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Remote South Georgia Island returns to ‘paradise for birds’ after rat-killing program, says Calgary naturalist

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Brian Keating, The Homestretch‘s naturalist, says the South Georgia Island archipelago near Antarctica is once again a haven for birds after a program to kill the rats that were accidentally brought there by whaling expeditions almost 250 years ago.

“As of last year, they declared South Georgia rat-free. It took $14 million and 10 years to get the job done using helicopters and a special rat poison,” Keating told The Homestretch Monday by satellite phone.

“The result is profound. Right now, there are 53 million birds nesting on the various islands. They are estimating in the fairly near future that will increase by 100 million more birds. It will triple the population and turn the landscape back into a paradise for birds.”

The bird population of South Georgia had suffered when black and brown rats and mice left ships as far back as 1775. Today, the birds, including king penguin colonies like this one, are thriving after a program to kill the rodents. (Brian Keating)

The bird population had suffered when black and brown rats and mice left ships visiting the remote island off the tip of Antarctica as far back as 1775. The birds in the area weren’t used to predators. Their eggs, laid on the ground or in burrows, were snatched up by the rodents.

Keating says he witnessed some incredible examples of the rebirth.

“We had three incredibly special wildlife locations that we went to and two of those were king penguin rookeries. One had something like 125,000 pairs of king penguins. Can you imagine the noise?” Keating said.

The rodent-eradication program on the South Georgia Island archipelago has been a success, leaving bird populations like this king penguin colony thriving. (Bruce Paterson/Submitted by Brian Keating)

“We saw birds courting each other, we saw breeding, we saw birds with eggs on their feet — they incubate their eggs on their feet. We saw youngsters being fed. Our final king penguin colony was at a place called Gold Harbour and it was pure gold.”

And South Georgia is more than just birds.

“Through the fog we could hear the calls of elephant seals, fur seals and penguins. It was very ethereal. We landed on the beach with an unbelievable volume of wildlife all around us,” he said.

“Then this curtain of fog began to lift and what was revealed was a stunning backdrop of a huge-hanging glacier. We had heard ice fall coming from that glacier. It was absolutely stunning.”

Our Homestretch naturalist Brian Keating has been spending time with thousands of penguins as he continues his adventures in the southern hemisphere. He joined host Doug Dirks with most stories from his adventures via satellite phone. 6:26

With files from The Homestretch.

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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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