By Allison Barss

Great conversation has a way of bringing people together. Each year, Dalhousie’s Open Dialogue Live events offer a space where new and interesting perspectives are shared, and where audiences can learn from and engage with researchers, faculty, alumni and students on a range of timely and important topics.

This year, through a series of five in-person and online panel discussions, the Open Dialogue Live series zeroed in on Dal’s research strengths — from food security and clean energy, to ocean research, health outcomes and innovation and entrepreneurship — answering the question, ‘How can we use these strengths to help solve today’s greatest challenges?’

Here are 10 things we learned this season:

  1. We need to produce 50-60 per cent more food.
    This will help support a growing, global population of nearly 10 billion by 2050, according to the United Nations. Cassie Hayward (BA’19), food security policy analyst and panelist at “How policy impacts food security”, explained that the world currently produces enough food to feed it, but today’s challenges around food security and policy have become a matter of distribution.
  2. It’s essential to support local farmers.
    Dal Faculty of Agriculture professor and panelist Dr. Gumataw Abebe shared that food production, distribution and supply chains are systematic. To bring synergy, we need to focus on a more sustainable approach. “We are living in a very globalized environment, one in which people are realizing the importance of supporting local.” Watch the Food Security event recording here.
  3. When looking for the latest renewable energy sources, see what’s already available.
    At “Energy for the next generation”, battery tech guru, alum and panelist Dr. Chris Burns (MSc’11, PhD’15) said that we don’t need a breakthrough: “Today’s technologies are compelling, and capable of making change.”
  4. Dal is creating powerful solutions for energy generation and storage.
    Dal’s Clean Technology Research Institute (CTRI) is also fueling powerful solutions for energy management and public policy. It’s received more than $70 million in external funding to help support clean technology research to date. Watch the Clean Tech event recording.
  5. Early prevention and diagnosis are necessary for understanding illness.
    At “Building strong health outcomes through research”, Dr. Brendan Leung, associate professor with Dal’s Faculty of Dentistry, explained his work in growing lab replicas of patient tumours using their own cells, sharing, “by understanding the stages in tumour progression, we can optimize our treatment strategies to achieve better patient outcomes, with less side effects.”
  6. Understanding a patient’s baseline — how they were before they got sick — is key.
    This came from Dr. Kenneth Rockwood (PGM’91), a professor with Dalhousie’s Division of Geriatric Medicine, when he was explaining his exploration in the relationship between frailty and dementia, and how he’s working to get patients back to where they were before they got sick. Watch the Health Outcomes event recording.
  7. Dal is fighting climate change across its faculties.
    At “Accelerating ocean research at Dalhousie”, panelist Dr. Mike Smit, professor at the School of Information Management, shared that research areas and expertise from across the university — from engineering and law, to entrepreneurship, innovation and social science — are working to tackle urgent climate challenges.
  8. Up to 10 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide will need to be removed from the atmosphere by 2050.
    Drawing on his training from Dal, Dr. Will Burt (PhD’16) shared how his company, Planetary Technologies, is using the ocean to soak up harmful carbon dioxide using alkaline material. Watch the Ocean Research event recording.
  9. Today, start-ups and investment opportunities are driven by their social impact.
    At “Driving innovation and entrepreneurship”, panelist and business leader Wade Dawe said young innovators and entrepreneurs are leading the charge here.
  10. Innovation and entrepreneurship programming injects jobs and dollars into the economy.
    At Dal, such programming fosters the skills of hundreds of students and researchers each year. Watch the Innovation and Entrepreneurship event recording.

We thank all who joined in-person and online for this year’s Open Dialogue Live events and look forward to next year, when we will offer a new slate of conversations on timely and important topics. Stay tuned!