Treehouse Talks


April 10, 2015

We're back to the Beeton Auditorium from 6:30-8:30 on Friday, April 10 at the Toronto Reference Library (789 Yonge Street) for our next Talks, featuring:

  • Aarthi Ashok Infectious prions: a tale of cannibals and cows
  • Joseph Pickerill South Sudan: Emerging State or Descending Chaos? 
  • Katie McKenna Does art change the world? Lessons from the emerging field of "impact producing”

For more information please contact Nicolas Rouleau at

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Take a look at videos of previous talks here, or browse under Previous Talks below. 


Aarthi Ashok

Dr. Ashok received her Bachelor’s degree in Biochemistry & Genetics from the University of Sheffield, U.K. and completed a Ph.D. in Cell & Molecular Biology at Brown University, U.S.A. She then went on to a post-doctoral training at the National Institutes of Health in Washington D.C., U.S.A during which she studied genetic human diseases: a research area that she continues to be interested in today. Following her post-doctoral training, she joined the teaching stream faculty at the University of Toronto, Scarborough (UTSC) in 2009 and has recently been promoted to Associate Professor, Teaching stream in the department of Biological Sciences. She is the recipient of both research and teaching awards including the NIH Fellows’ Award for Research Excellence and The 2015 University of Toronto Early Career Teaching Award. 

Joseph Pickerill  

Description: As for my topic, I plan to explore whether the so-called 'Big Men of Africa'  are inevitable in nascent states with fragile democracies.  I plan to explore that more specifically by drawing on the year I spent in South Sudan between that country's vote on independence and the day itself.  There, my job was to get to know everyone from political leadership, NGOs, tribal leaders to militia members uncovering the political and conflict dynamics that might serve to unravel progress either in the immediate or longer term.

Joseph Pickerill joined Strategy Corp in late 2011. He brings to the team 10 years of successful policy development and strategic communications in the international arena. Through his work with both the UK and U.S. governments, Joseph has become a seasoned professional in public affairs, crisis management, policy development and strategic communications. He has been at the heart of decision making on policies that have shaped the regulatory environment for businesses and organizations at local, national and supra-national levels.

While working in the UK, his achievements in driving security policy led to his joining the Prime Minister’s Office to steer key elements of the PM’s Delivery Unit (interagency management of the PM’s target programs). Later, as Vice Consul of Political, Press & Public Affairs in the UK’s Boston Consular Office, he served as lead for the UK Ambassador on US-wide, political projects, particularly ahead of the pivotal 2008 United States elections, simultaneously creating stronger linkages with the academic, financial and political powerhouses located along the East Coast. Throughout this tenure he maintained a singular brief on the American dimension to the Northern Ireland peace process, creating close working relationships among Republicans and Unionists.

Most recently he has worked for the U.S. Department of State where (on assignment in Sudan) he developed and delivered the strategic communications and elections planning ahead of South Sudan’s transition to independence, earning the State Department’s prestigious ‘Superior Honor’ award. Subsequently, he led the communications and planning for the 2011 elections in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. In every case, Joseph has brought his strong analytical skills and strategic thinking to the table. He is uniquely placed to understand the communications challenges in an increasingly global, competitive and regulated space and is committed to creating and delivering fully integrated, strategic communications plans for clients. Joseph holds a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology from Dalhousie University; Masters in International Commerce & Policy from George Mason University and a Certificate in IFI’s from St. Peter’s College, Oxford University.

Katie McKenna

Katie McKenna is the Engagement Lead for the Naomi Klein book and Avi Lewis documentary project This Changes Everything.  She has over fifteen years experience producing and directing documentary and web projects, including co-producing Avi Lewis’ award-winning documentary The Take, directing The Year Before for the National Film Board of Canada, and leading digital storytelling projects for organizations including TVOntario, the World Bank, the London School of Economics, and University of Guelph.  McKenna holds a Masters of Global Politics with Distinction from the London School of Economics, and is the former National Board Chair of the Documentary Organization of Canada. Learn more about her work through her consulting company, Working Knowledge.

About the 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.

Coming up in 2015

May 15

  • Lisa Foreman A Human Right to Health 
  • Michael Valpy: Intergenerational Strife in Canada
  • Aziza Chaouni: TBD

June 12

  • Christina Davy: TBD
  • Bryan Good: TBD
  • Britt Welter-Nolan: TBD

Previous Treehouse Talks

2015 Sessions

Amro Zayed  Bees are the bee's knees! [dancing is not optional]
Ewa Kasinska: Numeracy versus Literacy
Maripier Isabelle: Everybody Else Is Doing It so Why Can't We? Social Interactions & Policy Making
Joe Berridge: On Urban Development
Owen Roberts: Learnings from a Canadian Biotech Adventure
Trevor Haldenby Bringing The Future to Life

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