Treehouse Talks


Since 2010 we've been giving some of Toronto's most curious and creative people a chance to connect over great conversations. Attendees have been inspired by a range of dynamic speakers, first at the MaRS Discovery District (2010) and then at the Toronto Reference Library (2011-Present).

All Treehouse Talks are free for anyone who would like to come.

Would you like to keep up with what’s happening at the Toronto Reference Library? You can sign up for their e-newsletter, which comes out every two weeks.

TREEHOUSE TALKS | September 12, 2014

Join us from 6:30-8:30 on Friday, September 12 in the Beeton Auditorium at the Toronto Reference Library (789 Yonge Street) for the first Talks of the new season, featuring:

  • Vince Tropepe Stem Cell Science: A brave new world
  • Jim Harris The Impending Revolution: Reasons for Hope 
  • Marni Jackson Culture as Barnraising: Al Purdy and The A Frame Story

For more information please contact Nicolas Rouleau at

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Vince Tropepe

Vince will be discussing our modern day understanding of stem cells, how they orchestrate the development and repair of tissues, and how they are being used clinically to advance medical treatment.

A native of Hamilton, ON, Vince Tropepe received an Hons. B.Sc. in Biology and Psychology at McMaster University in 1994. He completed his PhD in the field of developmental neurobiology at the University of Toronto in 2000 and then trained as a CIHR Fellow at the Whitehead Institute at MIT. He is currently an Associate Professor in the Department of Cell & Systems Biology and the Department of Ophthalmology & Vision Sciences at the University of Toronto. His main research focus is on the molecular basis of stem cell function in the retina during development and during regeneration. He also serves as Director of the undergraduate Human Biology Program.

Jim Harris

We are on the precipice of an energy revolution. Solar power prices have fallen 100 fold since 1970 -- and by 2020 solar will be the dominant form of new power. This will revolutionize energy markets, how society works, and will begin to address climate change. 

Jim Harris is an author and thinker on change and leadership. His last book, Blindsided!, is published in 80 countries worldwide and is a #1 International Bestseller. He speaks internationally at 40 conferences a year and is the Program Director of the Centre of Excellence on Sustainability and Innovation at the Schulich Executive Education Centre at York University’s School of Business. He focuses on the economic benefits of sustainability.

You can follow him on Twitter @JimHarris

Marni Jackson

The presentation will include a montage of Al Purdy (Canadian poet) images and a participatory reading of a scene or two from Marni's play, A Sensitive Man, about Al Purdy and the building of the A Frame cabin in Prince Edward County.

A Toronto  writer who has won numerous National Magazine Awards for her features, humour and social commentary, Marni Jackson is the author of three nonfiction books: The Mother Zone; Pain: The Science and Culture of Why We Hurt and Home Free: The Myth of the Empty Nest. The bestselling Mother Zone was nominated for the Stephen Leacock Award, and her book on the nature of pain was a finalist for The Writers’ Trust Pearson Nonfiction Prize. 

Marni’s stories have appeared in The Walrus, Brick, Eighteen Bridges, Toronto Life, Explore, Saturday Night, Outside, Rolling Stone, The London Times, Utne Reader, and others.  Formerly the book/publishing columnist for Globe & Mail and a senior editor at The Walrus. Longtime association with the Banff Centre, where she served as Rogers Chair of the Literary Journalism program, and is on the  faculty of the Mountain and Wilderness Writing Program.  Creative writing instructor at Ryerson, Banff and U. of Guelph/Humber College.  She is a member of the Al Purdy A Frame Association, which is restoring the poet’s Prince Edward County A Frame as a writer’s retreat.

Coming up in the 2014/15 Season

October 17 

  • Dror Bar-Natan The 17 Tiling Patterns: Gotta Catch 'Em All!
  • Paul Bedford On Transit in Toronto
  • Christine Pountney TBD

November 14

  • Jillian Kohler A Clear and Present Danger to Health: Bad Medicines
  • Nicholas Parker Shifting Perceptions: Making Sustainable Prosperity Possible
  • Marshall Pynkoski On the Opera

December 12

  • John Peever Why We Sleep
  • Liz Haines The AHA moment - What Really Counts
  • Mark Daboll Singing Happy Birthday and Other Debilitating Pastimes: A Vocal Self-Exploration


January 9

  • Owen Roberts On Biotech
  • Joe Berridge On Urban Development
  • Allison Hunt On Marketing


[February 13, March 13 - TBD]


April 10

  • Aarthi Ashok On Prions
  • Joseph Pickerill South Sudan: Emerging State or Descending Chaos? 
  • Katie McKenna On the Social Impact of the Arts


May 15

  • Lisa Foreman A Human Right to Health 


[June 12 - TBD]

Previous Treehouse Talks

2014 Sessions

Alex Jadad: Living a happy and healthy life until our last breath: our greatest challenge
Arvid Ågren: Jumping Genes and Mendelian Outlaws
Derek Quenneville: Making at the Library
Gail Fraser: Avian Life
Lauren Segal: Being an Opera Singer: A physicist's view on the preparation, practice and performance of Opera
Lorna MacDonald: Alec and Mabel: Alexander Graham Bell in Baddeck
Matt Risk: Faith, Fear, Fraud, and Fascination
Meaghan Johnson: The Art of the Audience
Mel Cappe: InCome InEquality InCanada
Nora Young - Cyborg Selves: Bodies, Big Data, and Technology
Ralph Baker: Financial Literacy: If a 12 Year Old Can Master It, So Can You
Rene Harrison: Microgravity: Not just about bad hair
Rudy Boonstra: The Role of Chronic Stress in Natural Populations
Wallid Hejazi: Islamic Finance
Willy Bloome: Eulogy for Winter

2013 Sessions

Bridget Stutchbury: The triage concept: should we let some species go extinct to save others?
Ian Clark: Can MOOCs help reform Ontario Universities?
Elizabeth Edwards on microbial diversity: Getting to the Root of the Tree of Life
Hendrik Poinar: De-Extinction: Reviving lost species of the Pleistocene- hype or hubris?
Dr. Herbert Kronzucker: The Ecology of Hunger: The Reach of the North American Dinner Fork 

Dr. James Maskalyk: Helping others without hurting yourself  
Jeffrey Rosenthal: Why Statisticians Don’t Believe in ESP
Jennifer Spear: Everything is an Offer
Leila Boujnane: Wild About Cheese

Matt Thompson: The Open Manifesto: how to work smarter, supercharge collaboration and redesign the world
Maydianne Andrade: Everything I need to know about evolution, I learned from a cannibalistic spider 
Michael Anton Dila: A Start-up is a Bomb
Michael Hartley: Time for an Aral Spring? Why the Arab Spring did not penetrate Central Asia
Oona Fraser: Ambiguity, conflict, nuance and paradox.
Rob Spekkens: If correlation doesn't imply causation, what does? 
Sandra Martin: The ten top myths about obituaries 
Stuart Candy: Confessions of a guerrilla futurist
Susan Kates: We & Them: Teaching GenY, GenX & Boomers
Tim Hurson:Why We All Go to the Same Different Meeting Together
Timothy Nash: Sustainable Investing 101
William Thorsell: Three Helpful Ideas for Toronto

2012 Sessions

Andrea Hamilton: Social Networking Meets Crowdsourcing Offline
Andrew Westoll: Releasing Your Inner Ape
Assaf Weisz: Changing the Future
Camilla Gryski: The Labyrinth: Path, symbol, and metaphor
Darryl Gwynne: Why Are Males Masculine, Females Feminine and Occasionally Vice Versa? (Darwinian Sexual Selection as an Exercise in Critical Thinking)
Denise Balkissoon: Why Can’t I Quit Facebook?
Erin Bury: Tapping into Interest Graphs to Curate Online News
George Elliott Clarke: Harper’s Tea-Party Government
Ilana Ben-Ari: Toys as Tools for Change
Jeff Warren: The Elements of Experience
Dr. Jody Culham: How many brains do you have?
Dr. John Godfrey: Is Global Citizenship possible?
John Sobol: Know Your Media, Know Your Self
Jon Duschinsky: The (New) Power of People
Jorge Ulloa: The Global Water Cooler — Multiculturalism in the Workplace
Karl Schroeder: Tomorrow’s Toronto: A Foresight Exercise on the Future of our City
Katerina Cizek & Graeme Stewart: Re-imagining our Vertical City
Laurence Packer: Bees
Marcius Extavour: Science and politics don’t mix… or do they?
Mariella Bertelli: “Happily ever after?” An exploration of the fairy tale, its past, its future and its place in today’s culture
Mandy Wintink: The Sweet Smell of Failure
Stan Chu Ilo: Do We Still Need Religion Today? A new look at Islam, Christianity, and the Secular West
Stephen Morris: A physicist in the sandbox
Tom Heintzman: The Role of the Individual in Transforming Energy Systems

2011 Sessions

Andrea Dana Eisen: Being a Teacher to the Stars
Aruna Handa: Eating Our Words: Making good on the promise of a better life
Craig D. Adams: Input Output Cinema & Other Nonsense Buzzwords
Eric Boyd: DYI Transhumanism
Gabrielle McLaughlin: The Boulevard of Baroquen Dreams
Harvey Weingarten: The Future of Canada’s Public University System
Dr. James Robert Brown: Thought Experiments, Or How to Learn Cool Stuff Just by Thinking
Jessa Gamble: Daily Rhythms Around the World
John Beebe: More than diverse: Faces Of Complexity: A Photographic Exploration
John Paul Morgan: Invention Is As Often About Decision As It Is About Discovery
Dr. Jordan Peterson: Planning the Ideal Future, Rationale, & Strategy
Father Joseph Ogbonnaya: The Challenges of Integral Development
Lee Smolin: Is Time Real or an Illusion?
Miroslav Lovric: What if we could touch infinity?
Dr. Monika Havelka: How to Build a Whale: Mechanisms of Macroevolutionary Change
Nathalie Desrosiers: Liberty and Twitter: Civil Liberties in the XXIst Century
Justice Robert Sharpe: The Canadian Constitution as a Living Tree
Ryan North: A Brief History of Comics, And How Comics On The Internet Will Save The World (Or At Least Save Comics, But That’s Still Pretty Good)
Salima Syera Virani: “The Personal Brand” and its Importance for Entrepreneurs
Sheila McCook: Newspapers: A Physical Check-Up
Simon Cole: Collecting Contemporary in Toronto

2010 Sessions

Abigale Miller: Mealworms: Food or Not Food?
Amie Sergas: The Social Value of Roller Derby
Ana Serrano: No, Interactive Storytelling is Not an Oxymoron
Bob McDonald: What if everything you know is wrong?
Dan Falk: The Enigma of Time
Darren O’Donnell and The Torontonians: You, Too, Can Be 14
Donna Francis: Knitting Science and Art Together
Jeff Woodrow: Thinking of Someone Else for a Change
Leehe Lev: The Seven Dimensions of Wellness
Loreen Barbour: Life in Northern Russia
Micah Toub: The Jungian Shadow: How to turn your enemy into a role model
Mike Paduada: Careers from Math to the Moon
Mirella Amato: The Challenges of Beerology
Nadja Sayej: Fear and Loathing in the Art World
Nicolas Rouleau: Law and International Development
Nogah Kornberg: Teaching the G-Word to 9-Year-Olds
Russell Zeid: Nexialism
Sasha Grujicic: Technology and Change: How it’s happened, how it’s accelerating, and how we need to deal with it
Sasha Van Bon Bon: Decriminalizing the Sex Trade in Canada and Beyond
Shawn Micallef: Stroll: Psychogeographic Walking Tours of Toronto
Shirley Khalil: Empowerment and healing using music
Steve Ferrara: Street Art in Toronto
Susan G. Cole: The Age of Queer: Does the word ‘lesbian’ still mean anything?
Zahra Ebrahim: Design and Social Change