All posts by Danny Bednar

‘THE SEARCH FOR LIFE ON MARS’ BOOK REVIEW POSTED ON MEDIUM

Head over to my Medium site to read the book review I just posted of Elizabeth Howell & Nicolas Booth’s wonderful new Mars book.

Howell & Booth’s book serves as an anthology of personal Martian stories, revealing that behind the search for life on Mars lay entirely Earthly processes worth knowing. If you’re looking to really brush up on the science of Mars and the search for life, it is indeed worth a read.

The Search for Life on Mars (Arcade Publishing, 2020)

Feature Image: Artist’s conception of Perseverance and Ingenuity on the surface of Mars (credit: NASA/JPL)

Space2090: 2020 Teaching EVALUATIONS

How’s my teaching?

Good or bad, below are all the responses I got this year. In an effort to advance transparency in teaching, I will be slowly uploading all my past teaching evaluations to the site in some sort of archive.

The moral of 2020…student’s didn’t like all the writing. Some students want quizzes again. Fair enough, course design is all about balance. I got rid of quizzes after a lot of students didn’t like them last year, but maybe I went to far with my focus on writing assignments. The year was really just a slow build up to one giant assignment. Some students love that, evidently, others want smaller check ins, unrelated to the project, along the way.

Thanks to all the students who took time to provide me feedback, its a huge part of making the course better each year.

Supplementary Comments for the Instructor

Really enjoyed how the course was taught and the different medians that were used to learn information.
Hi Dr. Bednar! First and foremost I want to thank you for putting forth a noticeable effort to make this course as engaging as possible this year, given the circumstances. I am very appreciative of you including two additional weeks in the semester to allow students to catch up. This was really helpful and unique to this course compared to all my others. One thing that was challenging for me in this course was the lack of knowledge–based assessments to help solidify my understanding prior to applying my knowledge in the assignments for this course. I found the project case site, long–form, and especially the final project to be quite cumbersome, although I did like that we were given quite a bit of creative freedom. Perhaps supplementing assignments with weekly or bi–weekly quizzes to decrease the weighting on assignments would help decrease the pressure to perform to such a high degree on such assignments.
I have taken courses about planets and space before, but this is the only course that got me very interested in the content. Your lectures were eye opening, and the research for the projects were very fascinating. It is evident that you care for us students and empathize with us during these odd times. While I loved the course content, I felt that there were far too many writing assignments for this course. The final project was very time consuming, even though over half of the content was copied and pasted from our previous assignments. I felt that having to find completely new sources for our previously written sections was very tedious and unnecessary, as it essentially requires you to rewrite the whole section. Other than that, I had a blast taking this course with you and am very happy I took it!
Good overview while teaching course materials, seems to have a throughout understanding, expertise, and passion for course and course teachings.
Dr. Bednar is a fantastic teacher. He cares, not only about the course content and delivery, but also about his students well–being. He offers the course material in an interesting and very accessible format and includes a level of humour that makes the course so much more enjoyable.
Really enjoyed the course. The lecture with Matt and Raymond on mission design was insanely cool. Also, that introduction with the dramatic music and the planets, top–notch. Aside from that this course was pretty cool. As weird as it sounds, having a few live zoom lectures would have a nice change of scene. I want to get involved in the aerospace industry so your project has actually been a great learning experience overall. Appreciate you teaching this course and all the best!
Prof. Bednar was truly incredible throughout the term, be it his genuine passion for Space, the wonderful modernization of delivering course material through a Pandemic, or his dedication to truly wanting the best for his students, he was an absolute joy to have as Professor. Throughout my 4 years here at Western I have never felt so much genuine care for my well–being as a student from a Professor, and moreover truly made me produce some of my best work. While my aspirations were never in this field, Prof. Bednar made me consider switching just to potentially take more classes with him. I can guarantee whomever has the pleasure of taking his class in the future will not regret it.
I thoroughly enjoyed this entire course and learned so much from it. I have no complaints. I really appreciated your encouraging comments throughout the semester and really liked the fact you included introduction videos for each week. Thank you for a great semester and Happy Holidays!!
The instructor speaks slowly and confidently, which is important for my understanding of the content being delivered. Online delivery was organized, timely, and easy to navigate. Genuine care for both the students’ learning and health were obvious and well–appreciated. I am a few modules behind, but I am excited to review them even after the final project is completed.
One of my favourite courses to take at University in my 4 years. Gives such a light on how tiny we really are in this universe. Week by Week I looked forward to what we were going to learn about!
Dr Bednar was a very intelligent and passionate about space exploration – given the COVID circumstances, I really appreciate how organized Dr bednar was throughout the semester. Dr Bednar was also very approachable and made students such as myself, feel comfortable going to ask questions throughout the semester. Thank you!
Dude, you are awesome. Keep it up man.
Hey Danny, just wanted to say that in all my 4 years of Engineering at Western, I had never had a Prof that cares so much about his students and their mental health.
Thank you for an awesome experience and such an interesting course! Assignments were very enjoyable while completing them and overall it was a great course.
Again THANK YOU SO MUCH for caring!
Dr. Bednar is a good instructor, he is enthusiastic about the course materials. He puts in efforts to engage other space experts to help us with our overall understandings.
Recommendations: Give more feedback – I never got any feedback on my assignments besides that there were problems with my references. It was difficult to understand where the improvement was to be made in terms of the actual content. Also I found it hard to get through all the videos as they were all very long. I think it may be more helpful if they are more concise. Additionally, for the final project I think the expectations were a bit too high considering the material taught. In particular the mission architecture part. More clarity on the references that are considered “approved” as the write–up in the guidelines document is confusing.

Comments: The actual content and your discussion were very interesting and well–thought out but it is simply just difficult to devote so much time to absorbing it all. I loved the forum post questions and thought it was a good chance to critically think about the topics. Overall, very good course and I actually retained a lot of information because it was genuinely cool to learn about.
Danny is a great professor who is truly caring and understanding of his student’s needs.
Prof. Bednar is one of the best profs I’ve had over my time at Western! He is so enthusiastic about this course and you can feel it in his videos. He explains things very clearly, and demonstrates a caring nature towards all students. Answering all questions (throughs AMAs) and when he does his weekly intro video every week. I would recommend anyone to take this class just to learn from Prof. Bednar!
Great Prof!

Supplementary Comments on the Course

Not sure if the writing requirement was changed due to COVID, online format. However, the amount of writing content we had to do far exceeded the expectation of 2090″A” course.
If the same content is to be kept for other semesters, you should seriously consider changing the course outline into an essay credit course. 2090 “F”
Really enjoyed the content of the course and thought the instructor did a great job. The only issue that I had with the course is that our whole mark was made up of written components. I feel like doing quizzes would have been beneficial to the course or some sort of a project that doesn’t rely on research and essay writing. With the amount of writing, I feel like this should have counted as an essay course.
I have taken courses about planets and space before, but this is the only course that got me very interested in the content. Dr. Bednar’s lectures were eye opening, and the research for the projects were very fascinating. It is evident that he care for us students and empathizes with us during these odd times. While I loved the course content, I felt that there were far too many writing assignments for this course, especially as it is not an essay course. Overall, I am very happy I took this course with Dr. Bednar!
Very happy with turnaround time for marking assignments and projects.
Areas for improvement: clearer course structure, Q&A/course information sent through OWL announcements (rather than in videos), perhaps include examples for project format.
The course content is very interesting and I believe that the assessments offer a fair chance to display the knowledge gained in the course. It was presented extremely well in the online format.
This course is great!
The course in and of itself was very interesting, from content to delivery it was easy to maintain interest and desire to continue to learn more. However, a lot of this must be attributed to Prof. Bednar and his dedication to the course. As mentioned earlier, he truly is a one of kind instructor, and I believe I would have enjoyed the content of any course or material he tried to teach me.
I enjoyed the course!
I would suggest having more quizzes and/or tests throughout the course as opposed to only assignments. I found that much of the reading material would not be needed for the final project or the forum postings. As a result, I didn’t need to read those readings. I think that students would be more willing to read all of the assigned readings if there were quizzes that included the material.
Dr. Bednar is an extremely knowledgeable professor and executes online learning seamlessly. He has so much compassion and understanding. I wish more professors were like Dr. Bednar. Thank you for a great semester!
The assignments had enough guidelines so that I wasn’t feeling lost, but enough room for creativity and freedom to research what interested me most. The course content was informative, providing a broad scope of space exploration. The projects allowed students to dig deeper and become knowledgeable in a specific area. Research and writing were skills that I was able to improve on. I expect to remember a lot of the content I learned in this course long after I’ve completed it, which does not happen often. Overall, I am very impressed.
Very interesting course! I enjoyed partaking in the assignments and felt that they were engaging. It is difficult with classes being online due to COVID, but I am impressed with how this course remained organized throughout the semester.
Overall this was an awesome course. Thanks for offering it.
Hey Danny, just wanted to say that in all my 4 years of Engineering at Western, I had never had a Prof that cares so much about his students and their mental health.
Thank you for an awesome experience and such an interesting course! Assignments were very enjoyable while completing them and overall it was a great course.
Again THANK YOU SO MUCH for caring!
This course allows us to further our understadnings by making us research and plan a space exploration mission. I like how all the assignments gradually build up to our final project for this course. Forum posts are also great. It allows us to consider both side of a debate question. However, I didn’t expect this course to have so much writing. I wondered why this course is not an essay course.
Bednar is an excellent prof who genuinely cares about the concepts and is very insightful. The problems are that there is not enough constructive feedback given, too high expectations for some aspects of the final project and the teaching resources should be more concise. Overall the course is still years ahead of others I have taken in terms of meaningful assignments and a prof who cares.
The course has taught me a lot and covers a wide variety of interesting topics. I wish that the course podcasts were easier to follow or had timestamps outlining each discussion point to make it easier to reference back to and study from.
This course was amazing. I learned so much since the start of this course. From his podcasts, to video lectures, to reading you can tell he loves to teach people about space and I really have learned a lot. All the assignments follow along very nicely with the course material, and all project descriptions are very clear. Overall, a really great learning experience!
Unfortunately, due to a COVID–19 online experience, the course was heavily reliant on writing assignments. As such, one may believe that they had enrolled into an essay course. Again, Professor Bednar was great and was adapting to the situation that the pandemic had put upon us but the amount of writing in this course was significantly unpleasant.

Introducing Space Club XV

Over the years I spent as a graduate student at Western University I enjoyed a lot of great friends and had my fair share of shenanigans. Shenanigans bolstered by weekly traditions that made the harsh reality of grad school bearable. These included Foosball Friday, Trivia on Sundays, Moosehead Mondays, Tuesday night cheap movies, and Sunday night dinners.

One more-academic tradition was Space Club, which I actually tried to rebrand as Planet Club given my distaste for astronomy. Whatever it was called, it was a weekly gathering at the Grad Club (campus bar) in which local Space Professor Phil Stooke presented the week’s news in space exploration. Given that I was teaching Space Exploration (or acting as Phil’s Teaching Assistant) for much of this time, it was invaluable to have such a fun reason to keep up to date on space-happenings.

Dr. Professor Phil Stooke Space Professor O.G. presenting at an old school Space Club sometime in the before times.

When my grad school kin and I dispersed from Western to become underpaid, over-qualified, precariat, we missed both the comradery and keen space-awareness provided by Space Club.

About two and a half years after the leaving Western, my intrepid space-writing partner, Tanya Harrison, and I wanted to recreate the magic. After we did an exploratory live Youtube chat with Phil to hock our book For All Humankind, we decided we could do it now and take advantage of everyone’s new found familiarity with virtual presentations.

So, I present to you SPACE CLUB the extended voyage, or SPAEC CLUB X-V. We will be doing a monthly breakdown of news in space. We’re not doing this for views or in pursuit of fabled social media fame. It’s really just a reason to get together and keep up to date on space. However, the ethos of Space Club was always that it was open to anyone who wanted to take a seat and learn about space. So we’re extending that to the digital world of Youtube.

If you’re interested, we hope you join monthly use live Monthly to hear about the latest in planetary science (I refuse to discuss anything past the Oort Cloud), ask questions, and get to know us and our varied careers.

See on the interenets!

Danny

Now Available: For All Humankind

My new book with Dr. Tanya Harrison was release March 17th 2020 and we are thrilled with the response and reviews!

You can pick it up now anywhere books are sold, and as always, please consider supporting your local bookstores!

To buy online:

For All Humankind Cover

REVIEWS:

“The messages of hope and inspiration in this book are very much of a time, but they are also timeless. Maybe they speak to the ability humans have to overcome seemingly impossible challenges…but apparently only when we feel like it. As we stand at the new crossroads of space exploration and look forward, perhaps we should glance backward, too, and remember from whence we came. Because Apollo set the bar high. Very, very high.” – Geoff Notkin, President of the National Space Society and former host of Meteorite Men on The Discovery Channel

“Tanya Harrison and Daniel Bednar invite us to re-live one of humanity’s proudest moments through a series of vivid, intimate, and refreshingly diverse accounts that challenge our perspectives and remind us that space exploration is a global pursuit with global benefit. Like the Apollo program itself, For All Humankind is both momentous and inspiring, the kind of stories that stay with you forever.”Kellie Gerardi

“A beautiful demonstration of how curiosity and wonder brought our planet together to accomplish the impossible.”Dagogo Altraide, creator of ColdFusion and author of New Thinking

“An absolute delight! By telling the story of the 1969 Apollo 11 moon landing through the eyes of observers from around the world, Dr. Tanya Harrison and Dr. Danny Bednar bring a freshness to it that is utterly beguiling. I would defy anyone not to be inspired by these extraordinary accounts from people who were, in turn, inspired by what they saw and experienced over 50 years ago. I know I was.” – Dr. Andrew Maynard, scientist and author of Films from the Future and Future Rising

“Harrison and Bednar’s rich narrative serves to make the moon landing an inclusive event in human history. Told through a diverse set of characters from every continent, they deftly explores the intersectional impact of humankind’s biggest step.” – Zara Stone, journalist and author of The Future of Science is Female.

“A great overview of the moon landing for young adults. This book sets the stage for the moon landing in a Cold War world. Great scientific and cultural background. Humanizing stories to keep reader interest” – Amazon Customer Review

“Is a wonderful read. Thoroughly enjoyed it!”Amazon Customer Review

“Insightful and entertaining read, definitely recommend!” – Amazon Customer Review

New Paper: Documenting Rover Science

In this latest paper, my colleagues and I outlined some challenges for mission documentation through our experiences on the 2016 CanMars analogue mission.

Documentation is the process by which you record major events and decision making in a mission. This is usually done so that future mission designers can learn from past missions. Although, most documentation actually gets used be people coming in to mission control after a shift or day off (since its a record of what happened while they were gone).

Analogue missions are when researchers practice operating rovers by using Earth instead of Mars or the Moon. It’s obviously a lot easier, safer, and cheaper, and is perfect for the real thing.A lot of graduates of analogue missions go on to work with rovers in space exploration.

In our case, we were working with a rover operating in the desert near Hanksville Utah, while our mission control was in London, Ontario.

MESR

Our little rover was called MESR (pronounced mee-zer) (Image: CSA, 2016)

Our paper is published in the September 2019 issue of Planetary and Space Science and can be found here.

In short we found a few things:

  • Up-front decisions have to be made about how detailed the in-room discussion will be recorded (there are trade-offs either way).
  • It’s practically impossible to capture all decision making on a mission (the ideal objective of documentation). All of the small conversations that go into a decisions occur in many undocumented places. The best thing to do is to make sure overall deciding factors are stated clearly in open deliberation and for recording.
  • Documentarians don’t have to be experts, in fact there may be value in non-experts recording the decision making process (along with experts). A mix may be best.
  • We suggest room design is not irrelevant to mission success, as mundane as it sounds. Room layout can affect documentation, at least in our case. A mission might as well consider this in mission control design.

Enjoy!

Feature image (CSA, 2016).

New Paper: Climate Change Adaptation and Governance

How are governments in Canada preparing for the ongoing and expected impacts of climate change?

My new paper with Dan Henstra explores how we are governing ourselves in the face of climate change and the myriad of options for moving forward with policy.

Should we regulate, tax, or persuade ourselves towards climate preparedness?

Due to my commitment to ethical and accessible research, the full article is available for free from the Journal of Environmental Policy and Planning.

As academia. very slowly. moves away from a narrow focus on impact factors and for-profit journals, hopefully more researchers will provide their work to open access journals.

Also: What is Climate Change Adaptation?

Enjoy.

 

New Popular Article Up at Medium: What is Climate Change Adaptation?

As I hit the home stretch of thesis writing I will be writing popular versions of much of the same stuff I am writing up for my PhD. The plan is a series of articles on “what is climate change adaptation?”

I hope these articles will be useful for other academics just getting into adaptation, or government and company staff asked to look into the topic but not sure where to start.

The first article introduces what climate change adaptation is, and a generic 5 step process in which it takes place. Clink on the image below to go to the article.

What is climate change adaptation article

New Article: Walker et al. Sustainable Development and Environmental Injustice in Rural Ontario

Colleagues and I have just published a new article in the Journal of Rural and Community Development, an open access journal out of Brandon University in my old stomping grounds Manitoba.

Since it it is open access (yay!) any one is free to download and read it here.

Below is the abstract. Click the image to go directly to the articles .pdf

Walker et al. article

In the article we outline cases of rural SW Ontario communities feeling burdened by urban env policies. This view of env injustice may help explain part of the urban/rural split we typically seen in Canadian elections.