Graduate Theses & Dissertations

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Assessing effects and fate of environmental contaminants in invasive, native, and endangered macrophytes
Macrophytes play an important role in aquatic ecosystems, and thus are integral to ecological risk assessments of environmental contaminants. In this dissertation, I address gaps in the assessments of contaminant fate and effects in macrophytes, with focus on glyphosate herbicide use for invasive plant control. First, I evaluated the suitability of Typha as future standard test species to represent emergent macrophytes in risk assessments. I concluded that Typha is ecologically relevant, straight-forward to grow, and its sensitivity can be assessed with various morphological and physiological endpoints. Second, I assessed effects from glyphosate (Roundup WeatherMAX® formulation) spray drift exposure on emergent non-target macrophytes. I performed toxicity tests with five taxa, Phragmites australis, Typha × glauca, Typha latifolia, Ammannia robusta, and Sida hermaphrodita, which in Canada collectively represent invasive, native, and endangered species. I found significant differences in glyphosate sensitivity among genera, and all species’ growth was adversely affected at concentrations as low as 0.1% (0.54 g/L), much below the currently used rate (5%, 27 g/L). Third, I assessed the potential for glyphosate accumulation in and release from treated plant tissues. I found that P. australis and T. × glauca accumulate glyphosate following spray treatment, and that accumulated glyphosate can leach out of treated plant tissues upon their submergence in water. Finally, I assessed effects of released glyphosate on non-target macrophytes. I found that P. australis and T. × glauca leachate containing glyphosate residues can stimulate the germination and seedling growth of T. latifolia, but can exert an inhibiting effect on A. robusta, although leachate without glyphosate caused similar responses in both plants. Additionally, I found no negative effects in A. robusta when exposed to glyphosate residues in surface water, or when grown with rhizosphere contact to an invasive plant that was wicked (touched) with glyphosate. My results show that non-target macrophytes can be at risk from glyphosate spray for invasive plant control, but risks can be mitigated through informed ecosystem management activities, such as targeted wick-applications or removing plant litter. Integrating contaminant fate and effect assessments with emergent macrophytes into ecological risk assessments can support the protection of diverse macrophyte communities. Author Keywords: Ecosystem management, Ecotoxicology, Glyphosate, Herbicide, Invasive plant, Species at risk
Sensitivity of Forest Soils to Acidic Deposition Downwind of an Aluminum Smelter, Kitimat, B.C.
Maximum permitted SO2 emissions from an aluminum smelter in Kitimat, B.C., increased after modernization in 2015. An increase in acidic deposition can potentially acidify forest soils. Monitoring was conducted at two long-term soil monitoring plots at near (7 km) and far (41 km) sites downwind from the smelter. Change in soil properties was assessed between 2015 and 2018: for the near plot, there was significant decrease in pH and exchange acidity; far plot soils exhibited significant decrease of base cations and exchange acidity in the 0–5 cm layer only. The average total SO42- deposition at near and far plots were estimated to be between 8.2–12.1 and 6.7–7.4 kg/ha/yr, respectively. It was concluded no soil acidification was detected. Observed changes were attributed to measured differences in organic matter, likely influenced by sampling difficulty and measurement process discrepancies. Estimated SO42- deposition levels pose no risk to soil base cation depletion. Author Keywords: acid forest soils, acidic deposition, aluminum smelter, exchangeable base cations, long-term monitoring, minimum detectable change
Prey abundance and habitat during the breeding season for Piping Plovers in the Ontario Great Lakes region
Similar to other shorebird trends around the world, the Piping Plover population (Charadrius melodus circumcinctus) is projected to decline if concerted conservation efforts are relaxed. To date, there is insufficient understanding of the connection between habitat type, prey abundance, and chick behaviour of the Piping Plover breeding population in Ontario. The aim of my thesis was to gain knowledge about prey abundance at recent and historic breeding locations, understanding how habitat influences prey abundance and chick behaviour across the Piping Plover breeding range in Ontario’s Great Lakes. The objective of my first study was to understand prey abundance across the breeding region Great Lakes of Ontario from 2018-2019, including occupied and unoccupied sites, and to quantify variation among habitats and periods of reproduction. To evaluate resources, I sampled 17 locations to compare prey abundance using invertebrate traps (n= 3,507). Sampling took place over the reproductive periods of nest initiation, post-hatch, and fledging and in four habitat types of shoreline, wrack, berm, and back dune. Occupied breeding sites had higher prey abundances, and different assemblages of invertebrate prey than unoccupied sites. Additionally, breeding sites had higher prey abundance during nest initiation and supported higher amounts of prey in shoreline and wrack habitat. The objective of my second study was to understand how habitat types influence chick behaviour. To evaluate behaviour-habitat trends, instantaneous chick observations were recorded at the four nest sites from the post-hatch to fledging stages. In total there were 23 fledged chicks that we observed across the two years. Chicks in this study spent 60.9% of their time foraging, 11.9% of the time displaying alert behaviour, 21.4% of their time resting or being brooded, and 5.9% of their time preening. Chicks spent a large proportion of time foraging in the shoreline, resting in the back dune, and alert in berm habitat. The frequency of these alert, defensive behaviours differed among sites, with Sauble Beach chicks spending more time in defensive behaviours compared to other sites. I concluded that in both nesting and brood-rearing periods, habitat is selected non-randomly by adult and young Piping Plovers to maximize access to invertebrate prey for growth and survival. Access by chicks to the most productive habitats should be considered in local management decisions. Author Keywords: chick behaviour, endangered, Great Lakes Region, habitat, Piping Plovers, prey abundance
Expression of Giardia intestinalis flavoenzyme GiOR-1 and characterization of its electron transfer properties
Giardia intestinalis possesses four isotypes of cytochrome b5 (gCYTB-I-IV) that differ from their mammalian counterparts, suggesting different functions in this protozoan parasite. Although the recently discovered Giardia flavoenzyme, GiOR-1, reduces these cytochromes, its properties have not been thoroughly studied, owing to the difficulty in its expression. Here I describe successful conditions for expression of GiOR-1 using autoinduction. GiOR-1 is obtained with flavins bound as indicated by its UV-visible spectrum. Its ability to catalyze electron transfer from donors (NADH, NADPH) to acceptors (oxygen, ferricyanide, cytochrome c, gCYTB5-III) were studied in spectrophotometric rate assays. NADPH is the preferred electron donor, while cytochromes are the preferred electron acceptors. Interestingly, the His-tag used to purify gCYTB5-III decreases its reaction rate with GiOR-1, as an untagged version has slightly faster rates. These findings establish the appropriate conditions for further studies on GiOR-1, including the identification of endogenous electron acceptors. Author Keywords: Autoinduction, Cytochrome b5, Cytochrome P450 oxidoreductase, Giardia intestinalis, GiOR-1, Polyhistidine tag
Fall Migratory Behaviour and Cross-seasonal Interactions in Semipalmated Plovers (Charadrius semipalmatus) Breeding in the Hudson Bay Lowlands, Canada
I used the Motus Wildlife Tracking System to monitor the fall migration behaviour and assess the underlying drivers of migration strategy in a small shorebird, the Semipalmated Plover (Charadrius semipalmatus), breeding at two subarctic sites: Churchill, Manitoba and Burntpoint Creek, Ontario, Canada. Semipalmated Plovers from both sites departed breeding areas between mid-July and early August, with females preceding males and failed breeders preceding successful breeders. Migrants showed between and within-population variation in migration behaviour, though birds from both sites tended to follow interior or coastal routes and congregated in three major stopover regions along the mid-Atlantic coast of North America. I found that later-departing birds had initial flight tracks oriented more toward the south, faster overall ground speeds, were less likely to stopover in North America, and stopped at lower latitudes, suggesting that later-departing individuals use aspects of a time-minimizing strategy on fall migration. My findings emphasize the importance of the mid-Atlantic coast for Semipalmated Plovers and establish connectivity between sites used during breeding and migration. Author Keywords: Breeding, Migration, Motus, Semipalmated Plover, Shorebird, Stopover
Behavioural ecology and population dynamics of freshwater turtles in a semi-urban landscape at their northern range limit
Species are faced with a variety of challenges in the environment, including natural challenges, such as variability in ambient temperature, and anthropogenic threats, such as habitat transformation associated with urbanisation. Understanding how animals respond to these kinds of challenges can advance the field of behavioural ecology and guide management decisions for wild species. Yet, we still have limited understanding of the extent of natural and human-caused impacts on animal behaviour and population dynamics, and lack robust assessment of behaviour in free-ranging animals. Using novel miniaturised biologging technologies, I characterised and validated behaviour in two freshwater turtle species: Blanding’s turtles (Emydoidea blandingii) and Painted turtles (Chrysemys picta). Further, I investigated how these two ectothermic species navigate a thermally heterogeneous landscape near their northern range limit, by comparing selected and available ambient temperatures. I showed that turtles preferred locations that were, on average, warmer and less variable in temperature than the available environment, and that this thermal sensitivity was greatest early in the year, and at fine spatial scales that likely matched the species' perception of the environment. Lastly, I assessed whether urban development was compatible with long-term viability of a Blanding’s turtle population, by monitoring habitat change and turtle survival over one decade of ongoing residential and road development. I found that Blanding’s turtle habitat quantity and connectivity declined in the area, which coincided with high road mortality and severe declines in turtle survival and population size, especially in adult females. I concluded that urban development and current road mortality rates are incompatible with the long-term viability of this at-risk turtle population. Overall, my findings demonstrate the importance of variation in the thermal environment and anthropogenic impacts on habitat in shaping the behaviour and population dynamics of this species-at-risk. Author Keywords: animal behaviour, biologging, ectotherms, habitat selection, temperature, urbanisation
Interactome study of the Giardia intestinalis nuclear localized cytochrome b5
Giardia intestinalis is a waterborne enteric parasite that lacks mitochondria and the capacity for heme biosynthesis. Despite this, Giardia encodes several heme proteins, including four cytochrome b5 isotypes (gCYTB5-I – IV) of unknown function. The aim of this thesis is to gain insight into the function of the Giardia cytochrome b5 isotype III (gCYTB5-III) that is found in the nucleus, as first reported by our laboratory using immunofluorescence microscopy experiments with an isotype-III specific antibody. Nuclear localization of isotype-III is supported by two of my experiments: i) immunoblot analysis of crude cytoplasmic and nuclear enriched fractions of Giardia trophozoites; ii) association of gCYTB5-III with the insoluble fraction of Giardia lysates crosslinked with formaldehyde is reversed by DNase I treatment. To gain an understanding of the possible roles of gCYTB5-III, I performed immunoprecipitation (IP) experiments on lysates from Giardia trophozoites to identify its protein partners. Mass spectroscopy analysis of the immunoprecipitate identified proteins localized to the nucleus (RNA polymerase, DNA topoisomerase, histones, and histone modifying enzymes). Intriguingly, over 40% of the known mitosomal proteome, which functions in iron-sulfur (Fe-S) cluster assembly was also associated with gCYTB5-III. One of these proteins, the flavoenzyme GiOR-1, has been shown to mediate electron transfer from NADPH to recombinant gCYTB5-III. These IP results provide evidence that GiOR-1 and gCYTB5-III interact in vivo, and furthermore, suggest that some proteins in the mitosome could interact with those in the nucleus. I also found that DNA stress, caused by low concentrations of formaldehyde (0.1 – 0.2%) resulted in the increased expression of gCYTB5-III. Collectively these findings suggest a role of gCYTB5-III in Giardia's response to DNA stress and perhaps the formation of Fe/S clusters. Author Keywords: cluster, cytochrome, heme, iron, mitosome, nuclear
Using Fluorescent Carbon Dots for Biosensing Applications of Amino Acids
Amino acids make up proteins, which are the building blocks of life. A balance of amino acids is needed to maintain a healthy state. Tyrosine (Tyr) is synthesized from the metabolism of phenylalanine, which is an essential amino acid, meaning it can only be obtained from the diet. It is related to many metabolic and neurodegenerative diseases. Tyr can undergo post-translational modifications such as phosphorylation and nitration, which are implicated in cancer and nitrative stress, respectively. Although there are many methods to detect Tyr and its analogues, phosphotyrosine (pTyr) and nitrotyrosine (nTyr), these methods are time-consuming, involve expensive instruments and involve tedious process. This research proposes a new type of nanomaterials, carbon dots (CDs), to detect these amnio acids. Data indicate that CDs can be used to detect nTyr with a limit of detection of 34 μM in the linear range of 20 - 105 μM. The amenability of CD-nTyr assay was also tested in various biological matrices and biological molecules and was shown to be sensitive to nTyr. Nitration of Tyr was carried out in the presence of sodium nitrite and hydrogen peroxide catalyzed by either Cu(II) or Fe(III) to mimic biological reactions and CDs were tested as both inhibitors and indicators of Tyr nitration. Although CDs did not inhibit the nitration reaction of Tyr, they did not serve as indicators of Tyr nitration due to the quenching of CDs by the nitrating agents. This shows the importance of using CDs to detect nTyr and further use it for biological applications to detect diseased states. Author Keywords: amino acids, carbon dots, nanomaterials, sensor, spectroscopy, tyrosine
Larval lake whitefish (Coregonus clupeaformis) recruitment dynamics in Lake Huron
Lake whitefish (Coregonus clupeaformis) recruitment has declined substantially in several regions of the Laurentian Great Lakes since the establishment of non-native dreissenid mussels in the early 1990’s. In Lake Huron, the reasons for the observed recruitment declines are currently unknown and there is limited knowledge about larval life stage. In our study, we determined whether larval hatching and growth rates have changed before and after dreissenid mussel invasion, and the role of several key environmental variables in influencing annual variation in larval densities. Larval fish were collected in the Fishing Islands spawning shoal during two time periods: a historical period (1976-1986) and a contemporary period (2017-2019). Larval densities and growth were lower in recent years, suggesting that recruitment is being limited at the larval life stage and that reduced food availability may be further limiting the growth during the larval stage. Annual variation of larval densities were influenced by spawning stock biomass, water levels, and dreissenid mussel presence, with higher water levels and the presence of dreissenid mussels being associated with higher larval densities. The direction of the effect of spawning stock biomass was either negative or positive depending on the model. We also found that larval density was a significant predictor of age 4 recruitment, indicating that year-class strength may be partly established at the larval life stage. Author Keywords: Coregonus clupeaformis, Great Lakes, Lake Huron, Lake whitefish, Larval, Recruitment
Effects of Agricultural Land Use Change on Nitrogen and Phosphorus in North Shore Lake Ontario Tributaries
Row crop agriculture and associated land use practices including tile drainage and conservation tillage have been cited as a probable cause of re-emerging eutrophication in the lower Great Lakes. In this thesis, I sought to quantify and evaluate the effect of agricultural land cover and land use changes on total phosphorus (TP) and nitrate-nitrogen (NO3-N) concentrations and export in north shore Lake Ontario tributaries. This included (a) a long-term data analyses at 12 large watersheds (47 to 278 km²) using historical land cover and water quality data (1971-2010), and (b) a space-for-time study examining 12 small sub-catchments (< 8 km²) with majority (> 50%) row crop, pasture, or forest cover. Concentrations of TP were greatest in urbanized watersheds and declined particularly during the first decades of the study period, while NO3-N concentrations were greatest and steadily increased in agricultural catchments with increasing row crop cover. The space-for-time approach revealed that TP concentrations were similar across agricultural land uses and that export was most dependent on runoff. Meanwhile, NO3-N concentrations and export were greatest in row crop catchments and were positively related to row crop area. These results suggest that increases in row crop cover and associated agricultural practices including increased nutrient amendments and tile drainage may be responsible for increased NO3-N concentrations and export in northern Lake Ontario tributaries. Author Keywords: agriculture, Lake Ontario, nitrogen, phosphorus, streams, Water quality
Genetic Networks to Investigate Structure and Connectivity of Caribou at Multiple Spatial and Temporal Scales
Understanding genetic structure, connectivity, and movement of a species iscritical to management and conservation. Genetic network approaches allow the analysis of genetic information with flexibility and few prior assumptions. In chapter one, I tested the ability of individual-based genetic networks to detect fine-scale structure and connectivity in relation to sampling efforts. My findings revealed individual-based genetic networks can detect fine-scale genetic structure of caribou when using 15 highly variable microsatellite loci. Sampling levels less than 50% of the estimated population size resulted in highly disconnected networks which did not allow for accurate structure analysis; however community detection algorithms were robust in grouping closely related individuals despite low sampling. In chapter two, I used individual-based and population-based genetic networks to investigate structure, connectivity, and movement of caribou across a large study area in Western Canada. A community detection algorithm partitioned the population-based genetic network at multiple spatial scales which uncovered patterns of hierarchical genetic structure and highlighted patterns of gene flow. The hierarchical population structure results aligned with the known distribution of different caribou Designatable Units (DUs) and additional structure was found within each DU. Furthermore, individual-based networks that were constructed with a subset of samples from the Mackenzie Mountains region of the Northwest Territories revealed patterns of long-distance movement and high connectivity across the region. Author Keywords: Biological Conservation, Caribou, Community Detection, Connectivity, Genetic Networks, Structure
Electrochemical versus Chemical Oxidation of Bulky Phenols
Phenolic compounds are used in industry, such as agriculture and biotechnology, and inevitably end up in our environment. These compounds may serve as a phenolic precursor to produce raw materials for a wide range of applications. Chemical oxidation has been the common synthetic pathway to oxidize phenols and related compounds. However, traditional chemical approaches suffer from use of harsh chemicals, waste generation, and lack of reaction selectivity. Electrochemical synthesis has emerged as an alternative method to mitigate common challenges associated with organic synthesis. Herein, electrochemical oxidation of 2,6-diphenylphenol (DPP) and 2,2-dihydroxybiphenol (DHBP) was carried out and compared to traditional chemical oxidation. Contrasted with chemical oxidation, cyclic voltammetry of DPP resulted in a range of products based on the specific potential ranges used, whereas chemical oxidation of DHBP yield a dark-coloured polymeric product. The electrooxidation and chemical oxidation of DPP and DHBP resulted in a solution colour change, indicative of the formation of new, but different products monitored by UV-vis, and characterized by nuclear magnetic spectroscopy (NMR), X-ray single crystal diffraction, IR spectroscopy, transmission electron microscopy (TEM), and gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS). The data indicate that the synthetic outcomes are dependent on the synthetic methodology employed, and that electrooxidation and chemical oxidation can form products unique to the pathway utilized. Author Keywords: chemoselectivity, electrochemistry, phenols, radical, synthesis

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