Two-eyed seeing on water: Nov. 7

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Water – whether it’s quality or quantity – is a huge concern in this region. Vancouver Island University is hosting a special lecture Monday Nov. 7 entitled Two-Eyed Seeing on National and Global Water Security, presented by Lee Wilson, associate professor at the University of Saskatchewan.

Monday Nov. 7 at 5 p.m.

VIU Cowichan Campus Theatre

Wilson specializes in physical chemistry and materials science, and he will be talking about the effects of human interaction on the water system from deep injection wells filled with toxic chemicals  to the large amounts of water needed for industry such as fracking and oil sands development.

On the positive side, he will talk about some of his work in green chemistry and green engineering. Wilson is researching natural solutions to pollution such as using wheat straw to filter and separate toxins. He calls them “molecular sponges.” Unlike chemical refineries which work on distillation process – separating chemicals through boiling – his approach is a radically simple reversal. “Our approach was we take our biomaterial, add it to a mixture, shake it and it separates.” It’s through the advances in chemistry that we can understand why it’s working.”

It’s a game changer, he says, and his team is working with big companies to see if they can adopt it on a large scale. “I feel positive about it but when you start to think about the scale of what needs to be done, it’s a bit mind-numbing in a sense,” he said,

“Two-eyed seeing” refers to a scientist’s own background and how it influences research. A Metis from Manitoba, Wilson is the chair of the Canadian Aboriginal Science and Technology Society. “We work in the whole field of the conventional science, but in the background, science is inspired by nature and culture,” said Wilson, who has worked with a diverse student group from all over the world. “They bring their own perspectives with them. A lot of great ideas are coming from a cultural paradigm. That’s the way science should be – taking an objective approach but creativity is important.”

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