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, 2012).

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.

April 11, 2014

April's Talks will take place from 6:30-8:30 at the Toronto Reference Library (789 Yonge Street, just North of Bloor.)

  • Rudy Boonstra: The Role of Chronic Stress in Natural Populations
  • Lorna Macdonald: Alec and Mabel - Alexander Graham Bell in Baddeck
  • Derek Quenneville: Making at the Library

Come early to enjoy a snack and a coffee from Balzac's Coffee Roasters, and to peruse the used book sale.

Questions? Email Nicolas Rouleau at

Rudy Boonstra

Dr. Boonstra is a full professor in the Department of Biological Sciences, University of Toronto Scarborough. He was born in the Netherlands, raised in Alberta, took his undergraduate degree at the University of Calgary, did his Ph. D at the University of British Columbia (in Population Ecology), did a one-year postdoctoral fellowship, and then started his career at U of T in 1977. 

He would call himself a wildlife population ecologist and ecophysiologist. He and his students have worked principally on mammals, including mice and voles, shrews, ground squirrels, chipmunks, and snowshoe hares, though they have also worked on marsuipials and bats. He does fieldwork throughout Canada (the Arctic, the Yukon, Alberta, Manitoba, and Ontario) and has also worked in Australia and Norway. 

A key research site has been the Arctic Institute Base at Kluane lake in the southwestern Yukon, where he has worked since 1974, and has supervised both Masters and Ph. D. students. He has published 162 papers and one book. His research program is based on two main platforms. 

First, much of his research career has been engaged in testing general hypotheses in population limitation and regulation using primarily northern and temperate mammals as models. Second, the dominant focus of his research program is on one of the key underlying mechanisms - understanding the impact and functioning of the stress axis in natural populations. It involves integrating ecology and evolution with stress physiology. His next phase of research will be to integrate epigenetics with neuroendocrinology.

Lorna Macdonald

Canadian soprano and voice professor, Lorna MacDonald, enjoys a career of distinction as an active performer and teacher, and she holds the Lois Marshall Chair in Voice Studies at the University of Toronto. She received  Ontario’s prestigious OCUFA Award for “teaching excellence and outstanding contributions to university teaching” and she developed a graduate program in Voice Pedagogy at U of T in which the worlds of science, education, and art are combined to prepare a new generation of young singers and voice teachers. 

The triple nature of MacDonald’s academic, performance, and pedagogical career have brought her deep satisfaction and an abundantly creative life. Her performances and master classes have taken her throughout Canada and the US, to Wales, Taiwan, China, France, Ireland, the UK, Germany, Austria, and Bermuda, and recent opera roles include Mozart’s Zaide, Donna Anna (Don Giovanni), Antonida in Glinka’s Ivan Susannin and Konstanze in Mozart’s Die Entführung aus dem Serail. Her award-winning students are found on international stages in opera, art song and popular music. Her research includes a Cochlear Implant Singing Study in collaboration with Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children, and writing a musical performance project based on the life of Alexander Graham Bell and his deaf wife, Mabel Hubbard Bell. 

The première of this all-Canadian work is slated for the summer of 2015 at the Alexander Graham Bell Museum in Baddeck, Cape Breton Island, where the Bell family lived for many years.

Derek Quenneville

Derek will talk about being the Innovator in Residence at the Toront Reference Library, what classes he's been doing, and how people have embraced the new technology available in the library. For the interactive bit he'll demonstrate four or five different ways of making a 3D model on the computer, using free, cross-platform software.

Derek Quenneville is a 3D printing expert and digital fabrication artist in Toronto, Canada. He demos and teaches 3D modelling and printing, runs Toronto 3D Printers meetups, and gives talks at various non-profits around the city. He has introduced and demoed 3D printing to literally thousands of people at local events since 2009.

Also sometimes he makes games. Holy cow he's a busy dude.

Find out more at 

Derek recommends:

  • Right Ho, Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse. It's the second novel-length Jeeves & Wooster story, and there's an audiobook narrated by Jonathan Cecil that brings to mind the voices of Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie. A feast of wordplay for the brain.
  • Super Amazing Wagon Adventure by Sparsevector - it's a game with lo-fi visuals and hi-fi heart

Previous Treehouse Talks

2014 Sessions

Alex Jadad: Living a happy and healthy life until our last breath: our greatest challenge
Gail Fraser: Avian Life
Lauren Segal: Being an Opera Singer: A physicist's view on the preparation, practice and performance of Opera
Matt Risk: Faith, Fear, Fraud, and Fascination
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
Wallid Hejazi: Islamic Finance

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