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Alberta vet tackles vampire bats with Vicks VapoRub and an open mind

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Dr. Kelsey Shacker never thought she’d slather Vicks VapoRub on a horse to fight off vampire bats.

In Central America, vampire bats feed on blood and often nibble on horses that stay outside overnight. Horses are widely used for work by families, who can’t always afford to shelter them.

The bats leave smelly pheromones in the bite wounds so they can track their way back to continue feasting on the horse.

Turns out, mentholated topical ointment masks the smell and keeps the bats away.

“It was kind of like, OK, add that into my toolbox of tricks of dealing with bat bites. I can use some Vicks VapoRub,” Shacker said with a laugh.

There may be no vampire bats in Olds, Alta., where Shacker teaches animal health technology, but she often encounters new, strange injuries and illnesses in her work. And on a recent teaching trip to Honduras, she learned a great deal more.

“It’s kind of par for the course, and as long as you go into things with an open mind, willing to learn, it’s kind of a neat experience,” she said.

Two veterinarians, Olds College animal health technology instructor Dr. Kelsey Shacker and Dr. Katarina Purich of Poplar Grove Veterinary Services Ltd. in Innisfail, Alta., brought donations of horse veterinary supplies to their Honduran colleagues. (Equitarian Initiative Honduras Trip-Dr. Kat and Dr. Kelsey/Facebook) 

Shacker and Innisfail vet Dr. Katarina Purich joined other North American animal doctors to lecture at the Honduran Veterinary School and then teamed up with Central American veterinarians to supervise student equine field clinics helping local farmers.

Working with such a variety of specialists and backgrounds meant the teachers and students were flooded with new ideas, she said. Together, they were able to treat a mysterious and common ailment.

Farmers and horse owners thought it was a spider bite on the horse’s hoof and that caused the hoof to separate from the foot — an incredibly painful experience for the animal.

Hondurans brought their horses for free checkups by veterinarians. Many families use horses for transportation and their businesses. (Dr. Kelsey Shacker)

The veterinarians came to believe the science behind it was linked to other diseases, not a spider bite.

“But trying to communicate that with the locals who are very traditional and have a lot of those underlying beliefs going on, [we] let them go to spider bite or treat the horse as it needs to be treated,” Shacker said.

Shacker and her team of students treated between 30 and 40 horses over four days. They worked in a medical triage-type centre, where they treated wounds, dealt with parasites and ticks, and provide vaccines.

Dr. Kelsey Shacker and two Honduran vet students pose for a photo with their final patient of the day. (Dr. Kelsey Shacker)

Sometimes horses were sent for dental work or even castration, which prevents the free roaming animals from spreading any diseases to future generations.​ Shacker said castrated horses often are more compliant, making them harder workers and safer for the owners.

“Practising in Alberta, even though we learn lots through school every day, we’re seeing new things and it’s always that challenge of learning and growing,” Shacker said. “So I think, as veterinarians, we are constant learners.”

Training equine veterinarian students by treating horses in the field is not a far leap from Shacker’s work at Olds College.

At the school, there’s a teaching herd and the students also provide physicals and shots for horses owned by a local kids’ camp.

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The ‘Maple Majestic’ wants to be Canada’s homegrown Tesla

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Look out Tesla, Canada has a homegrown electric sedan on the way. Well, that’s if AK International Motor Corporation can drum up enough investment to make its EV a reality. Dubbed the “Maple Majestic,” the vehicle is a battery-electric designed to “excel in extreme climate performance without adversely affecting the climate, as befits a vehicle from Canada,” according to its website.

What’s in a name? — The company says the maple leaf is a “symbol of Canada’s warmth and friendliness towards all cultures,” while “majestic” refers to the country’s “status as a Constitutional Monarchy.”

That patriotism carries over into Maple Majestic’s parent company’s lofty goals. AK Motor founder Arkadiusz Kaminski says he wants the company, which he founded in 2012, to become “Canada’s first multi-brand automotive OEM,” and that the “Maple Majestic is intended to be Canada’s flagship brand of automobiles on the world stage.”

Partnerships are key — “We acknowledge that the best chance for the Maple Majestic brand to succeed, lies in continuing to build the relationship with Canada’s parts suppliers and technological innovators, whether they be academic institutions, corporations, or individual inventors,” the company explains. “We are currently seeking partners in automotive engineering, parts manufacturing, automotive assembly, electric propulsion technology, battery technology, autonomous technology, and hybrid power generation technology.”

In other words, don’t expect to be able to buy a Maple Majestic any time soon… and don’t expect to pour over 0-60 mph times, power output, range, or other key stats, because those don’t currently exist. For now, all we have are pictures and a short video clip. But at least those are arresting.

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PE-backed Quorum Software to merge with Canadian energy tech firm

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Houston-based energy technology company Quorum Software will merge with a Canadian tech firm to bolster its presence in oil and gas services.

Quorum announced Feb. 15 it plans to merge with Calgary, Alberta-based Aucerna, a global provider of planning, execution and reserves software for the energy sector. The combined firm will operate under the Quorum Software brand.

Gene Austin, CEO of Quorum Software, will continue in his capacity as chief executive of the combined firm. Austin, former CEO of Austin-based marketing tech firm Bazaarvoice Inc., became CEO of Quorum in December 2018.

Aucerna co-founder and CEO Wayne Sim will be appointed to the Quorum Software board of directors. Both companies are backed by San Francisco- and Chicago-based private equity firm Thoma Bravo.

“Over the last 20 years, Quorum has become the leading innovator of software deployed by North American energy companies,” said Austin. “Today, Quorum is expanding the scope of our technology and expertise to all energy-producing regions of the globe. Customers everywhere will have access to a cloud technology ecosystem that connects decision-ready data from operations to the boardroom.”

In addition to the merger announcement, Quorum Software announced it had entered into an agreement with Finnish IT firm TietoEvry to purchase TietoEvry’s entire oil and gas business. The agreement, which includes hydrocarbon management, personnel and material logistics software and related services, is valued at 155 million euros, or $188 million, according to a statement from TietoEvry.

“Our three organizations complement each other — from the software that our great people design to the energy markets where we operate,” said Sim. “Our new company will be able to deliver value to our stakeholders, while accelerating the growth of our combined business and the energy industry’s software transformation.”

The combined company will serve over 1,800 energy companies in 55 countries, according to the announcement. With its headquarters in Houston, Quorum will continue to have a significant presence in Calgary and in Norway, the headquarters for TietoEvry’s oil and gas software business. Quorum will have other offices throughout North America, Latin America, Europe, Asia and the Middle East.

As of Sept. 30, 2020, private equity firm Thoma Bravo had more than $73 billion in assets under management. In late December 2020, Thoma Bravo agreed to acquire Richardson, Texas-based tech firm RealPage in a roughly $10 billion acquisition.

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Piece of Kitchener technology lands on Mars on Perseverance rover

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KITCHENER — A piece of Kitchener technology has landed on Mars, thanks to NASA’s Perseverance rover.

The rover settled on the planet’s surface on Thursday afternoon. It’s been travelling through space since it was launched from Cape Canaveral, Fla. in July.

“The whole idea of being on a device that we’re sending to another plant with the express mission of looking for traces of past life, it’s pretty mind boggling actually,” said Rafal Pawluczyk, chief technical officer for FiberTech Optica.

The Kitchener-based company made fibre optic cables for the rover’s SuperCam that will examine samples with a camera, laser and spectrometers.

“The cables that we built take the light from that multiplexer and deliver it to each spectrograph,” Pawluczyk said.

The cables connect a device on the rover to the SuperCam, which will be used to examine rock and soil samples, to spectrometers. They’ll relay information from one device to another.

The project started four years ago with a connection to Los Alamos National Lab, where the instruments connected to the cables were developed.

“We could actually demonstrate we can design something that will meet their really hard engineering requirements,” Pawluczyk said.

The Jezero Crater is where the Perseverance rover, with FiberTech Optica’s technology onboard, landed Thursday. Scientists believe it was once flooded with water and is the best bet for finding any evidence of life. FiberTech’s cables will help that in that search.

Ioannis Haranas, an astrophysicist and professor at Wilfrid Laurier University, said the rover isn’t looking for “green men.”

“They’re looking for microbial, single-cell life, any type of fossils and stuff like that,” Haranas said. “That’s why they chose a special landing site. This could be very fertile land for that.”

“It’s very ambitious,” said Ralf Gellert, a physics professor at the University of Guelph.

Gellert helped with previous rover missions and said it’s the first time a Mars rover has landed without a piece of Guelph technology on it. While he’s not part of Perseverance’s mission, he said the possibilities are exciting.

“Every new landing site is a new piece of the puzzle that you can put together with the new results that we have from the other landing sites,” he said.

“It’s scientifically very interesting because, even though we don’t have an instrument on that rover, we can compare what the new rover Perseverance finds at this new landing site,” he said.

Now that Perseverance has landed on Mars, FiberTech is looking ahead to its next possible mission into space.

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