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Welcome to the great whites north

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From head to tail fin, Maeva Giraudo noticed that the shark’s wet body was smooth and firm like leather. She could feel the animal’s size and strength. Rubbed the other way, however, the fish felt surprisingly rough, like sandpaper. It was Thanksgiving weekend, and she was meeting Luna off the shore of Lunenburg, N.S., the town that inspired the great white’s name.

Giraudo, a research scientist with Environment and Climate Change Canada, has always admired sharks. She considers them the lions of the sea. For years, she has followed the work of Ocearch, a non-profit organization known for tagging and tracking the movements of these apex predators and giving them Twitter profiles, some of which have thousands of followers. When she learned the group’s team of scientists and fishermen was planning an expedition to Nova Scotia, she knew she had to be there.

For a few days in October, Giraudo took an unpaid holiday to jump aboard the MV Ocearch, a former crabbing vessel now used to catch and release sharks. Luna was reeled in by a small fishing boat known as the Contender, which uses a baited, non-harmful circle hook to catch sharks and guide them toward the Ocearch vessel, where a platform submerged under the sea hoists them out of the North Atlantic Ocean. A wet towel was immediately thrown over Luna’s eyes, while a hose pumped salt water into her mouth and gills. Then a crew of scientists and researchers went to work.

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Luna was impressive. She measured nearly five metres long and 950 kg, one of the largest Ocearch has ever found. “I can’t believe how beautiful they are,” Giraudo says. Canadian waters along the country’s east coast may not be known for an abundance of sharks, but it appears to be a favourite destination for some like Luna. Ocearch followed the tracks of Hilton, a great white shark caught in 2017 near Hilton Head Island, S.C., who had been spending time in Nova Scotia. The sharks each have a tag on their dorsal fin that sends a location each time it pokes above the surface.

“We speculated that something was happening in Nova Scotia, perhaps mating,” says Bob Hueter, Ocearch’s chief science adviser. “It would be a critical piece of the puzzle.” The world knows little, after all, about great white sharks. Canada deems them “at risk,” yet there’s no estimate of population size in the country’s waters. “They spend most of their time hidden from us,” Hueter says. But the work being done here will help to begin filling in the blanks. And in the coming months, scientists expect to get a much clearer picture about what great whites are doing in Canadians waters.

Ocearch arrived in Nova Scotia hopeful they would find at least one shark. Over three weeks, the group caught and tagged seven. “It was beyond our wildest expectations,” says Chris Fischer, the founder and expedition leader of Ocearch. Fischer was the star of reality television shows like Shark Men and Shark Wranglers before shifting his attention to ocean conservation. This reality—along with Ocearch’s social media presence and a website that shows where their sharks are in real time—has drawn criticism from some in the scientific community.

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Hueter, a shark researcher of more than 40 years, says the time for “waiting for that [research] paper to appear on a bookshelf in a dusty library is dead and gone.” He notes that scientists who work with Ocearch must agree to publish their results within two years. “We feel the clock ticking,” he says, adding that their goal remains the same as that of traditional researchers: undo the damage done to the oceans and help rebuild shark populations.

After a shark is caught, a handful of scientists step onto the platform to take blood, muscle and genetic samples—tests that reveal the animal’s reproductive hormones, stress levels, contaminants and diet. They measure length and girth, and attach acoustic and satellite tags. They perform ultrasound tests on females. Then, after no more than 15 minutes, the shark is set free. “It’s like watching a pit crew during a car race,” says Hueter.

The samples from the Nova Scotia expedition were taken for 15 research projects for 19 different institutions. Hueter ranks the trip as one of the most gratifying of his career, noting that Ocearch plans to return next year.

Giraudo thought she was just there to observe, but quickly found herself taking samples. Out of the great whites Ocearch tagged, Luna is the only one still in Nova Scotia; the others have headed for warmer waters. Luna was poking around the Bay of Fundy at the time of writing. Giraudo checks up on her regularly and guesses she’s enjoying the seals. “Luna’s a big fish,” she says. “Maybe she just likes it over there.” Will Luna be back next year? The scientists, and the great white’s 2,500 followers, will be watching.

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List of Tourist Attractions Open Now in Ottawa

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With Ontario now in Step 3 of 2021 three-step plan for reopening, museums and other indoor attractions are allowed to reopen with capacity limited to not exceed 50 per cent capacity indoors and 75 per cent capacity outdoors.

Here is a list of Ottawa attractions you can visit starting July 16th.

Do remember to wear masks and buy tickets in advance.

Parliament Hill

Parliament’s Centre Block and Peace Tower are closed for renovation.

You can join for tours of the Senate of Canada Building (2 Rideau Street), House of Commons at West Block (111 Wellington Street) on Parliament Hill, and East Block at East Block (111 Wellington Street) on Parliament Hill.

When: Grounds open; guided tours of Parliament are suspended through the summer of 2021.
Where: 111 Wellington Street, Downtown Ottawa

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Ottawa performer leapfrogs from gymnastics to Broadway to TV

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A new AppleTV+ series set in a magical town that’s stuck in a neverending 1940s musical includes a pair of Ottawa siblings in the cast. 

Warren Yang and his sister, Ericka Hunter, play two of the singing, dancing residents of the village portrayed in Schmigadoon!, a small-screen series that takes its cues from classic musicals like Brigadoon, Wizard of Oz and Sound of Music, and skewers them with the offbeat comedic mastery of Saturday Night Live. 

In fact, you’ll recognize many of the names from SNL, starting with executive producer Lorne Michaels, creator of the late-night, live-comedy sketch show. Schmigadoon! also stars SNL cast member Cecily Strong and comedian Keegan-Michael Key, who hosted SNL in May. They play a New York couple who get lost on a hike and stumble into a strange town where everyone sings and dances. 

For Yang, a relative newcomer to show-biz, the series marks his television debut. For Hunter, the younger of his two older sisters, it’s the latest in a career path that began with dance lessons as a child more than 30 years ago. She attended Canterbury High School, Ottawa’s arts-focused secondary school. 

“Her dream was always to perform,” said Yang, 34, in an interview. “But that was never the path I thought was an option for me.” 

While his sister studied dance, Yang did gymnastics. He was an elite gymnast throughout his youth, ultimately leaving Merivale High School at 16 to train in Montreal, finishing high school through correspondence courses. He was a member of the Canadian National Team and received a scholarship to study at Penn State, majoring in marketing. 

A few years after graduation, Yang was working at an advertising agency in Toronto when he got a call from a Manhattan number. To his astonishment, they asked if he would be interested in auditioning for a Broadway revival of Miss Saigon.

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COVID-19: uOttawa to require vaccination for students living in residence

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Vaccination will be mandatory for students who want to live in residence at the University of Ottawa this year, with proof of vaccination and at least one dose required before move-in, or within two weeks of doing so if they can’t secure a shot before arriving.

Those who can’t receive a vaccine for “health-related reasons or other grounds protected under the Ontario Human Rights Code” will be able to submit a request for accommodation through the university’s housing portal, according to information on the university’s website.

Students with one dose living in residence will also have to receive their second dose “within the timeframe recommended by Ottawa Public Health.”

People who haven’t been granted an exemption and don’t get vaccinated or submit proof of having done so by the deadlines set out by the school will have their residence agreements terminated, uOttawa warns.

“Medical and health professionals are clear that vaccination is the most (effective) means of protecting people and those around them,” reads a statement provided to this newspaper by uOttawa’s director of strategic communications, Patrick Charette.

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“It is precisely for this reason that the University of Ottawa is requiring all students living in residence for the 2021-2022 academic year to be fully vaccinated. The University recognizes that some students may require accommodations for a variety of reasons and will be treating exceptions appropriately.”

Faculty, staff and students are also strongly encouraged to get vaccinated, the statement notes.

“Ensuring a high vaccine coverage in all communities is critical to ensuring an ongoing decline in cases and ending the pandemic. This will be especially important with the return of students to post-secondary institutions in our region in the fall of 2021.”

Neither Carleton University nor Algonquin College is currently mandating vaccination for students living in residence, according to the websites for both schools. But uOttawa isn’t alone in its policy – Western University, Trent University, Durham College and Fanshawe College have all implemented similar requirements. Seneca College, in the GTA, is going even further, making vaccination mandatory for students and staff to come to campus, in-person, for the fall term.

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