• 19 Apr 2017 9:44 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    CSWA, University of Calgary & Loose Moose Theatre

    by Jennifer Bon Bernard

    I recently had the privilege of participating in an improvisation course called: Act Your Science.  The aim of the course was to provide the foundational skills for improvisation, which in turn would improve our public speaking and science communication skills. However, it turned out to be so much more!

    Dennis Cahill, the Artictic Director at Loose Moose Theatre, directed each 2 hr. session, which ran for five weeks. Dennis’s directorship was always filled with compassion, clarity and patience.  He shared his extensive improvisation knowledge and experience in such a fun manner we were excited to engage in a learning process that always resulted in full-fledged laugher!

    The following core principles of improv were taught and repeated in each session. As you will see, the fundamental principles of improv can be applied to any relational interaction that one engages in, not just when performing on stage.

    Be Present

    The importance of being present in the moment was a central theme throughout this course.  It is critical that improv participants enter into interactions with pristine active listening, as nothing is rehearsed before the interaction occurs. The interactions that had the greatest impact and resulted in the most laughter occurred during the most authentic moments of exchange.

    “Don’t think. Get Out of Your Head. Stop Planning and Just Go”

    -Amy Poehler-

    Take Chances

    Dennis encouraged participants to say ‘YES’ when called to participate on ‘stage’.  By the end of the five sessions, it seemed that everyone was jumping up to participate! I have to admit that I had to restrain myself to saying YES to allow others the opportunity to say YES!  Dennis made sure to repeat that when we take chances, our learning is expanded.

    “Just say Yes and You’ll Figure it Out Afterwards.”

    -Tina Fey-

    Make Mistakes

    Dennis was commonly heard saying “mistakes are good” and “don’t be afraid to make them!”  We were always encouraged to be okay with making a mistake and to respond in a light-hearted manner when they occur with laughter and ease.  Dennis wanted us to always remember that the audience is on our side and want nothing more than for us to succeed!

    “If You Stumble Make It Part of the Dance”


    The goal of this course was more then achieved! I feel confident in suggesting that all of the participants will be more present, take chances more often and be okay with making mistakes in future speaking opportunities. For myself, this introduction to improv has transformed into ensuring that I make it a life long hobby that I will regularly participate in.  It the meantime, until we connect again, I will end by saying:

    “It is Always Sad When a Good Show Comes to an End!”

    Jennifer Bon Bernard:

    Jennifer Bon Bernard is a graduate student at University of Calgary in the department of Community Health Sciences. She always enjoys having fun    and exploring her artistic soul whenever the opportunity arises. Improv has brought so much laughter and happiness to her life that she will continue to make this apart of her creative journey forever! Jennifer highly recommends that if you ever the opportunity to enroll in an improv class that you say “YES!”

    Act Your Science is the result of a collaboration between the University of Calgary, the Canadian Science Writers Association and Loose Moose Theatre.  Act Your Science is scheduled to take place again at the University of Calgary in early summer 2017. Fifteen spaces are available for the five two hour sessions. CSWA members as well as University of Calgary science graduate students are invited to participate at no cost. Yes there will be additional field trips to Loose Moose Theater and a few pub nights because the fun just doesn't want to stop once you learn to listen, take chances and laugh together without the fear of making a mistake.

  • 03 Apr 2017 9:53 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Faster Higher Smarter by Simon Shapiro

    It takes a lot of talent, skill, and hard work to become a world-class athlete. But it takes even more to make a sport better: it takes smarts! And whether innovators are aware of it or not, it takes an understanding of physics, mechanics, and aerodynamics to come up with better techniques and equipment. From swimming, soccer, and basketball to skateboarding and wheelchair sports, Faster Higher Smarter looks at the hard science behind many inventions and improvements in sports. 

    Inside Your Insides by Claire Eamer

    “Wherever you go, tiny hitchhikers tag along for the ride,” this intriguing illustrated nonfiction book begins. “The hitchhikers are actually microbes --- tiny living things so small that you need a microscope to see them. And every person carries around trillions and trillions of these critters.” Six of the most common “critters” that live in and on our bodies are introduced here: bacteria, archaea, viruses, fungi, protists and mites. Each one has its own preferred environment, and readers will be startled (and likely a little grossed out!) by the many places they live, including the hair follicles on our faces, the folds of our tongues and the lengths of our guts. Just as surprising, only some of them are “bad guys” that cause disease, and many of them are actually “good guys” that keep us healthy. There's even research currently being done on ways to improve or fix our collection of microbes as a way to make us healthier.

    Monster Science by Helaine Becker

    “What if the terrifying creatures of your nightmares were indeed prowling the big, wide world beyond your blankie?” begins the intriguing premise of this book. “Could they really exist? And if so, how?” In a completely original approach to exploring science, award-winning author Helaine Becker places six different kinds of monsters --- Frankenstein, vampires, bigfoot, zombies, werewolves and sea monsters --- under her microscope to expose the proven scientific principles behind the legends. For example, the chapter on Frankenstein delves into how electricity and organ transplants work in the human body, and whether they could really bring someone back to life --- all presented in short, readable sections.

    To Burp or Not To Burp by Dr. Dave Williams and Loredana Cunti

    Find out what happens to your body in space—from someone who’s been there. Of all the questions astronauts are asked by kids, the most frequent one is “How do you go to the toilet in space?” This book not only answers that question, but many others about the effect of zero gravity on the human body: How do you brush your hair in space? What happens when you sweat? What does food taste like? The best thing is that the answers are provided by someone who speaks from first-hand experience: Dr. Dave Williams, a NASA astronaut who has accomplished three space walks.

    Dinosaurs of the Deep by Larry Vestraete

    Driving across the North American Heartland, surrounded by prairie, it is almost impossible to imagine that this was once a huge inland sea. The Western Interior Seaway, which split the entire continent of North America in half, once teemed with predatory creatures—fanged fish and turtles the size of small cars; prowling sharks and giant squid; hungry plesiosaurs and immense crocodiles.Through a cooperative partnership with the Canadian Fossil Discovery Centre (CFDC), home to ‘Bruce’, the world’s largest mosasaur skeleton, author Larry Verstraete and paleoartist Julius Csotonyi combine fascinating facts, astonishing discoveries, and the latest paleontological information to bring the ancient marine creatures of the Seaway to vivid life.

  • 23 Mar 2017 9:29 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    A Field Guide To Lies: Critical Thinking In The Information Age

    Daniel J. Levitin

    It's becoming harder to separate the wheat from the digital chaff. How do we distinguish misinformation, pseudo-facts, distortions and outright lies from reliable information? In A Field Guide to Lies, neuroscientist Daniel Levitin outlines the many pitfalls of the information age and provides the means to spot and avoid them.

    The Killer Whale Who Changed The World

    Mark Leiren-Young

    Killer whales had always been seen as bloodthirsty sea monsters. That all changed when a young killer whale was captured off the west coast of North America and displayed to the public in 1964. Moby Doll — as the whale became known — was an instant celebrity, drawing 20,000 visitors on the one and only day he was exhibited. He died within a few months, but his famous gentleness sparked a worldwide crusade that transformed how people understood and appreciated orcas. Because of Moby Doll, we stopped fearing “killers” and grew to love and respect “orcas.”

    Let Them Eat Dirt:

    Saving Our Children from an Oversanitized World

    B. Brett Finlay and Marie-Claire Arrieta

    In the 150 years since we discovered that microbes cause infectious diseases, we’ve battled to keep them at bay. But a recent explosion of scientific knowledge has led to undeniable evidence that early exposure to these organisms is beneficial to our children’s well-being. It turns out that our current emphasis on hyper-cleanliness and poor diets are taking a toll on our children’s lifelong health.

    Opium Eater: The New Confessions

    Carlyn Zwarenstein

    Amid headlines of overdoses and galloping addiction rates, an outspoken and darkly comic dispatch from the new Age of Opium. North Americans are the world's most compulsive and prolific users of legal opioids. Carlyn Zwarenstein, diagnosed with an inflammatory spine disease as a young mother, eventually turned to them to manage her pain. In this lyrical update of Thomas De Quincey’s Confessions of an English Opium-Eater, she recounts her search for relief and release — with its euphoric ups, hallucinatory lows and desperate pharmacy visits. Along the way she traces the long tradition of opium’s influence on culture and imagination, from De Quincey to Frida Kahlo.

    Sorting The Beef From The Bull: The Science of Food Fraud Forensics

    Nicola Temple and Richard Evershed

    Sorting the Beef from the Bull is a collection of food fraud tales from around the world. It explains the role of science in uncovering some of the century's biggest food scams, and explores the arms race between food forensics and fraudsters as new methods of detection spur more creative and sophisticated means of committing the crimes. This book equips us with the knowledge of what is possible in the world of food fraud and shines a light on the shady areas of our food supply system where these criminals lurk.

  • 12 Jan 2017 1:04 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)


    Thank you to all members who participated in the runoff vote to name the association. By adding your voice you have provided valuable information that will help strengthen the association’s identity and shape its future. A total of 119 votes were cast, only 7% fewer than were cast in the first round. This consistent turnout suggests members continue to be very engaged in the question of what we call ourselves.

    In the runoff vote, members were asked to answer a set of three questions to establish which name they prefer. The choice was between the current name and the two most popular alternatives that emerged from the first round of voting.

    Here are the results:

    Q1: When given a choice between Canadian Science Writers’ Association and Canadian Science Communicators, the vote was split almost evenly.

    (CSWA = 59, CSC = 60).

    Q2: When given a choice between Canadian Science Writers’ Association and Science Writers and Communicators of Canada, the majority vote (58%) was for the latter.

    (CSWA = 50, SWCC = 69)

    Q3: When given a choice between the two alternative names, 65% chose Science Writers and Communicators of Canada.

    (CSC = 42, SWCC = 77)

    Every set of answers also reveals how each individual voter would rank the three names. When compiled, these results show how many picked each option as a first choice.


    Canadian Science Writers’ Association  = 34

    Canadian Science Communicators = 34

    Science Writers and Communicators of Canada = 51

    This same method can be used to show what voters’ least favourite options were.


    Canadian Science Writers’ Association  = 44

    Canadian Science Communicators = 51

    Science Writers and Communicators of Canada = 24


    • More than two thirds of members who voted (71.4%) indicated the association’s current name is not their first choice.  

    • Science Writers and Communicators of Canada is the most prefered (and the least disliked) among the alternatives.

    • Science Writers and Communicators of Canada is preferred  over the association’s current name by 58% of those who voted.


    In the coming months,  the board will be be asking members  to consider a revised constitution and bylaws.  It would require a two-thirds (66.6%) majority to change the association’s legal name to the one that is most popular with those who voted: Science Writers and Communicators of Canada. The board must now decide whether or not to include this name in the revised constitution document and seek the approval of  two thirds of the members. What do you think? We invite comments and discussion.

  • 26 Nov 2016 9:40 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    The family of Karen Louise Birchard, an award-winning journalist, joyful story-teller, tennis enthusiast, loyal confidante, foodie and political junkie, sadly announce her passing, of cancer, on Nov 21, 2016 at the Provincial Palliative Care Centre in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island.

    Tim Lougheed, President CSWA

    The story of Karen’s life captures elements that bind so many of us in the Canadian Science Writers’ Association: curiosity about the natural world and the people who explore it, a desire to build working relationships that make for superior narratives, and above all, a dedication to building bridges between the scientific community and the wider world that is served by that community. Her diverse career path was very much a reflection of the times, such that the routes taken by the next generation of science writers and communicators are bound to be very different. Nevertheless, the core values she instantiated within our organization should transcend any particular place and time, something Karen herself undoubtedly appreciated.

    Ian Wilhelm, Chronicle of Higher Education

    Karen Birchard loved to tell stories. As The Chronicle’s Canada correspondent, Karen talked often with me when I was the newspaper’s international editor; I usually tried to keep our conversations focused on whatever article I wanted her to pursue. But her almost encyclopedic knowledge of Canadian higher ed would come spilling out along with her ebullient laughter. She’d tell me funny anecdotes about university presidents she’d met, describe a new campus building she'd just toured, and then offer a sidebar on how high the snow drifts were in Prince Edward Island, her home.

    I’ll miss those talks. Karen died of cancer this week at age 70. In the 18 years she worked for us, she wrote many, many stories, but a few stood out: a debate over changes in Canada’s science policyhow anti-intellectualism entered the country's politics; and a university’s focus on lobster research.

    In this week of giving thanks, I’m thankful for Karen’s enthusiasm for telling stories. It was infectious, and it helped our readers — and me — better understand the world. —Ian Wilhelm

    Karen Britchard

    Born Aug. 9, 1946 in Toronto, ON and raised in St. Catharines, ON, she rejoiced in her 20-year relationship with her partner Doug Payne (Michael, Elizabeth, Sam) who predeceased her in 2008.

    She was a cherished daughter of the late Thomas Michael and Kathleen Elizabeth Birchard. A beloved sibling of Thomas (Mary Anne) of Toronto and children Kyle, Meghan and Garrett; Monica Kington (Richard) of Burlington and children Andrew and Kathleen; and Keith (Diana) of Silver Spring, MD and children Alexander and Christopher. Karen was predeceased by her sister Maureen (2008).

    Karen was a trail-blazer for Canadian women in journalism. She earned a degree in Journalism from the University of Detroit and worked for the campus radio, TV station and newspaper.  She landed her first job at CKTB in St. Catharines, becoming one of its first women reporters.

    She began working at the Toronto offices of CBC-Radio in 1972. There she was hired for general reporting and editing duties.  In 1979, she became CBC-Radio’s first female National Science and Technology correspondent. In 1982-83, she was a recipient of the prestigious Vannevar Bush Inaugural Fellowship for Excellence in Science and Medical Journalism at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.  One year later, she moved to Ireland to begin a new career as a freelance journalist and so began a love affair with a country she would call home for the next 16 years.

    Relocating to Prince Edward Island in 2001, Karen continued her freelance career with various publications in Canada and the U.S. Stories she wrote for University Affairs in 2013 and in 2015 were recognized in gold medal wins for the magazine in the annual Canadian Online Publishing Awards. As a member of the Canadian Science Writers Association, she earned the trust of many scientists often wary of the media.

    Over the years, she never lost her natural curiosity, a child-like exuberance for life, a gleeful sense of humour, a deep devotion to friends, a love of food  and her enthusiasm for oddball presents much sought-after by nieces and nephews.

    While the impact of Karen’s work was well known by colleagues and peers, her legacy is found in the friendships she formed and the bonds she made with people. Karen’s greatest accomplishments were the numerous friendships she made and kept with individuals around the world. We will miss her musical good wishes and Advent calendars that arrived via email regularly. Karen touched many lives and will be greatly missed by all who loved her.

    Mentally-strong, optimistic and uncomplaining in the face of adversity, Karen was grateful for the unconditional support of family and friends.

    Karen’s family and friends wish to thank staff from Queen Elizabeth Hospital and the Provincial Palliative Care Centre for the high degree of compassion and care provided in recent months.

  • 21 Oct 2016 10:36 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Awards For Books Published in 2016


    The Canadian Science Writers’ Association offers two annual book awards to honour outstanding contributions to science writing 1) intended for and available to children/middle grades ages 8-12 years, and 2) intended for and available to the general public. Competitors must be Canadian citizens or residents of Canada, but need not be members of the CSWA. Entries, in either French or English, must have been published in Canada during the 2016 calendar year. The winners will be announced during Canada Book Week in April 2017 and will receive a prize of $1,000 each.

    Judging Criteria

    Entries may deal with aspects of basic or applied science or technology, historical or current, in any area including health, social or environmental issues, regulatory trends etc.

    Books will be judged on literary excellence and scientific content and accuracy. Specific judging criteria will include initiative, originality, clarity of interpretation and value in promoting greater understanding of science by the general reader.

    Books must be understandable to the layperson or children, with appropriate clarification of medical and scientific terminology, and an orderly marshalling of facts.

    Also the subject matter should be significant and relevant for the majority of the public or children, and so presented that it increases public awareness.

    Rules for Submissions

    Include a fully completed entry form with each submission, entry forms  are available on our website in English and French

    Submit a brief  biography of the author(s)

     Submit 6 copies for judging purposes

    Entry must have been published in Canada during the 2016 calendar year and must be received at the CSWA National Office by Dec 9, 2016

    Entries failing to comply with these rules will be rejected. For more information please phone the CSWA office at 1-800-796-8595, or email office@sciencewriters.ca

    All entries become the property of the CSWA

    Winners of the 2014 & 2015 Book Awards:

    2015 Science in Society General Book Award:

    Is Gwyneth Paltrow Wrong About Everything? by Timothy Caulfield, Penguin Random House Canada.

    2014 Science in Society General Book Award:

    Bee Time: Lessons from the Hive by Mark L. Winston, Harvard University Press.

    2015 Science in Society Children/ Middle Grades Book Award:

    The Queen’s Shadow: A Story About How Animals See by Cybèle Young, Kids Can Press.

    2014 Science in Society Children’s Book Award:

    The Fly by Elise Gravel, Penguin Random House.

  • 14 Oct 2016 4:14 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Posted by: CSWA Board of Directors

    The CSWA board wishes to thank everyone who submitted their suggestions and engaged in discussions about the most suitable name for our association. Your efforts have generated an impressive slate of possible names to consider (including the option of keeping the association's current name).

    Now it's up to the members to decide. 

    Please take a moment to look at the options and express you preference here

    The name that is most preferred by the membership will be the one that is included in  proposed changes to the organization's defining documents to be put before members in the coming weeks.

    Voting on the name is open through to midnight ET October 24, 2016. Check for results on October 25.

    We hope all members participate in this collective exercise to ensure our organization's name is meaningful and relevant to us all. 

  • 15 Sep 2016 11:25 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    This fall, the board of the Canadian Science Writers' Association will be asking members to vote on a proposed set of changes to its constitution. In the lead up to that vote we, the board, want to hear from all members about one of the most fundamental components of our organizational document: what we call ourselves.


    The challenge before us is to capture our identities both as individual professionals and as an organization. We are proud of our 45-year history of promoting balanced and accurate science reporting in Canadian media, and encouraging a greater awareness of the importance of science coverage. We also want to respond, in an inclusive way, to an evolving media landscape that has seen our membership grow to encompass a diverse spectrum of roles within science communications.


    Over the next few weeks we are asking you to first submit your suggestions and then select a name that you think best represents our organization and identifies our brand to the public.


    Submitting is easy to do. If you are a member, you can add your suggestion right here as a comment to this post. Or you can include it in an email to name@sciencewriters.ca


    This post will be updated regularly with suggestions added to the list until September 30. (Serious suggestions only, please!) Members will then be asked during the first week of October  to select their preferred option from the list of suggestions. The name that emerges from this process will be included with the proposed constitutional changes that members will be asked to consider in November.


    Here are the suggestions so far.  Got a better idea?  Let us know!


    1) Retain current name (Canadian Science Writers’ Association)

    2) Canadian Science Communicators

    3) Canadian Science Writers and Communicators Association

    4) Science Writers and Communicators of Canada

    5) Science in Society Canada

    6) Science Journalists and Communicators of Canada

    7) Canadian Association of Science Communicators

    Voting will be the first week of October. 

    We hope all members participate in this collective exercise to ensure our organization's name is meaningful and relevant to us all.  

  • 01 Sep 2016 12:28 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Science Literacy Week is an initiative meant to showcase the excellence of all of Canada's wide range of science and science outreach organizations.  Through encouraging them to join together in a blitz of activity and collaborate, particularly in partnership with community groups like libraries, the aim is to reach more people than ever before with outstanding science programming.  The week started in 2014 in the GTA, and came to include 4 institutions, and 5 events. For this year, with 160 groups involved, major support from NSERC and Indigo and an estimated 315 events in 50 cities nationally it looks to be its biggest year ever.

    At heart, the week aims through libraries to showcase their science collections and encourage people to read something a little different.  Rather than Hunger Games and Twilight, we want to see people reading Sacks and Sagan. Events too help reach out to everyone Canada-wide - nature walks, star parties, science demos, public talks - you name it, if it engages the public and celebrates science it's a welcome addition to the week.   The week also provides an excellent opportunity to highlight the work of scientists across the country.  The website (scienceliteracy.ca) serves as both an events portal to draw people to local activities as well as a centre for finding resources to learn about science - be they books, podcasts, websites or places to conduct citizen science projects of their own.  The twitter (@scilitweek) aims to highlight exciting science news, draw people to great resources as well as mention every event happening across Canada.  Every participant is encouraged to use the hashtag #scilit16 to share stories, pictures and more about their work, their love of science or to garner attention for events.  

    With help from NSERC, this can grow to be one of the major pillars of science outreach in Canada.  A time when science groups utilize the week to get people talking about science, where major organizations join together in big eye catching events and where Canadians coast to coast take the chance to learn a little more about the world.

    contact: jessehhildebrand@gmail.com

  • 14 Jun 2016 9:26 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    photos by Juanita Bawagan

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