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Bird brains

New research by a McGill biologist shows that the bigger the bird brain, the better. Biologist Louis Lefebvre has found ways to distinguish the more intelligent of the species. He showed, for instance, that being an omnivore and having the ability to adapt to new environments are associated with a larger cortex and greater intelligence.

Published: 8 Feb 2008

Mangled forests reborn

Ten years after nature unleashed its savagery on Quebec's hardwood forest, experts have discovered heartening news: The forest is doing just fine. "The incredible resilience of the forest gives me hope," says Martin Lechowicz, a professor of biology at McGill and director of the university's Gault Nature Reserve at Mont St. Hilaire. At 1,000 hectares, it is the largest forest in southern Quebec never to have been harvested.

Published: 14 Jan 2008

The musical brain

When he came to Montreal in July for a reunion with the Police, Sting met with McGill neuroscientist and best-selling author of "This is Your Brain on Music," Daniel Levitin.

Published: 7 Jan 2008

The Iowa caucuses

Presidential expert and McGill history professor Gil Troy provides analysis of the U.S. presidential race in a series for La Presse, beginning with the Iowa caucuses.


Published: 7 Jan 2008

Paris Hilton: Actress, author... analgesic?

Neuroscientists have found that a cardboard cutout of the ubiquitous Hilton Hotel heiress has a painkilling effect on mice. Jeffrey Mogil of McGill and his colleagues noticed that male mice showed signs of less pain when a scientist was present, so, to investigate whether it was the sight or smell of a human that caused the effect, the researchers acquired a promotional cardboard cutout of Hilton. Paris's effect appeared to be gender-specific. Male mice spent less time licking their wounds when fake Paris was in sight, but females showed no such effect. When the team put up a screen to block the rodents' view, the effect went away. The researchers reported at the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience.

Published: 10 Dec 2007

Wonder pigs

Researchers at McGill say they have achieved a Canadian first by successfully producing three litters of cloned pigs, an event that may help advance research into human ailments such as diabetes. "It gives us the opportunity to create animals from cell lines that can be easily manipulated in vitro," said Dr. Vilceu Bordignon, director of the Large Animal Research Unit at McGill's Macdonald campus. "It could even lead to the development of new cell therapies for genetic diseases in humans."

Published: 6 Dec 2007

"La mondialisation et l'enseignement du droit"

Dean Nicholas Kasirer of the Faculty of Law appeared on the French national radio network France Culture as the special guest of a program devoted to law and public affairs, "Le bien commun." The topic of the hour-long program, hosted by Antoine Garapon, was "la mondialisation et l'enseignement du droit" and concerned among other things how McGill's transsystemic program of teaching common law and civil law might serve as a model for legal education in France and internationally. The broadcast is available as a podcast .

Published: 5 Dec 2007

Green chemistry

McGill civil engineering professor Jim Nicell, chemical engineering professor David Cooper and colleagues are hoping to develop an environmentally friendly plasticizer, the ingredient that makes plastics soft and flexible, to be added to polyvinyl chloride (PVC).

Published: 5 Dec 2007

Focus on family law

In an opinion piece in "The Lawyers Weekly," McGill professor Robert Leckey believes lawmakers should create an intermediate parenting category.

Published: 9 Nov 2007

McGill tops on continent

McGill University is the cream of Canadian schools, the best public university in North America and ranks 12th among the world's top 200 universities, according to the prestigious THES/QS global survey. Released today, the Times Higher Education's ranking has McGill bounding up from last year's 21st place showing based on such factors as emphasis on science programs, the strong contingent of international students and faculty, student/faculty ratios, and publications by faculty and graduate researchers. Harvard placed first on the list, while Oxford, Cambridge and Yale tied for second spot. University of Toronto dropped from 27th last year to 45th overall. UBC (33), Queen's (88), Université de Montréal (93), University of Alberta (97), McMaster (108), Waterloo (112), University of Western Ontario (126), Simon Fraser (139) and University of Calgary (166) were the other Canadian universities that made the list.

Published: 8 Nov 2007

Species extinction could reduce productivity of plants on earth by half

An international team of scientists has published a new analysis showing that as plant species around the world go extinct, natural habitats become less productive and contain fewer total plants -- a situation that could ultimately compromise important benefits that humans get from nature. "Our analyses provide the most comprehensive evidence yet that natural habitats with a greater variety of plant species are more productive," said co-author Michel Loreau of McGill.

Published: 6 Nov 2007

Genesis, take two

Scientists know that chickens are related to dinosaurs. But what makes animals, including humans, so different from our ancestors -- or from one another? According to radical new research, not as much as you'd think. And tinkering with the building blocks of life may shed light not only on what makes us the way we are, but on the mysteries of evolution. Like a small but growing number of paleontologists, Professor Hans Larsson was attracted to evo-devo, or evolutionary developmental biology, because it opens up just this door to recreating the past.

Published: 5 Nov 2007

Canada must be climate change leader

In an op-ed in the Guelph Mercury, James Ford and Lea Berrang-Ford, both from the Department of Geography at McGill, write that we have the ability to avoid the most extreme effects of climate change but to do so will require commitment by all nations, including our own. They propose that an upcoming international conference in Bali offers Canada a chance to maintain its international reputation.

Published: 5 Nov 2007

A call for action

After climate change, global genetic diversity could become the next great concern of humanity, claims biologist Michel Loreau, Canada Research Chair in Theoretical Ecology at McGill. Prof. Loreau, through the international organization Diversitas, documents the harmful effects of the erosion of the biogenetic resources on earth and advocates political action.

Published: 5 Nov 2007

Alien invasions

"The world will suffer more ecological explosions and surprises as alien species invade new habitats and compete with domestic organisms for survival," Anthony Ricciardi, a professor of environmental science at McGill, warns.

Published: 29 Oct 2007