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‘Rock snot’ algae clogging the Bow River may be ugly, but it’s mostly harmless

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If you’ve seen what looks like long, wet strips of toilet paper floating in the Bow River recently, don’t panic.

It’s not an increase in litter, just an extremely ugly native algae that’s built up in the river right now, and one with an equally gross name: rock snot.

“It is ugly, it’s not nice to see and it looks like toilet paper floating,” said Wendall Koning, a freshwater biologist with Alberta Environment.

Rock snot (officially called didymosphenia geminata, or didymo) is a single-celled organism, a form of mucous-y algae that thrives in cold temperatures, with low nutrient levels.

“What it likes is nice steady flows. Not the turbulent flows that you get in the mountain streams, and so we’ve got ideal conditions,” said Koning. 

Rock snot is more abundant in Alberta’s Bow River now than in past years, possibly due to changing environmental conditions and reservoirs built upstream making water flows steadier. (CBC)

“We’ve had a long period now since about midsummer where the flows have been low and steady below our reservoir. That’s where you’ll find it.”

While it is a natural part of the environment, it’s one that’s much more abundant in the region than it has been historically.

“We’ve seen increased abundance of rock snot in the years since we’ve started building reservoirs.”

Koning said the structure clumps together, but as long as it isn’t entirely choking the waterway, it’s not a concern for regions it’s native to (it is an invasive species in other parts of the world, where it has caused problems). It’s also safe for dogs that drink for the river, or livestock.

‘It’s unappealing. That’s all’

“It’s not a health concern. You can touch it.… visually it’s unappealing. That’s all.”

Rock snot does spread by people moving their kayaks or other watercraft from one river or stream to the next.

“Therefore we always advise people when they are moving from stream to stream, if [rock snot] is present, to wash it off as best they can with some kind of bleaching solution.”

He said it’ll decrease in abundance once the light levels decrease and the river gets icier. 

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More groups join in support of women in STEM program at Carleton

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OTTAWA — Major companies and government partners are lending their support to Carleton University’s newly established Women in Engineering and Information Technology Program.

The list of supporters includes Mississauga-based construction company EllisDon.

The latest to announce their support for the program also include BlackBerry QNX, CIRA (Canadian Internet Registration Authority), Ericsson, Nokia, Solace, Trend Micro, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, CGI, Gastops, Leonardo DRS, Lockheed Martin Canada, Amdocs and Ross.

The program is officially set to launch this September.

It is being led by Carleton’s Faculty of Engineering and Design with the goal of establishing meaningful partnerships in support of women in STEM.  

The program will host events for women students to build relationships with industry and government partners, create mentorship opportunities, as well as establish a special fund to support allies at Carleton in meeting equity, diversity and inclusion goals.

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VR tech to revolutionize commercial driver training

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Serious Labs seems to have found a way from tragedy to triumph? The Edmonton-based firm designs and manufactures virtual reality simulators to standardize training programs for operators of heavy equipment such as aerial lifts, cranes, forklifts, and commercial trucks. These simulators enable operators to acquire and practice operational skills for the job safety and efficiency in a risk-free virtual environment so they can work more safely and efficiently.

The 2018 Humboldt bus catastrophe sent shock waves across the industry. The tragedy highlighted the need for standardized commercial driver training and testing. It also contributed to the acceleration of the federal government implementing a Mandatory Entry-Level Training (MELT) program for Class 1 & 2 drivers currently being adopted across Canada. MELT is a much more rigorous standard that promotes safety and in-depth practice for new drivers.

Enter Serious Labs. By proposing to harness the power of virtual reality (VR), Serious Labs has earned considerable funding to develop a VR commercial truck driving simulator.

The Government of Alberta has awarded $1 million, and Emissions Reduction Alberta (ERA) is contributing an additional $2 million for the simulator development. Commercial deployment is estimated to begin in 2024, with the simulator to be made available across Canada and the United States, and with the Alberta Motor Transport Association (AMTA) helping to provide simulator tests to certify that driver trainees have attained the appropriate standard. West Tech Report recently took the opportunity to chat with Serious Labs CEO, Jim Colvin, about the environmental and labour benefits of VR Driver Training, as well as the unique way that Colvin went from angel investor to CEO of the company.

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Next-Gen Tech Company Pops on New Cover Detection Test

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While the world comes out of the initial stages of the pandemic, COVID-19 will be continue to be a threat for some time to come. Companies, such as Zen Graphene, are working on ways to detect the virus and its variants and are on the forefronts of technology.

Nanotechnology firm ZEN Graphene Solutions Ltd. (TSX-Venture:ZEN) (OTCPK:ZENYF), is working to develop technology to help detect the COVID-19 virus and its variants. The firm signed an exclusive agreement with McMaster University to be the global commercializing partner for a newly developed aptamer-based, SARS-CoV-2 rapid detection technology.

This patent-pending technology uses clinical samples from patients and was funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. The test is considered extremely accurate, scalable, saliva-based, affordable, and provides results in under 10 minutes.

Shares were trading up over 5% to $3.07 in early afternoon trade.

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