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Symons Seminar Series wraps up for the season

All photos by Samantha Moss

The December instalment of the Symons Seminar Series was held at its usual time – the first Wednesday of the month – and in its usual place – Bagnani Hall. The Series runs seven events during the school year and allows two graduate students, one from the Humanities or Social Sciences and one from the Sciences, to present materials from their ongoing research.

By having two scholars from vastly different fields present in the same evening, the idea is to ‘bridge the gap’ between the many disciplines studied here at Trent. The Series is named after the founding President of the University, Thomas H.B. Symons.

December 2 featured Meredith Purcell (PhD candidate, Environmental and Life Sciences) and Chad Andrews (PhD candidate, Cultural Studies). Purcell discussed her recent studies of moose genomics. She sequenced samples of moose DNA and its possible relationship to their habitat.

Pictured: Meredeth Purcell

Purcell presented various maps that tracked moose populations across Canada and the Northern U.S., with a particular emphasis on moose in Manitoba and Ontario. Her investigation attempts to locate possible genetic and genomic changes that would then provide scientific reasons for fluctuations in moose population, habitat, and displacement.

Purcell’s specific research question is the possible adaptation of moose DNA. She wonders whether moose can adapt to meet the demands of climate change, and she hypothesizes that the dispersal of moose populations may be attributed to changes in their DNA.

Her research will hopefully inform moose management policies, thus providing not an immediate and reactionary response to declining moose populations, but as part of an effort to prevent future declines.

Chad Andrews presented material from the first chapter of his dissertation. His field of study is science fiction literature in the 1980s. Andrews’s presentation, ‘The Technology of Consent: Technomilitary Fantasies in the 1980s,’ first defined each term in the title of the talk.

Pictured: Chad Andrews

He then considered the role of a short-run SF series, There will be War (1983-1990), in the development of President Ronald Reagan’s Cold War efforts. These volumes of short stories, essays, and articles did not directly inform Reagan’s SF fantasies of satellites with lasers, but SF discourse nevertheless became a recognizable language to discuss real world problems and technological advancements.

Andrews also argued that this form of technomilitary fantasy continues to dominate the current social, military, and political landscape (cf. drone warfare). Fictional and non-fictional discourses, in both the 1980s and in 2015, exist and inform each other.

Indeed, the evil plot that James Bond foils in Spectre (2015) involves the take down of a globalized system of ubiquitous surveillance. Recent developments and anxieties in surveillance are fictionalized in Spectre and made reality as governments presently (and opaquely) share information in their efforts to subdue ISIS and other terrorists.

As always, the Symons Series crew had a bevy of homemade appetizers and desserts. The next event will be held on Wednesday, January 6 at 7PM in Bagnani Hall. For more details, visit

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