Graduate Theses & Dissertations

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Daphnia pulicaria responses to temperature and nutrients stress
Warming climates have had various consequences on terrestrial and aquatic food webs that are expected to persist. There is evidence suggesting that certain organisms are better equipped to handle changing climates compared to others. Therefore, the purpose of my thesis was to study the adaptability of Daphnia under temperature stress and nutrient limitation. First, to examine the effects of dietary phosphorus limitation and temperature on daphniid life-history and population growth, a series of experiments were conducted in the laboratory. In general, I found that Daphnia body growth rates and life-history traits to food carbon to phosphorus (C:P) ratios change with temperature. Next, I identified a protocol to limit the genomic DNA (gDNA) from ribonucleic acid (RNA) extractions. I found that using a modified phenol-chloroform extraction protocol was the most effective way to remove gDNA from extracted Daphnia RNA samples. Overall, results from this study show that temperature and food quality interactions are more complicated than previously thought. Furthermore, the RNA extraction protocol developed will be useful in future studies examining gene expression responses in Daphnia. Author Keywords: ecological stoichiometry, gene expression, life-history, nutrient limitation, RNA puritiy, temperature
De novo transcriptome assembly, functional annotation, and SNP discovery in North American flying squirrels (genus Glaucomys)
Introgressive hybridization between northern (Glaucomys sabrinus) and southern flying squirrels (G. volans) has been observed in some areas of Canada and the USA. However, existing molecular markers lack the resolution to discriminate late-generation introgressants and describe the extent to which hybridization influences the Glaucomys gene pool. I report the first North American flying squirrel (genus Glaucomys) functionally annotated de novo transcriptome assembly with a set of 146,621 high-quality, annotated putative species-diagnostic SNP markers. RNA-sequences were obtained from two northern flying squirrels and two southern flying squirrels sampled from Ontario, Canada. I reconstructed 702,228 Glaucomys transcripts using 193,323,120 sequence read-pairs, and captured sequence homologies, protein domains, and gene function classifications. These genomic resources can be used to increase the resolution of molecular techniques used to examine the dynamics of the Glaucomys hybrid zone. Author Keywords: annotation, de novo transcriptome, flying squirrels, high-throughput sequencing, hybridization, single nucleotide polymorphisms
Deep learning for removal of non-resonant background in CARS hyperspectroscopy
In this work, a deep learning approach proposed by Valensise et al. [3] for extracting Raman resonant spectra from measured broadband CARS spectra was explored to see how effective it is at removing NRB from our experimentally measured “spectral-focusing”-based approach to CARS. A large dataset of realistic simulated CARS spectra was used to train a model capable of performing this spectral retrieval task. The non-resonant background shape used in creating the simulated CARS spectra was altered, to mimic our experimentally measured NRB response. Two models were trained: one using the original approach (Specnet) and one using the updated NRB “Specnet Plus”, and then tested their ability to retrieve the vibrationally resonant spectrum from simulated and measured CARS spectra. An error analysis was performed to compare the model's retrieval performance on two simulated CARS spectra. The modified model's mean squared error value was five and two times lower for the first and second simulated CARS spectra, respectively. Specnet Plus was found to be more effective at extracting the resonant signals. Finally, the NRB extraction abilities of both models are tested on two experimentally measured CARS hyperspectroscopy samples (starch and chitin), with the updated NRB model (Specnet Plus) outperforming the original Specnet model. These results suggest that tailoring the approach to reflect what we observe experimentally will improve our spectral analysis workflow and increase our imaging potential. Author Keywords:
Demographic history and conservation genomics of caribou (Rangifer tarandus) in Québec
Genetic variation is the raw material and basis for evolutionary changes in nature. The loss of genetic diversity is a challenge many species are facing, with genomics being a potential tool to inform and prioritize decision making. Whole genome analysis can be an asset to conservation biology and the management of species through the generation of more precise and novel metrics. This thesis uses whole genome re-sequencing to characterize the demographic history and quantify genomic metrics relevant to conservation of caribou (Rangifer tarandus) in Québec, Canada. We calculated the ancestral and contemporary patterns of genomic diversity of five representative caribou populations and applied a comparative population genomics framework to assess the interplay between demographic events and genomic diversity. When compared to the census size, NC, the endangered Gaspésie Mountain caribou population had the highest ancestral Ne:NC ratio which is consistent with recent work suggesting high ancestral Ne:NC is of conservation concern. These ratios were highly correlated with genomic signatures (i.e. Tajima’s D) of recent population declines and explicit demographic model parameters. Values of contemporary Ne, estimated from linkage-disequilibrium showed Gaspêsie having among the highest contemporary Ne:NC ratio. Importantly, classic conservation genetics theory would predict this population to be of less concern based off this metric alone. Inbreeding measures suggested nuanced patterns of inbreeding and correlated to the demographic models. This study suggests that while the Québec populations are all under decline, they harbour enough ancestral genetic variation to replenish any lost diversity, if conservation decisions are made in favour of these populations, specifically supporting NC. Author Keywords:
Demography and habitat selection of Newfoundland caribou
The objective of this thesis is to better understand the demography and habitat selection of Newfoundland caribou. Chapter 1 provides a general introduction of elements of population ecology and behavioural ecology discussed in the thesis. In Chapter 2, I examine the causes of long-term fluctuations among caribou herds. My findings indicate that winter severity and density-dependent degradation of summer range quality offer partial explanations for the observed patterns of population change. In Chapter 3, I investigate the influence of climate, predation and density-dependence on cause-specific neonate survival. I found that when caribou populations are in a period of increase, predation from coyotes and bears is most strongly influenced by the abiotic conditions that precede calving. However, when populations begin to decline, weather conditions during calving also influenced survival. I build on this analysis in Chapter 4 by determining the influence of climate change on the interplay between predation risk and neonate survival. I found that the relative equilibrium between bears and coyotes may not persist in the future as risk from coyotes could increase due to climate change. In Chapter 5, I investigate the relationships in niche overlap between caribou and their predators and how this may influence differential predation risk by affecting encounter rates. For coyotes, seasonal changes in niche overlap mirrored variation in caribou calf risk, but had less association with the rate of encounter with calves. In contrast, changes in niche overlap during the calving season for black bears had little association with these parameters. In Chapter 6, I examine broad-level habitat selection of caribou to study trade-offs between predator avoidance and foraging during the calving season. The results suggest that caribou movements are oriented towards increased access to foraging and the reduction of encounter risk with bears, and to a lesser extent, coyotes. Finally, I synthesize the major findings from this thesis and their relevance to caribou conservation in Chapter 7, to infer that Newfoundland caribou decline is ultimately driven by extrinsic and intrinsic elements related to density-dependence. Reduction in neonate survival emerged from nutritionally-stressed caribou females producing calves with lower survival. Author Keywords: Behavioural ecology, Black bear (Ursus americanus), Coyote (Canis latrans), Population ecology, Predator-prey interactions, Woodland caribou (Rangifer tarandus)
Demography of a Breeding Population of Whimbrel (Numenius phaeopus) Near Churchill, Manitoba, Canada
I used a GIS raster layer of an area in the Churchill, Manitoba region to investigate the effect of breeding habitat on demography and density of Whimbrel from 2010 through 2013. Program MARK was used to quantify adult and daily nest survival. Apparent annual survival of 0.73 ± 0.06 SE (95% CI = 0.60-0.83) did not significantly differ between sexes or habitats and was lower than expected based on longevity records and estimates for other large-bodied shorebirds. Nest success, corrected for exposure days, was highly variable, ranging from a low of 3% (95% CI = 0-12%) in 2011 to a high of 71% (95% CI = 54-83%) in 2013. The highest rate of nest survival occurred in the spring with the warmest mean temperature. I developed a generalized linear model (GLM) with a negative-binomial distribution from random plots that were surveyed for abundance to extrapolate a local breeding population size of 410 ± 230 SE and density of 3.2 birds per square km ± 1.8 SE. The result of my study suggests that other aspects of habitat not captured by the land cover categories may be more important to population dynamics. Author Keywords: abundance, apparent survival, curlew, land cover map, nest-site fidelity, nest success
Denizens of Virtual Worlds
This thesis studies a subset of players of video games called “power-gamers” who play games in a way that mirrors labour as opposed to leisure. Through ethnographic fieldwork and exploration this thesis examines what constitutes “power-gaming” and seeks to unpack the differences between skill, fun, and labour. Chapter One analyzes how ethnographic fieldwork is performed in virtual worlds, and the necessary frameworks inherent to this. Chapter Two explores facets of technical hobbies, masculinity, skill, and how they relate to power-gaming. Chapter Three explores how different cultures globally choose to play-games, and the forms of sociability involved in this play. Chapter Four examines reality in relation to virtual worlds, and how players in virtual worlds explore and unpack their surroundings, which mirrors many scientific practices in the real world. Chapter Five explores narrative structure in games, and their relation to power-gaming practices. Chapter Six concludes with a discussion of power-gamers as a neo-liberal workforce. Author Keywords: game design, neo-liberalism, playbour, power-gamer, sociability, virtual-ethnography
Dennis Lee's Testament
The future-poetry of Dennis Lee published in Testament (2012) is the culmination of four cycles of creativity in his lifetime, each seeking a Real beyond the nihilism of technological modernity. Ultimately, Lee wagers the role of the poet and the future of poetic language on Earth on a non-modern that risks entangling the poet who enters void and embodies its meaninglessness. CHAPTER ONE: To approach this wager, the thesis first identifies the sources in philosophy of a Canadian Romantic modernism embraced by George Grant in collegial exchanges with Dennis Lee during the period of Civil Elegies (1972). Grant elicits a politics out of Nietzsche; Lee extends a poetics out of classical experimental modernism, made intelligible in this thesis by Mallarmé’s “cadence” or “rhythm” of things in nothingness and by Beckett’s word-play at the impasse of naming. CHAPTER TWO: To think beyond the mastery of the world by technique is to encounter a choice between silence as assumed by Grant and nonsense as explored by Lee during the period of Alligator Pie (1974) and The Gods (1979). CHAPTER THREE: The example of Paul Celan and his revisiting of Hölderlin provokes Lee to attend upon cadence at the level of the discrete word, an experiment with the dissolution of language and selfhood anticipated in the period of Riffs (1993) and Nightwatch (1996). Here, the undermusic felt to belong to the life-world (Lebenswelt) impacts as affect, in contrast to Celan’s alienated death-walk. CHAPTER FOUR: In the spirit of “post-internet poetry,” and by means of the spontaneous polyphonic scoring of cadence, Lee transforms the modernist impasse at the void into a further contradiction, the living of which may allow the poet access to a non-modern, but at a cost: the loss of poetry to incomprehension and insignificance, the reduction of the poet to a medium of the void, the dissolving of structure into materialities colliding in chance. Author Keywords: Dennis Lee, George Grant, Nonsense, Paul Celan, Technological Modernity, Void
Desire to be Zine
This thesis explores access to feminist zine culture and community, specifically if, and how, access has been altered in the age of digital technologies and increased access to digital spaces. Results from a questionnaire completed by 8 young feminist zine-makers and readers of marginalized genders indicated that though the modern boundaries of what a zine is has been expanded to include e-zines, there remains a preference toward print zines in zine-making and reading practices. Results also revealed that while there is a preference toward accessing feminist zine culture and community in-person in theory, participants were more likely to access feminist zine culture and community online in reality. This project found that digital technologies and the Internet have affected feminist zine culture in multiple ways, ranging from the Internet creating a new access points to community, to the Internet making it easier to find, purchase, and distribute zines. Author Keywords: Digital Media, Feminism, Feminist Zine Culture, Feminist Zines, Materiality, Print Media
Detectability and its role in understanding upland sandpiper (Bartramia longicauda) occurence in the fragmented landscape of southern Ontario
Upland Sandpipers (Bartramia longicauda), like many grassland birds, are undergoing population decline in parts of their range. Habitat fragmentation and change have been hypothesized as potential causes of decline. I used citizen-science occurrence data from Wildlife Preservation Canada’s Adopt-A-Shrike Loggerhead Shrike (Lanius ludovicianus) program in conjunction with validation surveys, using similar point-count methods, to examine detectability and determine if landscape level habitat features could predict occupancy of Upland Sandpipers in Southern Ontario. In a single season detectability study, I used Wildlife Preservation Canada’s survey protocol to determine detectability in sites that were known to be occupied. Detectability was low, with six surveys necessary to ensure detection using a duration of at least 18 minutes early in the breeding season. The proportion of open habitat did not affect detection on the landscape. Using a larger spatial and temporal scale, with five years of citizen-science data, I showed that Annual Crop Inventory data could not effectively predict Upland Sandpiper occupancy. Model uncertainty could be attributed to survey protocol and life history traits of the Upland Sandpiper, suggesting that appropriate survey methods be derived a priori for maximizing the potential of citizen-science data for robust analyses. Author Keywords: Bartramia longicauda, citizen-science, detection, landscape, occupancy, Ontario
Detecting anti-estrogens and anti-androgens in surface waters impacted by municipal wastewater discharges and agricultural runoff
This study focused on detecting 22 target anti-estrogenic and anti-androgenic compounds in surface waters influenced by both discharges of municipal wastewater and agricultural runoff in Canada and Argentina. Polar organic chemical integrative samplers (POCIS) were used to monitor the target compounds in surface waters. The removals of the target compounds in a municipal wastewater treatment plant (WWTP) in Canada were also evaluated. In both Canada and Argentina pesticides with potential anti-estrogenic and anti-androgenic activities were detected in the surface waters. The highest concentrations were found in Argentina (up to 1010 ng L-1) in areas impacted by heavy agricultural practices. Cyproterone acetate and bicalutamide were the only two anti-cancer drugs detected only at the Canadian study site, the Speed River, ON. In the Guelph WWTP, that discharges into the Speed River, these target compounds were not all efficiently removed (>70%) during treatment. Overall, this study provides insight to possible anti-estrogenic and anti-androgenic compounds that may be contributing to endocrine disrupting activities in surface waters. Author Keywords: Anti-androgens, Anti-estrogens, Cancer Therapy Drugs, Current use pesticides, Pharmaceuticals and Personal Care Products, Polar Organic Chemical Integrative Samplers
Detection of four at-risk freshwater pearly mussel species (Bivalvia
Environmental DNA (eDNA) detection uses species-specific markers to screen DNA from bulk samples, such as water, to infer species presence. This study involved the development and testing of species-specific markers for four freshwater pearly mussels (Unionidae). The markers were applied to water samples from intensively sampled mussel monitoring sites to compare species detections from eDNA with established sampling method detections. Target species were detected using eDNA at all sites where they had previously been detected by quadrat sampling. This paired design demonstrated that eDNA detection was at least as sensitive as quadrat sampling and that high species specificity can be achieved even when designing against many sympatric unionids. Detection failures can impede species conservation efforts and occupancy estimates; eDNA sampling could improve our knowledge of species distributions and site occupancy through increased sampling sensitivity and coverage. Author Keywords: conservation genetics, cytochrome oxidase subunit I (COI), environmental DNA (eDNA), quantitative PCR (qPCR), species at risk (SAR)

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Format: 2024/02/22