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Haida Gwaii home to a distinct but vulnerable pocket of northern goshawks

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Haida Gwaii’s population of northern goshawks are the last remnant of a highly distinct genetic cluster of the birds, a new study by University of British Columbia researchers has found.

Researchers estimate the population of birds may have been evolving separately on Haida Gwaii for 20,000 years — right around the last time the glaciers melted, causing the sea levels to rise and potentially separating the birds from their kin.

While the birds can fly long distances — with goshawks from Michigan and Manitoba travelling as far away as the central United States — they don’t seem to like travelling over water, which could account for their long-term isolation, said study co-lead Armando Geraldes.

“There don’t seem to be strong geographic barriers anywhere on the continent but then you get that body of water — about 70 kilometres of water between Haida Gwaii and the mainland — and that is apparently is enough to isolate that population,” he said.

The Haida Gwaii goshawk is found along North America’s northern West Coast. (Richard E. Lowell/The Associated Press)

Only 50 of the raptors are left on the archipelago.

Their darker colour is a pattern that’s seen in a number of different birds in more humid environments, said the paper’s senior author, Darren Irwin.

“There are a number of theories why that is but we are not really sure why,” he said. “It is a bit of a mystery.”

Geraldes said the goshawks are not only different in the way they look, their genome is quite distinct too.

Genetically adapted

Irwin said scientists think that the group of goshawks found in Haida Gwaii is genetically adapted to the forest environment where they live.

“The darkness and other traits that we don’t know about … that enables them to live well in that forest.”

Adults are grey and white in colour with golden talons, Irwin said, adding that juveniles are brownish.

A northern goshawk is shown feeding on a chicken in this undated handout photo. A new study by UBC researchers has found that Haida Gwaii’s population of northern goshawks are the last remnant of a highly distinct genetic cluster of the birds. (Caitlin Blewett/The Canadian Press)

They have a strong beak and feed on small mammals and birds, he said.

“They are very good fliers, very fast and very agile and they flash through the forest … turning this way and that way,” Irwin said. “They are used a lot by falconers. They are very charismatic birds.”

Fighting for space

Right now Geraldes said goshawks are fighting for space. They nest in large, old-growth forests so one of the concerns is loss of habitat from logging, he said.

Irwin said apart from losing habitat, the birds are also victims of human-animal conflict.

Goshawks hunt chickens and sometimes get caught in wire fencing while at other times they are killed intentionally, he said.

With its small population size, the genomically distinct Haida Gwaii population can be considered to be one of the most endangered organisms on the planet, the study said.

These animals fill an important ecological role as a top predator, Irwin said, adding that their health reflects the health of the forest.

Preserving genetic variability

While the population in the archipelago is distinct, these birds are in decline everywhere, and are listed as threatened. Geraldes said it is important to save the animals to preserve the genetic variability.

“Because once you lose it, you’ll never regain it,” he said. “Imagine if there’s a very bad winter and they don’t survive.”

Irwin said maybe someday other goshawks will get to the islands, but evidence suggests new arrivals may not fare as well as the longtime residents.

“To get something as well adapted as they are might take that long again,” he said. “So we think it’s wise to keep the ones that are there in a healthy state.”

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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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