West Program

West Program Information

May 2nd–6th (PDT)

General Sessions

Participants will be able to attend all general sessions.
Saving our Planet with Indigenous Knowledge
Dan Wildcat

Dan Wildcat is an accomplished scholar and writer on Indigenous knowledge, technology, environment, and education. Dr. Wildcat is a Yuchi member of the Muscogee Nation of Oklahoma and will join us on Thursday afternoon during our program week to talk to us about saving our planet with Indigenous knowledge.

You can find Dr. Wildcat’s book, Red Alert! Saving the Planet with Indigenous Knowledge on Amazon.

Indigenous Plants of Significance to Science
Kodiak Herbal, Kalyn Kodiak
Learn about Indigenous plants of Canada, how traditional medicines are discovered, evaluated, and used by Indigenous herbalists; and what plants can teach us about the life processes and ecosystems of our homeland. A Métis herbalist shares knowledge of plants from traditional sources, personal experience and modern research. Focus on the value of respecting Indigenous contributions to plant knowledge and how this knowledge can impact scientific research.
The Magic of Science
University of Manitoba, John Sorensen

See the science that makes magic work with Professor John Sorensen. Dr. Sorensen currently teaches at the University of Manitoba in the Chemistry Department. In his session he will be using his background in the sciences to show the Magic of Science.

West Program, May 2nd–6th (PDT)

Learn more about the different options available for the West Program.
Option A: Visualizing Math through Computers
The University of Victoria, Teseo Schenider

In this course, you will learn how simple mathematical rules can generate life, how to use a turtle to create snowflakes, and how noise produces beautiful continents.

The course aims at teaching the basics of python, some math, and powerful visualization techniques. We will start by learning about the building blocks of a programming language (e.g., variables, loops, conditionals, functions, etc.). In parallel, we will study the “game of life”: a simple model that simulates cells’ evolution. We will combine these two concepts with a visualization to simulate the growth of colonies of cells.

Then we will learn about recursion, how a function can use itself to repeat the same thing (forever), and fractals, simple mathematical patterns that repeat themself (e.g., broccoli or snowflake). We will use Turtle, a python drawing package, to generate and explore the fractals. Finally, we will learn about a particular random noise called Perlin and how computers represent colors. Combining this noise with color, we will generate random continents.

Option B: Tree Stories – Rings and Fire Scars
The University of British Columbia, Lori Daniels and Vanessa Comeau

Have you ever counted the rings of a tree? We all know that tree-rings can tell us how old a tree is, but did you know that they can tell us much more than that? Tree-rings can teach us about past climate, insect outbreaks and even forest fires! The UBC Tree-Ring Lab in the Faculty of Forestry uses dendrochronology, or tree-ring science, to answer a wide variety of research questions. Our Verna J. Kirkness Education Foundation 2022 Project will explore the history of wildfire in British Columbia’s dry interior forests using tree-rings. Students will learn to count, measure and date tree rings, identify fire scars within the tree-ring record and reconstruct the past fire history of the forest. Like detectives, we use multiple lines of evidence to look back through the past and answer questions about forest fire history over hundreds of years.

Option C: Science and Movement behind Red River Jigging 
The University of Saskatchewan, Alison Oates 

Students joining the College of Kinesiology at the University of Saskatchewan will learn about human movement including how movement and physical activity can support physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual wellness. Some examples include (but are not limited to) learning about measuring movement with biomechanics; the influence of Red River jigging on our health; learning mental skills to navigate setbacks in physical activity, the importance of movement for our growth and development; and how to reach the physical activity guidelines to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Students will have the opportunity to work with researchers, instructors, and experts in their fields to share the world of Kinesiology.

Option D: Science and the Buffalo
First Nations University of Canada, Jody Bellegarde, Richard Dosselmann,  Edward Doolittle, Fidji Gendron, Arzu Sardarli, Vincent Ziffle

The Science faculty at First Nations University of Canada are conducting research on the prairie ecosystem in Saskatchewan and elsewhere, and in the role of Indigenous knowledge in science.  Specific projects include the population dynamics of the flora and fauna of the region, such as issues related to the carrying capacity of buffalo populations; the study of water quality issues in the ecosystem; studying the use of the renewable resources provided by the prairie ecosystem in the modern world, including foods, medicines, and biodiesel; and the statistics and data science related to prairie ecosystems.

The First Nations University Kirkness Foundation project will be led by Dr. Edward Doolittle and supported by the science faculty at First Nations University which consists of Mr. Jody Bellegarde (Cree; lab technician and lab instructor), Dr. Richard Dosselmann (computer science), Dr. Edward Doolittle (Mohawk; mathematics), Dr. Fidji Gendron (biology), Dr. Arzu Sardarli (mathematics and physics), Dr. Vincent Ziffle (chemistry), and one graduate student.  The department is supported by state-of-the-art lab facilities in the Regina campus of First Nations University.


Option E: Exploring Physics and Astronomy; AI and The Future of Software Systems
The University of Victoria, Neil Ernst, Karun Thanjavur and Michael Roney

Is your curiosity sparked by questions about the smallest building-blocks in Nature and the forces connecting them? Or perhaps with the largest structures in the universe? Or Both? Walk with these researchers on their path to discovering completely new things about the universe. This is an awesome chance to get some hands-on experience: a fun experiment on Buoyancy that you conduct at home with guidance from Alex; and Karun will help you measure how fast the sun spins on its axis! You’ll be taken on a remote tour with Michael and his students, Caleb Miller and Alex Beaubien, of a subatomic particle physics detector complex at the high energy particle collider in Japan. You’ll also tour the Canada France Hawaii observatory with Karun. On this path, you will hear from Rolf about the discovery of the Higgs Boson at the Large Hadron Collider in Europe and why it was so exciting. You’ll also explore properties of photons, electrons, quarks, neutrinos and Nature’s other quantum particles as well as Nature’s Big Structures: Black Holes and Galaxy Clusters. Your UVic week will also have you learn about Artificial Intelligence (AI) with Neil:


Neil’s research group works on problems in software design and requirements. Some example problems are how to help people build large software systems, supporting researchers in non-software fields in data science and building software, such as astronomy, geography, and oceanography. An ongoing research challenge is understanding how machine learning and AI will influence the design of future software systems and tools.

Option F: Climate Change and Saving the World
The University of British Columbia, Rachel White, Anais Orsi, Zac Hudson, Dianne Mitchinson, Bethany Ladd, Gregory Dipple

We will cover a variety of topics throughout the week. Some of the topics include: 

Climate change and climate impacts: extreme weather events

Heatwaves, coastal flooding, extreme rainfall, melting snow and ice … climate change impacts our lives in many ways. My group here at UBC researches the impacts of climate change on extreme weather and climate events – why, how, and by how much, will these extreme events change in strength or frequency because of human-caused climate change?

In this mini workshop we will explore some of the many impacts of climate change, and understand how scientists are able to predict how extreme weather and climate events may change in the future. Based on locations (within Canada) chosen by you, we will research how aspects of weather that impact your communities are expected to change, including: maximum temperatures, minimum temperatures, heavy rainfall, sea level rise, droughts and frost days. We will talk about climate models, how they are used, what they can be used for and how I use them in my research. By analysing the output of climate models, you will create a summary of how climate extremes are projected to change for your chosen location, and explore how differences in future greenhouse gas emissions will affect the climate change impacts.

Students are asked to come prepared to the workshop with a story about a particular weather/climate event that has influenced their hometown/community, or a type of weather/climate event that they or their community is concerned about. Ideas include: heatwaves, flooding events, droughts, snow/ice melt events, heavy rainfall, changes in growing season of plants/crops….

Mineral Exploration and Mining to Fight Climate Change 

This session will focus on the role of geoscientists in the search for the metals needed to build batteries and green energy infrastructure to help the world lower their carbon emissions. It might sound strange that mining can help reduce greenhouse gasses in our atmosphere, but it’s true and we will explain how and why! Geology, the study of rocks and minerals, helps us to look for the best places to find important metals like gold, copper, and nickel. But that’s only the first step! We must then embark on mining these metals responsibly. Two themes will be focused on: 1) how we use knowledge of earth processes to find metals that are important for the switch to green energy such as solar panels and electric car batteries, and 2) using knowledge of minerals to develop mines that can remove carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere and safely store it in rocks to help the fight against climate change. 

Dr. Dianne Mitchinson, Bethany Ladd and Katrin Steinthorsdottir are all geologists that work in the Department of Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Sciences at the University of British Columbia and will be presenting and leading discussions and activities that include, Metals in Everyday Life, What Does Mineral Exploration and CO2 Research in the Field and Lab Look Like, and Find the Pirate’s Treasure!

Rain and climate change, with Anaïs Orsi (UBC Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences)

Climate change is not just global warming, it’s also becoming wetter, and drier. Unlike temperature, which is increasing nearly everywhere, precipitation changes can go both ways. Why is that? In this course, we will start with your own story about changing rain and/or snow. It can be from traditional knowledge shared by your elders, something you heard in the news or from your own experience. We will use these stories to develop how science can inform our lives.  On the first day, we will use your stories to define a question, investigate what we can measure to document the process, explore how we could carry out these measurements. You will get to build your own rain gauge. On the second day, we will hunt for some data on the internet, and learn the basic tools that scientists use to analyze data: calculate the mean (=what we consider normal), and define what is considered an extreme event, using a computer. Finally, we will investigate together how climate change will impactthe variable we defined based on your story. 

Can Chemistry Change The Word? (Thursday Session)

Chemistry will be critical to confronting some of the greatest sustainability challenges in human history. Developing new technologies for clean energy generation, biodegradable plastics, wastewater treatment, and food security will all rely on an understanding of chemistry. This half-day session includes a series of experiments you can do at home, guided live on video by Ph.D. students at UBC. We’ll illustrate the principles of chemical separation, acids and bases, and show you how to make plastic at home. We’ll conclude with a lecture that shows how chemistry is at the forefront of the fight against climate change, plastic pollution, and clean air and water.

Option G: Astronomy – My place in the universe
The University of British Columbia, Zac Hudson, Douglas Scott, Ingrid Stairs, Jess McIver and Jeremy Heye

We will discuss the properties of ordinary stars, like our sun, and extremely compact versions, such as white dwarfs, neutron stars and black holes. We’ll also look at galaxies of stars and how they define structure on the largest scales in the Universe. How do we use familiar ideas to understand such objects? In what ways are they completely different from things we’re used to in our everyday lives?

Can Chemistry Change The Word? (Thursday session)

Chemistry will be critical to confronting some of the greatest sustainability challenges in human history. Developing new technologies for clean energy generation, biodegradable plastics, wastewater treatment, and food security will all rely on an understanding of chemistry. This half-day session includes a series of experiments you can do at home, guided live on video by Ph.D. students at UBC. We’ll illustrate the principles of chemical separation, acids and bases, and show you how to make plastic at home. We’ll conclude with a lecture that shows how chemistry is at the forefront of the fight against climate change, plastic pollution, and clean air and water.



Option H: A week in the life of a veterinary professional
University of Saskatchewan, Jordan Woodsworth

The Western College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Saskatchewan trains veterinary professionals from all over Western Canada, and we look forward to learning along with you this May. Students will be hosted by a variety of our staff and faculty who will provide learning opportunities including but not limited to: preventive healthcare for pets; animal wound care; dental care and procedures; veterinary radiology; veterinary rehabilitation; parasitology; wildlife pathology; communications; and what it’s like to train and work as a veterinary technologist. Join us for an exciting week of learning what it’s like to work as an animal health professional, and see firsthand the wide range of career paths available in this area. 

Participating West Program Universities

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Privacy Policy

Privacy Policy

Last updated: November 16, 2020

This Privacy Policy describes Our policies and procedures on the collection, use and disclosure of Your information when You use the Service and tells You about Your privacy rights and how the law protects You.

We use Your Personal data to provide and improve the Service. By using the Service, You agree to the collection and use of information in accordance with this Privacy Policy. This Privacy Policy has been created with the help of the Privacy Policy Generator.

Interpretation and Definitions


The words of which the initial letter is capitalized have meanings defined under the following conditions. The following definitions shall have the same meaning regardless of whether they appear in singular or in plural.


For the purposes of this Privacy Policy:

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  • Company (referred to as either "the Company", "We", "Us" or "Our" in this Agreement) refers to The Verna J Kirkness Science and Engineering Education Foundation , 3623 Marine Avenue Powell River, BC V8A 2H5 .

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Collecting and Using Your Personal Data

Types of Data Collected

Personal Data

While using Our Service, We may ask You to provide Us with certain personally identifiable information that can be used to contact or identify You. Personally identifiable information may include, but is not limited to:

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Usage Data

Usage Data is collected automatically when using the Service.

Usage Data may include information such as Your Device's Internet Protocol address (e.g. IP address), browser type, browser version, the pages of our Service that You visit, the time and date of Your visit, the time spent on those pages, unique device identifiers and other diagnostic data.

When You access the Service by or through a mobile device, We may collect certain information automatically, including, but not limited to, the type of mobile device You use, Your mobile device unique ID, the IP address of Your mobile device, Your mobile operating system, the type of mobile Internet browser You use, unique device identifiers and other diagnostic data.

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Tracking Technologies and Cookies

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Use of Your Personal Data

The Company may use Personal Data for the following purposes:

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We may share Your personal information in the following situations:

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  • With Your consent: We may disclose Your personal information for any other purpose with Your consent.

Retention of Your Personal Data

The Company will retain Your Personal Data only for as long as is necessary for the purposes set out in this Privacy Policy. We will retain and use Your Personal Data to the extent necessary to comply with our legal obligations (for example, if we are required to retain your data to comply with applicable laws), resolve disputes, and enforce our legal agreements and policies.

The Company will also retain Usage Data for internal analysis purposes. Usage Data is generally retained for a shorter period of time, except when this data is used to strengthen the security or to improve the functionality of Our Service, or We are legally obligated to retain this data for longer time periods.

Transfer of Your Personal Data

Your information, including Personal Data, is processed at the Company's operating offices and in any other places where the parties involved in the processing are located. It means that this information may be transferred to — and maintained on — computers located outside of Your state, province, country or other governmental jurisdiction where the data protection laws may differ than those from Your jurisdiction.

Your consent to this Privacy Policy followed by Your submission of such information represents Your agreement to that transfer.

The Company will take all steps reasonably necessary to ensure that Your data is treated securely and in accordance with this Privacy Policy and no transfer of Your Personal Data will take place to an organization or a country unless there are adequate controls in place including the security of Your data and other personal information.

Disclosure of Your Personal Data

Business Transactions

If the Company is involved in a merger, acquisition or asset sale, Your Personal Data may be transferred. We will provide notice before Your Personal Data is transferred and becomes subject to a different Privacy Policy.

Law enforcement

Under certain circumstances, the Company may be required to disclose Your Personal Data if required to do so by law or in response to valid requests by public authorities (e.g. a court or a government agency).

Other legal requirements

The Company may disclose Your Personal Data in the good faith belief that such action is necessary to:

  • Comply with a legal obligation
  • Protect and defend the rights or property of the Company
  • Prevent or investigate possible wrongdoing in connection with the Service
  • Protect the personal safety of Users of the Service or the public
  • Protect against legal liability

Security of Your Personal Data

The security of Your Personal Data is important to Us, but remember that no method of transmission over the Internet, or method of electronic storage is 100% secure. While We strive to use commercially acceptable means to protect Your Personal Data, We cannot guarantee its absolute security.

Your California Privacy Rights (California's Shine the Light law)

Under California Civil Code Section 1798 (California's Shine the Light law), California residents with an established business relationship with us can request information once a year about sharing their Personal Data with third parties for the third parties' direct marketing purposes.

If you'd like to request more information under the California Shine the Light law, and if You are a California resident, You can contact Us using the contact information provided below.

California Privacy Rights for Minor Users (California Business and Professions Code Section 22581)

California Business and Professions Code section 22581 allow California residents under the age of 18 who are registered users of online sites, services or applications to request and obtain removal of content or information they have publicly posted.

To request removal of such data, and if You are a California resident, You can contact Us using the contact information provided below, and include the email address associated with Your account.

Be aware that Your request does not guarantee complete or comprehensive removal of content or information posted online and that the law may not permit or require removal in certain circumstances.

Links to Other Websites

Our Service may contain links to other websites that are not operated by Us. If You click on a third party link, You will be directed to that third party's site. We strongly advise You to review the Privacy Policy of every site You visit.

We have no control over and assume no responsibility for the content, privacy policies or practices of any third party sites or services.

Changes to this Privacy Policy

We may update Our Privacy Policy from time to time. We will notify You of any changes by posting the new Privacy Policy on this page.

We will let You know via email and/or a prominent notice on Our Service, prior to the change becoming effective and update the "Last updated" date at the top of this Privacy Policy.

You are advised to review this Privacy Policy periodically for any changes. Changes to this Privacy Policy are effective when they are posted on this page.

Contact Us

If you have any questions about this Privacy Policy, You can contact us:

  • By email: info@vjkf.org