Graduate Theses & Dissertations

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Experiences of Five Undergraduate Academic Advisors in Ontario Universities
This study used qualitative research methods to develop an understanding of the landscape of undergraduate academic advising in Ontario universities as well as deeply explore the experiences and practices of five full-time academic advisors. Phase one of the study consisted of a document analysis of Ontario universities' public-facing websites. Phase two of the study consisted of five interviews with five undergraduate academic advisors from four Ontario institutions. The findings of the study demonstrated a variable landscape of academic advising across universities with responsibilities of advising ranging from solely course selection to a much broader role inclusive of helping students navigate their educational journey. Additionally, a relationship between external influences including institutional mission and organizational structure, and internal influences including advisors’ values, beliefs, and theoretical knowledge was identified. This relationship informed current advising strategies. These findings were used to develop a praxis of academic advising as well as five promising practices. Author Keywords: Academic Advising, Practice of Advising, Strategies of Advising, Universities
Range dynamics of two closely related felids
Species ranges are changing and the rate at which the climate is warming is faster than anything previously seen in the past, consequently species will need to adapt quickly, track the climate or perish. Cold adapted terrestrial species are the most vulnerable, because they are limited by the availability of land at the cold edge of their range. This means that many alpine, boreal and polar species essentially have nowhere to go as the climate warms. Habitat generalists are widely distributed across the globe and are highly adaptable to anthropogenic change. Our future biodiversity may only consist of several habitat generalists. The Canada lynx (Lynx canadensis) is a boreal species that has limited range expansion potential at the cold end of its range and its range has already contracted by 40%. The lynx has nowhere to go as climate warming progresses in this current century. Therefore, understanding the causes of its range contraction could enlighten us on conservation and management strategies that we might undertake as climate warms. My analyses indicated that the Canada lynx seems to have tracked the habitat that it is adapted to in more northern homogenous boreal forests and the bobcat (Lynx rufus), a habitat generalist, has simply replaced it in the south. Author Keywords: Anthropogenic Change, Competition, Connectivity, Lynx canadensis, Lynx rufus, Range change
Breeding Phenology and Migration Habits of Whimbrel (Numenius phaeopus) in the Hudson Bay Lowlands, Canada
Understanding breeding and migration habits of Whimbrel (Numenius phaeopus) in the Hudson Bay Lowlands is important for the conservation of this population. I monitored Whimbrel at two breeding sites: the Churchill region of Manitoba and Burntpoint, Ontario. Annual average nest initiation timing was highly variable and successful nests were initiated significantly earlier than those that failed. Although nests were initiated significantly earlier at Burntpoint than Churchill, annual nest success quantified in program R MARK was similar across sites. Observed nest success rates were lower than historical records and most failure was due to predation. Annual nest survival varied widely and I used a generalized linear model to relate annual nest survival to annual average weather conditions. I observed weak relationships between annual nest survival and weather conditions in the northbound staging grounds. I tracked post-breeding migratory movements using the MOTUS radio telemetry system and observed consistent use of the mid-Atlantic coast of the United States during migration, especially among birds emerging from Churchill. In Burntpoint, I observed more variability in post-breeding migratory trajectories and significantly earlier post-breeding departure as compared to Churchill. The results of my study suggest differences in breeding and migration habits exist across nearby breeding populations, indicating that there is a need for population-specific conservation approaches for this declining species. Author Keywords: Migration, Movement Ecology, Nesting Ecology, Nest Success, Shorebird conservation, Whimbrel
Effect of Aging and Movement Variability on Motor Adaptation
Aging is associated with a multitude of changes, including changes in the motor system. One such change that has been documented is increased levels of inherent movement variability (the inability to consistently replicate movements over time) with increasing age. Previous research has had controversial findings regarding the effect that movement variability has on motor learning and motor adaptation. Some research suggests that movement variability is beneficial to motor learning, while other research indicates that movement variability is the by-product of a noisy motor system and is a detriment to learning new skills. How do changes in movement variability associated with aging affect the ability to adapt to a mass perturbation? We tested younger and older individuals on a mass adaptation task (applying mass to the lateral side of the arm to perturb inertial forces of the limb during reaches). We analyzed baseline levels of movement variability, learning during the adaptation block and how baseline levels of movement variability explained differences in learning. We focused on measures of accuracy, speed and precision. We found that younger individuals displayed greater levels of movement variability throughout the experiment and that they also learned to adapt to the mass perturbation more successfully than their older counterparts. Multi-joint movements displayed greater degrees of learning in comparison to single-joint movements, likely due to the difference in difficulty when completing the two movements. Taken together, our results suggest that purposeful movement variability may be beneficial to motor adaptation. Author Keywords: aging, mass adaptation, motor adaptation, motor learning, movement variability
This Is It, I Guess
Queer youth are an at-risk group, with an incredibly high rate of harm and death as they grow into themselves. They are often advised to wait until they finish school to express their sexuality more openly, when they can leave to somewhere that is “better”, which in this context can mean safer, more accepting, or far away from friends and family who may reject them. Unfortunately, much of the media representation of queer people is regressive or stereotypical, usually involving the suffering or death of its queer-identified characters. It is telling that a recurring theme in queer stories is that empathy and understanding for queer people can only be attained through their suffering. Non-queer people do not have to suffer to be understood. In this thesis I discuss the potential of creativity in academic works, I examine queer stories that buck the trend of tragedy through queer and pop culture theory, and I write a queer young adult novel in response, featuring a self-actualized protagonist whose sexuality does not cause him pain or trauma. Author Keywords: creative writing, queer literature, queer protagonist, queer theory, queer youth, young adult literature
Enhancing interpretive trails with technology
Enhancing interpretive trails with smartphone technology may enrich the visitor’s educational experience by stimulating deeper engagement and enjoyment that will improve immediate knowledge and help promote the development of environmental literacy. This connection between technology and environmental education can only be considered successful if enhanced enrichment and educational value is found in the integration. Currently there is a substantial gap in research on the incorporation of technology into an interpretive trail experience. For this study, information on the local fauna and flora was produced and linked to Quick Response Codes (QR codes) installed along an outdoor trail. The QR codes were designed to be read using the participant’s personal smartphone. Immediately after completing the trail participants could volunteer to describe their smartphone-led experience through a self-administered cross-sectional questionnaire offered in hard copy at the study site. A non-experimental quantitative research methodology was employed to evaluate the survey data and determine the educational and enjoyment value of the experience. This research is of potential benefit to educators of science, technology and the environment. The research may also assist parks and recreation facilities wishing to offset the costs of building and maintaining traditional interpretive trails by eliminating the need for the printing of booklets, maps and signage. Author Keywords: education, environment, interpretive trails, science, smartphone technology
What Nature is Best?
Connecting with nature benefits human and environmental health, however it is unclear whether certain types of nature influence people differently. Research has primarily focused on green spaces (vegetation-rich areas), but recent cross-sectional studies suggest that green spaces with blue space (natural water elements) may have additional well-being benefits. A quasi-experimental design compared the effects of green spaces with or without water on mood and environmental concern. Students (N = 193) were randomly assigned to walk along campus green (drumlin) or blue (river) spaces. Both walks improved students’ mood, especially for those who had a stronger preference for the area. Students in both conditions reported more sustainable behaviours when followed up one week and one month later, but decreased in nature contact and well-being. These findings highlight the challenges of promoting regular nature contact as a mood regulation strategy. Implications and future directions are discussed. Author Keywords: blue space, green space, nature connectedness, well-being
Effects of Recycled Media on Culture Growth and Hormone Profiles in Heterotrophic Euglena gracilis
The rapid expansion of the worldwide population has caused an urgent need for the development of new, more environment-conscious, food sources. In this context, algae, such as Euglena, are of interest thanks to their capacity to naturally produce essential nutrients such as proteins and oils commonly found in animals and plant sources. While these processes are currently being investigated, underlying measures affecting growth of Euglena gracilis like hormonal influences and growth stress like nutrient deprivation are poorly understood. From this vantage point, this thesis seeks to understand the role of phytohormones cytokinin (CKs) and abscisic acid (ABA) in complex mechanisms underlying heterotrophic growth of Euglena gracilis under recycled, organic media conditions with no supplementation. Hormone profiles were quantified by HPLC-ESI-MS/MS and compared to culture growth dynamics of pH, weight accumulation, glucose content, cell count and morphology. It was expected that ABA acted as an inhibitory hormone and this was confirmed by its higher levels when CKs where low and vice versa. Contrastingly, it was expected that CKs stimulated growth, in which this was shown not to be the case. Interestingly, it was revealed that both hormone groups increase with increasing recycling. Other key findings include: E. gracilis synthesizes CKs via the tRNA-degradation pathway and is cZ and iP dominated, recycling E. gracilis medium is viable for growth, however, the percentage (25% or less) is crucial to cell viability and markedly no ABA was detected in E. gracilis pellet fractions from recycled media. Therefore, this data revealed that recycled media has a striking influence on physiological aspects of growth and illustrated unique changes in hormone profiles of which could be manipulated to help the food industry. Author Keywords: cytokinin, endogenous hormones, Euglena gracilis, heterotrophic, large scale microalgae cultivation, recycled medium
Problem Solving as a Path to Understanding Mathematics Representations
Little is actually known about how people cognitively process and integrate information when solving complex mathematical problems. In this thesis, eye-tracking was used to examine how people read and integrate information from mathematical symbols and complex formula, with eye fixations being used as a measure of their current focus of attention. Each participant in the studies was presented with a series of stimuli in the form of mathematical problems and their eyes were tracked as they worked through the problem mentally. From these examinations, we were able to demonstrate differences in both the comprehension and problem-solving, with the results suggesting that what information is selected, and how, is responsible for a large portion of success in solving such problems. We were also able to examine how different mathematical representations of the same mathematical object are attended to by students. Author Keywords: eye-tracking, mathematical notation, mathematical representations, problem identification, problem-solving, symbolism
Wastewater Impacts on Freshwater Mussels and Water Quality in a Tributary of the Lower Grand River in Southwestern Ontario, Canada
The main goal of this thesis was to assess the potential impacts of discharges of treated effluent from a small facultative sewage lagoon serving approximately 300 residents of the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation to freshwater mussel populations in Boston Creek, a small tributary of the lower Grand River. The current resident mussel populations inhabiting Boston Creek were assessed using semi-qualitative visual surveying methods. In addition to various population level observations, other possible point and non-point influences on water quality in Boston Creek were identified. Following this, Lasmigona costata mussels were deployed as biomonitoring organisms alongside passive samplers during the October 2017 lagoon discharge period. Time weighted average (TWA) concentrations of select Contaminants of Emerging Concern (CECs) and Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs) were estimated from levels of these compounds accumulated on passive samplers to understand the influence of wastewater on water quality in Boston Creek. Finally, mussel tissues were analyzed for various biomarkers of exposure to contaminants. Population surveys indicated that Boston Creek supports a plentiful and diverse community of freshwater mussels and may be a refuge for the Species of Special Concern, Villosa iris. Passive sampling revealed that most PAHs measured were present at concentrations below detection limits, while CECs were typically detected at relatively low concentrations (ng/L) directly downstream of the lagoon discharge. Biomarker responses detected in Lasmigona costata generally could not be attributed to exposure to the lagoon effluent but these data may indicate response to other point and non-point sources of pollution that could be affecting resident freshwater mussel populations in Boston Creek. The mussels surveyed in Boston Creek may be displaying community level effects of exposure to other sources of pollution in the area. The results of this thesis will help in establishing water quality guidelines in the lower Grand River watershed that will assist in the recovery strategy for freshwater mussel species at risk in Ontario. Author Keywords: Biomarkers, Biomonitoring, CECs, First Nations, Freshwater Mussels, SAR
Community, Complexity, and Collapse
The city-state of Minanha, located in west central Belize, reached its zenith and most culturally complex stage by the Late Classic period, 675-810 AD. Only a century later, its royal court “collapsed”. The Contreras Valley is a small farming community located in a settlement zone south of Minanha. Decades of research at Minanha and the analysis of artifact frequencies from commoner households allow for a better understanding of the intra- and inter-community social practices occurring at the site of Contreras Valley and within the greater Minanha area. An Archaeology of Communities as well as Resilience Theory frameworks are utilized to explore the integrative social, political, and economic strategies of this commoner population. These theories are used to better understand the developmental history of the royal court from the perspective of the peripheral commoners, who sustained a population while the royal court disintegrated. Furthermore, this thesis focuses on the intersection of resilience and communities, and how the Contreras Valley experienced phases of resilience as well as vulnerability throughout its history. The resilience of this group of individuals will generate an increased cognizance of how a community copes with and continues to thrive in a climate of political chaos and instability. Author Keywords: Ancient Maya, Archaeology, Archaeology of Communities, Artifact frequencies, Resilience Theory, Settlement pattern studies
Environmental structure, morphology and spatial ecology of the five-lined skink (Plestiodon fasciatus) at high latitude range limits
Detecting relevant and meaningful patterns from the complex, interconnected network of relationships between organisms and their environment is a primary objective of ecology. Ecological patterns occur across multiple scales of space and time. In this dissertation, I examine aspects of environmental structure that influence a species’ distribution and are expressed in that species’ population dynamics. I compare the morphology of the five-lined skink (Plestiodon fasciatus) near its high latitude range limits with a lower latitude population and evaluate the economics of their behaviour in the context of its reproductive strategy. I tested the conformity of this species to biogeographical rules postulated by MacArthur, Bergmann, and Rensch. Spatial ecology was investigated in the context of the environmental potential for polygamy proposed by Emlen and Oring (1977) The five-lined skink, Plestiodon fasciatus, conformed to these biogeographic rules. Specifically, abiotic factors were the primary limiting factors affecting distribution at the high latitude range limits of the species; body size was larger in high latitude populations; and the degree of sexual size dimorphism was greater at high latitude than at low latitude. Spatial ecology at the individual scale was influenced by sites with suitable thermal conditions which facilitate the polygynandrous mating system documented in P. fasciatus in high latitude populations. My results confirm the importance of microsites with suitable thermal profiles as key habitat for ectothermic vertebrates at high latitudes. The influence of temperature as a limiting abiotic factor is expressed in population density, body size, spatial ecology, and reproductive strategy of P. fasciatus. Conservation and restoration of high latitude populations of ectothermic vertebrates should focus on ensuring thermal requirements of the species of concern are met before other factors are addressed, as temperature is likely the single most important limiting factor at high latitude range limits. Author Keywords: biogeography, lizard, Plestiodon fasciatus, range limits, sexual size dimorphism, spatial ecology

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