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B.C.’s plans for rising sea levels ‘may not be enough,’ report warns

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The research arm of the Vancouver Aquarium is ringing alarm bells about the future of B.C.’s coastal waters, saying current plans for dealing with climate change and other human-caused disturbances fall short of what’s needed.

A new report from the Coastal Ocean Research Institute breaks down the current state of B.C.’s ocean waters. It finds that sea levels seem to be rising faster and higher than previous models predicted, while surface temperatures creep ever higher.

The report also suggests, that despite anecdotal reports some sea star species are recovering from a devastating wasting disease, these important ocean creatures have shown no measurable signs of a rebound.

“The impacts of our activities extend far beyond human population centres,” says the report, titled “Ocean Watch: B.C. Coast Edition.”

“Plastic and other trash is finding its way to remote beaches, disease in sea stars remains a mystery, increasing underwater noise from boats and ships makes it harder for whales to find food, and the ecological consequences of ocean warming and sea level rise have no boundaries.”

The report combines the latest findings from the research institute and other initiatives connected to the aquarium, as well as scientific findings from around the world.

Sea levels rising faster than predicted

There is some good news in the report, including a rising public interest in things like citizen science and sustainable seafood choices, but overall, the message is that coastal B.C. waters are becoming increasingly vulnerable.

The report warns that plans to protect coastal communities from the ravages of climate change need to be updated in the face of new research.

The projected sea level rise from 1995 levels for 19 B.C. coastal communities calculated by Natural Resources Canada in 2014. More recent research suggests these numbers, considered extreme at the time, are now conservative. (Coastal Ocean Research Institute)

The report points out the B.C. government has planned for a 0.5-metre rise in sea levels by 2050, and one metre by 2100, but, “new science suggests that may not be enough.”

That’s because February 2017 estimates from the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration suggest that global sea levels could rise by up to 2.5 metres by the end of the century.

The major driver of this trend is rising temperatures caused by climate change, and satellite data suggests the sea’s surface on the west coast is warming by about 0.1 degrees Celsius per decade.

Annual average sea surface temperature in the Canadian Pacific Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) based on satellite data from the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. ( Coastal Ocean Research Institute)

Meanwhile, sea star species haven’t recovered from a mysterious wasting condition that led to massive die-offs beginning in 2013.

An unexplained boom in juvenile sea stars of some species in 2014 and 2015 was short-lived, the report says — most of those young animals disappeared within weeks or months.

Data from the Pacific Marine Life Surveys Database shows a decline in sea star sightings during underwater surveys in the Strait of Georgia. ( Coastal Ocean Research Institute)

Though scientists still don’t fully understand the disease, they say the die-off could have significant impacts on the ocean ecosystem.

The purple sea star, for example, is what’s known as a “keystone predator” — it helps control mussel populations, which makes space in the ecosystem for other species. Without the sea stars, mussels explode in abundance, out-competing other invertebrates for space and resources.

The result is a decline in biodiversity, according to the report.

Researchers at Simon Fraser University have already shown how a massive drop-off in sunflower sea star populations has led to a decline in some of B.C.’s kelp forests. Without an abundance of sea stars to eat sea urchins, there’s been a boom in urchin numbers, which are voracious kelp eaters.

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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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