Indigenous People’s Day

June 21, 2022

In honour of Indigenous People’s Day and inspired by our partners in the strong Fort McMurray Metis Local 1935 community, Paragon is pleased to support Indspire with a $2,500 donation. One of the key mandates of our Paragon Infinity partnership is to support education for Metis youth, including through Keyano College’s environmental certificate programs and internships. Indspire’s mission fits perfectly with that objective – they provide financial support for First Nations, Inuit and Métis students across Canada to assist them in completing their post-secondary education.

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Ukraine fundraiser results

June 20, 2022

We were able to raise $5,528 for the Canada Ukraine Foundation in April and May of 2022. Thank you to everyone who donated!

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Fun Fact: Acacia trees and rewards

June 16, 2022

Fun Fact: Acacia trees will change the rewards they provide to their symbiotic ants depending on how good they are at their jobs.

Swollen-thorn acacias, most famously Vachellia collensii, are known for their symbiotic relationship with ants. They provide a bunch of services for their trees, including attacking herbivorous insects, clearing encroaching vegetation, and even protecting them from disease by distributing antibiotics synthesized by bacteria living on their legs. In return, the trees reward their ants with food in the form of protein-rich Beltian bodies and sugar-rich nectaries, and with secure housing inside hollow thorns that have evolved specifically for the purpose. Sweet deal.

One of the best-known ant symbionts is Pseudomyrmex spinicola. They do everything expected of them and help their host plant to thrive. The kind of neighbour you’d lend a cup of sugar to (literally). Crematogaster crinosa however, is a little less desirable. They are lazy defenders against herbivores, fail to clear encroaching veg, and are not known to spread antibiotics. A bunch of formic freeloaders. Considering the difference in services, you’d think the acacia would pay their little buddies differently. And you’d be right… although probably not in the way you would think.

In a three-month study, Amador-Vargas and Gijsman (2021) monitored acacia trees at two sites, one which supported both ant species, and one with only P. spinicola. The authors found that the quality and quantity of accommodation (thorns) remained the same between the two sites, but the food rewards did not. Acacias with colonies of only P. spinicola produced nectaries along the bases of their leaves, while those also supporting C. crinosa sported them at their leaf tips too. Rude. The authors suggested that the extra nectaries encouraged the lay-about-Larry’s to traverse the leaves to reach an extra reward, leading them to drive away pests they might not have encountered otherwise. Hardly seems fair to the poor P. spinicola who did not need to be bribed to achieve the same goal.

If you’re interested in further reading, see their paper: Gijsman, F., González, Y., Guevara, M. et al. Short-term plasticity and variation in acacia ant-rewards under different conditions of ant occupancy and herbivory. Sci Nat 108, 31 (2021).

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RemTech 2022

June 14, 2022

Do you have some interesting research to share? The call for abstracts is now open for RemTech 2022, which will be held October 12-14, 2022 at the Fairmont Banff Springs – see link below for more details. Hope to see you there!

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Fun Fact: Banyan Trees

June 8, 2022

Fun Fact: Banyan trees (Ficus benghalensis) can walk…

So you’d better tie up your ficus before it runs off to join an Entmoot. (I hope I’m not the only one chuckling at that joke, it’s a pretty good one).

Banyan trees, or strangler figs, start off life as epiphytes when their seeds land on the branches of another tree. Once the seed germinates, it sends aerial roots down around the trunk of its host tree, which eventually dies and rots away, leaving the hollow trunk of the banyan. As they grow, banyan trees continue to send aerial ‘prop roots’ down from their branches to support their massive structure. Eventually, the original trunk will die and one of the prop roots will become the new main trunk. This cycle can continue on for centuries with old trunks dying away and new prop roots carrying on, which is a sort of walking… I suppose.

One of the biggest known banyan trees is the Great Banyan near Kolkata, India. It covers more than 4.6 acres and can shelter over 20,000 people.

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Metis Fest 2022

June 2, 2022

Thank you to Fort McMurray Metis for inviting us to Metis Fest 2022, a festival celebrating and sharing Metis culture. It was a fun day full of sunshine, bbq, music, and dancing! We had a great time volunteering alongside Heidi Taves and Melanie Walsh in the children’s tent. Can’t wait for next year 🙂

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Fun Fact: Plant memory

June 2, 2022

Fun Fact: Your house plants remember when you left for holiday without watering them, and they are not happy about it.

Researchers at the University of Western Australia have shown that the sensitive plant (Mimosa pudica) can not only learn from experience but can also remember those lessons weeks later. M. pudica, is a perennial plant in the pea family (Fabaceae) and is native to the Caribbean and South and Central America. It is known for its rapid movement where it folds up its leaves as a defence mechanism when touched or otherwise suddenly stressed (nyctinastic movement). You can often find sad little M. pudica plants at nurseries that have been harassed by passers-by. Please rescue them.

The researchers from Australia found that the M. pudica they were studying for an unrelated research question quickly stopped curling their leaves in response to being ‘alarmed’ but not harmed. The authors suggest that this shows that they had learned that folding your leaves in this scenario was a waste of valuable energy. Furthermore, they found that their subjects remembered this lesson and didn’t close their leaves when exposed to the same “scary” situation a month later.

If you are interested in further reading on the M. pudica study, see their paper: Gagliano M et al. 2014. Experience teaches plants to learn faster and forget slower in environments where it matters. Oecologia, published online January 05, 2014; doi: 10.1007/s00442-013-2873-7

For a (satirical) discussion on its implications, follow this link:

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Fun Fact: Sailor’s Eyeballs

May 26, 2022

Fun Fact: The largest single-celled organism is an alga called Sailor’s Eyeballs.

Valonia ventricosa is found in tropical and subtropical ocean regions around the globe, and is one of the largest, if not the largest, single celled organisms. It is coenocytic, with several cytoplasmic domains, each with its on nucleus and set of chloroplasts, connected by cytoplasmic “bridges” of microtubules. Thanks to this structure, the single cell can grow up to 9 cm in diameter. Pretty impressive considering you need about 5 million cells to make a fly.

Because V. ventricose is such a large cell, it has been used by scientists to study the transfer of water and other fluids across biological membranes. These studies help us understand more about cellulose, the main component of the cell walls of algae and plants. It also has an unusually high electrical potential relative to the seawater around it, although no one is sure why.

And just in case you were wondering (because I know you are): yes, you can eat it, and no, it does not taste good.

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May 24, 2022

Warm welcome to Paragon’s newest additions: Michael Carson, Colin Krupnik, Felicia Larkin, Katharine Schultheiss, Tony Shao, McKayla Smith, and Haley Thun!

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Fun Fact: on Mountain gorillas

May 19, 2022

Fun Fact: Mountain gorillas live a near-constant state of flatulence because of their diet.

Eating 20 kg a day of salad could do that to anyone. A 2020 BBC documentary using animatronic cameras recorded a family of gorillas munching on leaves, twigs, and fruit. In addition to the intestinal orchestra, they also captured the gorillas singing for their supper. In an associated study published in PLOS ONE, older male gorillas were reported to be the most likely to sing and everyone was more likely to sing for salad (aquatic vegetation, flowers, and seeds) than for bugs.

You and me both.

If you’re interested in further reading, see their 2016 paper:

For a video of the “chorus”, follow this link:

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