News From AU

'Bug Guy' brings provincial Bug Room to Athabasca
Facilities Director reveals the origins of humidity
AU staff discovering benefits of walking

‘Bug Guy’ brings provincial Bug Room to Athabasca

Science Outreach-Athabasca recently hosted a presentation of “Alberta Bugs: The Good, The Bad and the Ugly.” Terry Thormin, from the Alberta Provincial Museum’s Bug Room spoke on April 8, 2003 in the Nancy Appleby Theatre. He brought along a variety of “friends” from the Provincial Museum, including a preying mantis, an Australian stick bug, tarantulas, a black widow spider and some millipedes. The presentation consisted of a slide presentation with Terry discussing his vast knowledge of Alberta Bugs, and a hands-on display, which was a big hit with kids and parents alike.

Coming soon: Science Outreach-Athabasca proudly presents … John Acorn, “The Nature Nut” from the Discovery Channel speaking on “A Naturalist in the American Tropics” on Thursday, May 22nd at 7:00 pm in the Nancy Appleby Theatre. Tickets are available from Value Drugs, Rexall Drugs and through Science Outreach-Athabasca at 675-6653. Tickets are selling fast – get yours today!

– submitted by Science Outreach-Athabasca

Facilities Director reveals the origins of humidity

In this first part of a three-part series, Greg Wiens, the Director of Facilities and Services at Athabasca University, takes the time to educate us about what humidity is, and how it is created. Tune into future issues of the Insider to learn about how humidity comes into play in the comfort levels in the halls of Athabasca University.

Most people know that water evaporates to become a mixture of gases and water vapour. We refer to this water in the air as “humidity.” The most common term used to express the amount of water in the air is “relative humidity.” This value is expressed as a percentage that represents the amount of water in the air relative to the amount of water the air could hold at the same temperature. Relative humidity could range from 0% (dry) to 100% (saturated) at any given temperature. Exceeding 100% humidity will result in water “?falling’ out of the air as condensation, rain, hoarfrost or snow – depending on the temperature.

The relationship between air and moisture has been studied for decades. These studies have shown that, at any given barometric pressure, temperature is the key factor in how much water the air can retain. Simply put, warm air can hold more moisture than cold air. Cooling the air will result in a natural increase in its relative humidity. Conversely, warming the air will result in a natural decrease in its relative humidity. This means that, for occupants of the same building receiving ventilation air from the same source, an office kept at 19° C will have a higher relative humidity than one kept at 23° C. This will occur even though the two offices are right beside each other.

Nature is constantly changing outdoor humidity levels that are, for the most part, based on geography, weather and the seasons. This natural outdoor humidity creates the baseline for indoor humidity levels as we heat or cool the air to satisfy our desired comfort range for temperature.

Human beings generate moisture from exhalation and precipitation, cooking, cleaning, watering indoor plants, and so on. We intentionally increase indoor moisture levels by using humidifiers, or decrease them by using dehumidifiers. Natural ambient levels of relative humidity in Central or Northern Alberta, however, make dehumidification rare.

Relative humidity levels, either inside or outside, are affected by many variables. Personal comfort preferences add the human variable to these constantly changing natural dynamics of temperature and relative humidity.

AU staff discovering benefits of walking

According to Cheryl Wiese and Dianne Smith, bad weather isn’t a reason to stay inside. More often than not, these Convocation Office staff members skip their coffee breaks, so they have time to go walking at lunch. Wiese can recall one day in February they went walking – despite the raging snowstorm.

“Everyone was stopping and saying, “Are you crazy?!” she recalled, adding that she would be crazy to not walk. According to Wiese, walking is a simple way to produce profound physical benefits.

“I’ve noticed that I can go longer distances in a shorter period of time and my heart doesn’t want to pound out of my chest,” she said, explaining that the easy exercise also does wonders for her mental clarity. “Walking does rejuvenate me for the afternoon. It does increase my energy and help me get through those gruelling afternoon hours.”

Smith echoes this view. She’s a self-described “walker from way back,” and walks every chance she gets. “You just enjoy the scenery,” she explained. “But I find after working inside, if you take that 45 minutes at noon, you come back revitalized.”

Smith and Wiese are not the only ones who feel this way. Smith has noticed that there are a number of AU staff members who have discovered the joys and benefits of the mid-day walk, and who regularly head for the roads and trails that surround the campus.

“We go out at different times,” Smith said, “but there’s staff from Computing and the Info Centre. It depends on the weather.”

Governments and health agencies all over the continent are stepping up emphasis on the importance of a healthy lifestyle in the prevention of disease, and walking is touted as a fun and easy way to improve blood and lymph circulation, increase heart rate and burn calories.

Walking is also a “green” way to get around. Each time you walk instead of driving, there is that much less air pollution, and that much more fossil fuel left for future use.

Find out more about the benefits of walking. The Alberta Centre for Healthy Living (ACHL) has devoted a Web-site page to the topic of walking, its benefits and walking culture. It also features links to other health-friendly sites. Click on

Next month, the Canadian Health Network Web-site will feature an article on walking written by Joanne Gesell, Education Co-ordinator at ACHL. Check out that, and more, at

As well this summer, Health Canada and Alberta Community Development are delivering SummerActive, a national six-week campaign geared to promoting physical activity and healthy lifestyles generally. Find out more by logging on to

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