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2 seals dead in northern N.L. town after it’s swarmed by the mammals

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Police in Roddickton-Bide Arm, N.L. — the community that at least 40 seals are currently calling home — have confirmed that two of the mammals have died. 

A spokesperson for the RCMP said officers responded to a complaint Wednesday morning, and on arriving at the scene, they found employees from Department of Fisheries and Oceans were there as well. 

Police believe the seal deaths are not criminal and likely due to their having been struck by a car. 

Mayor Sheila Fitzgerald said the seals’ grey coats blend in with the road, and the town has had several calls from drivers who’ve had near misses.

Roddickton resident Brendon FitzPatrick says the seals have likely been at the mouth of the brook for several weeks. He’s worried they’re starving. (Brendon FitzPatrick/Twitter)

“It actually feels like we’re being inundated with seals, because there’s seals on the road, there’s seals in people’s driveways, the backyards, the parking lots, the doorways, the businesses.

“I don’t see that there’s any way that these seals are going to survive unless [DFO officers] pick them up and literally bring them back to the edge of the ice.”

Fitzgerald fears the seals are too confused to find their way out of town.

“They’re pitiful to look at. I mean, they haven’t eaten,” Fitzgerald said.

The small Newfoundland town has been swarmed with the animals, but even though two of the mammals have died, DFO says it’s normal. 1:06

DFO: seals on land not uncommon

They might look a little out of place scooting down the streets of Roddickton-Bide Arm, but a Department of Fisheries and Oceans scientist says it’s not unusual to see harp seals come ashore in Newfoundland this time of year.

“We get this every year,” said Garry Stenson. “If it’s near a town you hear more about it, but it’s not totally uncommon for us to get this.”

Roddickton-Bide Arm is about 450 kilometres northwest of St. John’s as the crow flies, near the northern tip of the island.

It’s almost like they get going in a direction and just keep going.– Garry Stenson

Harp seals migrate south from the Arctic starting in December, Stenson explained. They spend their winters off the shores of Newfoundland and Labrador. This early in the season, there’s little sea ice off the island, so seals cling close to the shore, traversing iced-in harbours and bays, which freeze before the open ocean.

“Then if the ice freezes up behind them, they have a harder time getting access to water,” he said.

“They really don’t know which way to go.”

The disoriented seals, Stenson said, just keep on keeping on, hoping for the best.

An adventurous seal lounges in the back of an RCMP truck, before being taken to a more remote area of the Burin Peninsula. (Provided by Marystown RCMP)

“It’s almost like they get going in a direction and just keep going, hoping that they’re going to eventually find water that way,” he said.

“Usually they find their way back fine.”

Stenson said fisheries officers were there Wednesday to further examine the area around the community.

He said the officers will meet with DFO scientists “in the next few days” to determine the next steps. DFO has returned individual seals to open water in the past. 

“When they’re in a place where there’s a danger, either to them or to humans, then yeah, fisheries officers have been known to move them,” said Stenson

“But generally, if they’re just lying on a beach or on a slipway or that sort of thing, you just leave them on their own.” 

Stenson is confident the seals will eventually get their bearings, but until they do he said people should keep their distance — don’t go in for any seal selfies.

“Don’t go up to them,” he said.

“Harp seals are not particularly aggressive, but they can be if they’re being approached. So your best bet is to call your local fishery officer.”  

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

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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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