Arctic. The booths and posters allowed me to interact with many interesting individuals, as well as get a lot of booklets and information packages to read! It was an incredible day and I am super excited for what the rest of this conference will bring!


Arctic Change Conference 2014- Ottawa ON

Reflection written by Manpreet Saini

The Harper lab arrived in Ottawa late Monday afternoon. We drove from Guelph and it was a great team-building experience! The Arctic Change Conference was off to a great start as we attended the second Student Day plenary ses1654949_10152426942067413_3278415646707691609_osion on “ADAPT as a model of project-level collaboration”. It was incredibly exciting to be here with a great group of individuals, researchers and specialists. We are looking forward to the upcoming days that are jam-packed with great talks, poster sessions and presentations.


Science Cafés – Science in Canada’s North: How Will Climate Affect Health?

Last week I had the pleasure of participating as a panelist in Science North’s Science Cafe Series.  Together with co-panelists Helle Møller and Bill Keller, and moderators Dana Murchison and Natalie Crinklaw, we spoke about how climate change might impact health in Northern Canada.  We had interesting discussions with the general public in Sudbury and Thunder Bay.  I was overwhelmed by the kindness and hospitality in both cities.

Excerpt from Science North about the Science Cafe:

Our changing climate affects us all, and Canada’s North will feel its impacts first and most robustly. We often think about climate’s effects on our environments, but it is already having effects on another area: human health. How will climate change affect access to healthcare, to physical fitness opportunities, and to affordable, healthy food? Will changes in weather, water, and migration patterns make communities more susceptible to disease? What is being done to address these impacts, and what more can we do to ensure ourhealth in a changing climate?

This event is part of the Science in Canada’s North Program Series. Science North gratefully acknowledges the support of the W. Garfield Weston Foundation and the Canadian Association of Science Centres for their support of this event.

Supported by CASC and the W. Garfield Weston Foundation.

Photos by Josh Dandurand


Kate Bishop-Williams Presents at OVC Graduate Student Research Symposium in Guelph

10702153_10152381161807413_1541173622152733780_nKate Bishop-Williams presented her first IHACC research project at the Ontario Veterinary College Graduate Student Research Symposium in Guelph on November 12th. Kate spoke to over 40 people in the 2 hour poster session!

More information about the symposium can be seen here.

Kate also designed her first infographic and shared it at the conference, which was very well received by the audience!

Kate’s next presentation of this material will be at Arctic Change in December!


Kate’s Visit to Saskatoon for the 7th International Symposium on Safety and Health of Agricultural and Rural Populations

Written by: Kate Bishop-Williams

I have had the great pleasure of attending the Safety and Health of Rural and Agricultural Populations (SHARP) Conference this year in Saskatoon. It was a great experience, and one of the best conferences I have attended yet! Day 1 was spent at an interesting and informative ONE HEALTH: Team Science Training workshop with a great group of students and faculty researchers from across Canada and abroad.1614393_10152340677222413_220350486129022070_o
The most interesting part of the session for me, was to hear about a series of exciting initiatives that U Sask is working on in One Health and transdisciplinarity. One such initiative is CREATE, a collaboration between U Sask, Berlin and a medical school in India. The program involves a one semester online course in group science, a one semester online seminar course, an intensive field school (where all international candidates come together) and a 2-4 month externship with partners like PHAC. We also heard about the School of Environment and Sustainability at U Sask and PHARE a Public Health, Agriculture and Rural Health and Environmental Health consortium.

10404482_10152342706317413_7792368898276105899_nThe conference is being held in the Delta Bessborough, and it is absolutely gorgeous! The conference rooms where I and others have presented are quite spectacular.

The morning session was of particular interest to me today, as I was pleased to hear reference, more than once, to the impact of climate change on the health of rural and Indigenous populations. Moreover, both heat stress and water issues were mentioned, and the impact these had on workers and those living in these communities.

I had the opportunity to present in the William Pascoe building, a room for almost 100 audience members. I gave a talk on the 3rd project of my MSc thesis, likely for the last time. This project is particularly important to me, as it is a research 1377101_10152342706042413_2582059367261615388_nquestion that I developed independently, including suggesting the methods used. I personally contacted the 50 hospitals in rural Southern Ontario and secured a great response rate of 48%. I am incredibly proud of this work, as working with institutions such as hospitals can be challenging for reasons such as ethics and access to information. I presented at 11:15 AM, and was thrilled to have good attendance in the room, a full 15 minute slot to present, and a great discussion period to follow the presentation. I distributed my remaining infographics of the poster which was designed for this project (EcoHealth 2014, Montreal), and this again generated great conversation.

The highlight session for me today, was a presentation by Dr. Susanna von Essen from the University of Nebraska. Dr. von Essen presented on the impacts of One Health in the successes of controlling a number of zoonotic pathogens.

I spent the afternoon in a series of presentations related to Indigenous Health in Canada and the links to New Canadian health problems. One such topic which was quite interesting in this session, was the topic of barriers to health care for Indigenous populations, both in remote regions and also in urban areas.

The SHARP meeting also coincided with the Built Environment and First Nations Health: Addressing and Redressing the Issues meeting. This meeting shifted the focus of SHARP from primarily workplace and rural health based to Indigenous Health. The keynote speaker this morning was the highly acclaimed academic, Dr. Malcolm King. Dr. King presented on the changes in CIHR’s strategic plan and addressed a number of issues with regards to applying for Tri-Council funding through the Institutes for Aboriginal Health. While I have pages of notes related to Dr. King’s engaging and fascinating 60-minute talk, I will only share a few highlights. Dr. King pointed out that successful grants are now showing ways in which they will address research questions by integrating the use of both Indigenous and Western knowledge. Dr. King shared a series of National Aboriginal Health Organization (NAHO) Determinants of Health. Predominantly in Public Health we study the PHAC Social Determinants of Health, however, of interest in the NAHO series, was the highlighting of climate change, environmental condition and food security issues, missing from the PHAC social determinants of health. Dr. King suggested that the solutions are to lead with Aboriginal People’s focused interventions, which are both population specific and culturally relevant.

Dr. King’s talk was an excellent way to set the tone for the day, and I was thrilled to be able to introduce myself to him later in the day. As a long-standing chair of CIHR and the Institutes for Aboriginal Health, Dr. King was quite familiar with the IHACC project, and we chatted for a few minutes about possible directions for my research.10005908_10152343307692413_5133791243803379842_o

I was able to attend the Built Environment and First Nations Health: Addressing and Redressing the Issues meeting and network with researchers working in Saskatchewan on issues facing many other Indigenous communities in Canada. This session included both a morning and an afternoon session, and was exceptionally well organized. The sessions were organized where presenters were asked to move between tables to present their research conversationally in groups of approximately 10 people. By doing this, conversations with regards to the research, questions and comments were rich and important. The researchers would introduce themselves at each table, provide a 5-10 minute overview of their work and a 2-sided handout summarizing key points and results, and the rest of the time was spent discussing with the group. This allowed rich and deep themes to emerge. The overarching theme for the day was respiratory illness as it related to housing issues, yet we spent much time discussing policy and integration of Indigenous ways of knowing, obesity/ diabetes, residential schools and multi-generational traumas, over crowding and climate issues. Again, I have pages and pages of notes that I wont get into the details of, but the experience of a conference this way was not only refreshing, but also incredibly rewarding. I learned so much more in this informal and comfortable setting than I could have by hearing presentations all day, and I am more equipped to apply what I learned to my own research work.10616489_10152342706777413_3867553610023690877_n

The last day of SHARP coincided with the first day of the 7th International Summit on Dementia. The summit coincided nicely with issues of rural health and we began the day with an excellent talk on dementia treatment in rural areas in the UK. While not directly related to my research, Dr. Anthea Innes did share some great and useful insights!

It was interesting to see the similarities and differences in challenges that the rural populations of England and Scotland face in comparison to the rural and remote populations of Canada. Dr. Innes shared some great programs, and very creative intervention ideas for working with patients who have dementia, remote populations and an intersection of the 2 populations.

My final session of the week was spent in a chronic illness in rural communities workshop. This was particularly relevant Steph Masina and I tease apart chronic and acute illnesses in the North. One researcher in this session gave an interesting perspective on how we account for Socioeconomic Status in epidemiological modelling. Dr. Bonnie Jenzen is a researcher working at U. Sask, and showed the lack of correlations between a number of SES predictors. Rather than accounting for only education, only income or only skill level, Dr. Jenzen recommended the use of a combined measure or multiple variables. Moreover, a number known as the income adequacy value was described, which accounts for income as it is divided out by the number of people in the home. This changes the outputs substantially!

So, it was a busy, long and crazy week in Saskatoon, but I loved being there! Thanks, SHARP, for an awesome and rewarding conference experience, and moreover, for an excellent opportunity to network!