Team:UAlberta/Human Practices


Human Practices Overview

Integrated Human Practices

Figure 1: Members of Team UAlberta learning about the basics of keeping during one of our visits to a local beekeeper.

This year, Team UAlberta’s primary objective was to serve our local Albertan community and design a project with tangible, positive impacts. With this focus in mind, our team discovered the impending threat of Nosema ceranae which is directly related to our provincial apiculture industry and negatively affects our local beekeepers.

We also decided to make our project community-centred because we understand that while scientific advancements are important, science should not be done within a vacuum. It was important for us to take into consideration the community we were going to affect. This community is Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, and by extension the world. Through our work, we chose to focus particularly on Alberta because of the prevalence of beekeeping in Alberta. Team UAlberta also understands that our community is the iGEM community.

We showed our commitment and our desire to better both of these communities through our two main Human Practices projects. Our first project was the production of our documentary and our second project was a survey which examines iGEMs age, gender, race, and sexual orientation, and the suggestions for ways that iGEM teams can improve their inclusivity.

The Documentary

Figure 2: Screenshot of our interviews with a lcoal beekeeper, Randy Beaton.

Click here to watch a sneak-peek of our documentary!

The original objective for our documentary was two-fold. First, we wanted to speak with stakeholders to develop our project, so that it was on what the community in need. Second, we wanted to shine a light on beekeepers and how important they are to Alberta.

The filming of a documentary allowed us to speak with stakeholders on a very personal level so that we could learn about their work, families, communities and lives. These interviews were important to us as we wanted to make APIS as usable as possible, as an easy to use product is more likely to both be used, and used effectively. We also wanted to be able to share our ideas with the people this could affect the most. We thus included experts to get their feedback on our project so that we could come to truly understand the issue and the best way to address it.

We also wanted to do something that would help the beekeeping community regardless of our scientific advancements. We wanted to be able to give back to them, and we thought that a documentary would be the best way to do this. Alberta beekeepers produce 41% of Canada's honey; they are an important part of our farming industry, and just, in general, are amazing individuals [1]. However, few Albertans, let alone Canadians, know how important they are. With the production and display of this documentary, it is our hope that more people can learn about this community and the challenges that they are facing. We also noticed that a lot of people (ourselves included at the start of this project) said “I love bees” but rarely knew anything about them or the community that keeps them. This documentary helps to address that issue.

Inclusivity Survey

Click here to open the survey!

iGEM is an organization that is driven by young people's idealism. Because of this, iGEM provides the perfect atmosphere to drive progress within STEM both scientifically and socially. Creating an inclusive space starts by being aware of the downfalls of the organization, and from there moving to address any issues that prevent the organization from achieving true diversity and inclusivity. The UAlberta iGEM team was interested in investigating the age, sex, gender, and race demographics of North American teams, to examine if there are any inclusion disparities in North American iGEM teams.

While we knew to display our demographics was important, we were also cognizant of the fact that statistics and data analytics are useless without application, so we decided to make some applicable recommendations. We have also made recommendations that can help when improving a team inclusivity. These recommendations are based off papers, research, and communities focused on improving inclusivity.

Finally, we recognize that this survey is imperfect and welcome constructive criticism that we could use to improve it. However, we did go through a lengthy process of vetting this survey to ensure that it was a well written as possible. We did this by consulting with iGEM HQ’s diversity committee, and working on the survey with Dr. Margaret-Ann Armour the U of A’s Associate Dean of Science for Diversity.

We hope that teams can use these recommendations to improve their teams' inclusivity and open up the conversation on their teams about inclusivity. All teams should make an active effort to make iGEM a safe space and that starts with each individual and their team!


[1] Horticulture and Cross Sectoral Division Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, "Statistical Overview of the Canadian Honey and Bee Industry and the Economic Contribution of Honey Bee Pollination 2013-2014," Government of Canada, 2016. [Online} Available: