Graduate Theses & Dissertations

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Aeolian Impact Ripples in Sand Beds of Varied Texture
A wind tunnel study was conducted to investigate aeolian impact ripples in sand beds of varied texture from coarsely skewed to bimodal. Experimental data is lacking for aeolian megaripples, particularly in considering the influence of wind speed on ripple morphometrics. Additionally, the modelling community requires experimental data for model validation and calibration. Eighteen combinations of wind speed and proportion of coarse mode particles by mass were analysed for both morphometrics and optical indices of spatial segregation. Wind tunnel conditions emulated those found at aeolian megaripple field sites, specifically a unimodal wind regime and particle transport mode segregation. Remote sensing style image classification was applied to investigate the spatial segregation of the two differently coloured size populations. Ripple morphometrics show strong dependency on wind speed. Conversely, morphometric indices are inversely correlated to the proportion of the distribution that was comprised of coarse mode particles. Spatial segregation is highly correlated to wind speed in a positive manner and negatively correlated to the proportion of the distribution that was comprised of coarse mode particles. Results reveal that the degree of spatial segregation within an impact ripple bedform can be higher than previously reported in the literature. Author Keywords: Aeolian, Impact Ripples, Megaripple, Self-organization, Wind Tunnel
Investigating the sources and fate of monomethylmercury and dimethylmercury in the Arctic marine boundary layer and waters
Monomethylmercury (MMHg), the most bioavailable form of mercury (Hg) and a potent neurotoxin, is present at elevated concentrations in Arctic marine mammals posing serious health threats to the local populations relying on marine food for their subsistence living. The sources of MMHg in the Arctic Ocean surface water and the role of dimethylmercury (DMHg) as a source of MMHg remain unclear. The objective of this research was to determine the sources and fate of methylated Hg species (MMHg and DMHg) in the marine ecosystem by investigating processes controlling the presence of methylated Hg species in the Arctic Ocean marine boundary layer (MBL) and surface waters. A method based on solid phase adsorption on Bond Elut ENV was developed and successfully used for unprecedented measurement of methylated Hg species in the MBL in Hudson Bay (HB) and the Canadian Arctic Archipelago (CAA). MMHg and DMHg concentrations averaged 2.9 ± 3.6 (mean ± SD) and 3.8 ± 3.1 pg m-3, respectively, and varied significantly among sampling sites. MMHg in the MBL is suspected to be the product of marine DMHg degradation in the atmosphere. MMHg summer (June to September) atmospheric wet deposition rates were estimated to be 188 ± 117.5 ng m-2 and 37 ± 21.7 ng m-2 for HB and CAA, respectively, sustaining MMHg concentrations available for bio-magnification in the pelagic food web. The production and loss of methylated Hg species in surface waters was assessed using enriched stable isotope tracers. MMHg production in surface water was observed from methylation of inorganic Hg (Hg(II)) and, for the first time, from DMHg demethylation with experimentally derived rate constants of 0.92 ± 0.82 x 10-3 d-1 and 0.04 ± 0.02 d-1 respectively. DMHg demethyation rate constant (0.98 ± 0.51 d-1) was higher than that of MMHg (0.35 ± 0.25 d-1). Furthermore, relationships with environmental parameters suggest that methylated Hg species transformations in surface water are mainly biologically driven. We propose that in addition to Hg(II) methylation, the main processes controlling MMHg production in the Arctic Ocean surface waters are DMHg demethylation and deposition of atmospheric MMHg. These results are valuable for a better understanding of the cycle of methylated Hg in the Arctic marine environment. Author Keywords: Arctic Ocean, Atmosphere, Demethylation, Dimethylmercury, Methylation, Monomethylmercury
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
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)
Factors Controlling Peat Chemistry and Vegetation Composition in Sudbury Peatlands after 30 Years of Emission Reductions
Peatlands are prevalent in the Sudbury, Ontario region. Compared with the well documented devastation to the terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems in this region, relatively little work has been conducted on the peatlands. The objective of this research was to assess factors controlling peat and plant chemistry, and vegetation composition in 18 peatlands in Sudbury after over 30 years of emission reductions. Peatland chemistry and the degree of humification varies considerably, but sites closer to the main smelter had more humified peat and the surface horizons were enriched in copper (Cu) and nickel (Ni). Copper and Ni concentrations in peat were significantly correlated with Cu and Ni in the plant tissue of leatherleaf, although the increased foliar metal content did not obviously impact secondary chemistry stress indicators. The pH and mineral content of peat were the strongest determining factors for species richness, diversity and community composition. The bryophyte communities appear to be acid and metal tolerant, although Sphagnum mosses are showing limited recovery. Author Keywords: anthropogenic emissions, bryophytes, community comspoition, heavy metals, peatlands, wetland vegetation
Assessing Connectivity of Protected Area Networks and the Role of Private Lands in the United States
Forestalling biodiversity loss through the establishment of protected areas is a universally accepted conservation strategy, yet despite established guidelines for protected area coverage and placement, much of the world is currently failing to meet its commitments to conservation planning and landscape protection. Calls for the United States to protect more land usually focus on the need for strategic selection of land parcels to bolster protected area coverage and network functionality, but to date there lacks focused research on either the role of private protected areas in conservation planning or the factors affecting individual protected area selection and importance. We determined gaps in conservation planning in the contiguous United States by analyzing the connectivity of protected area networks by state, and assessing the importance of private protected areas in improving linkages in protected area connectivity. We found that all states had low coverage from protected areas (average <8.4% of total land mass), and especially private protected areas (average <1.1% of total land mass), and that the overall contribution of such areas to protected area network connectivity also was low. Terrain ruggedness was identified as the main factor affecting the current location of protected areas, and that protected area spatial layout is a primary influence on landscape connectivity. We conclude that establishment of private protected areas could offer a viable conservation tool for increasing protected area coverage and connectivity, but that current efforts are inadequate to either adequately link existing protected areas or to meet established land protection guidelines. Author Keywords: Aichi Target 11, conservation planning, graph theory, network theory, private conservation, protected areas
Variation in the δ15N and δ13C composition of POM in the Lake Simcoe watershed
The purpose of this study was to quantify the variation of baseline carbon and nitrogen stable isotope signatures in the Lake Simcoe watershed and relate that variation to various physicochemical parameters. Particulate organic matter samples from 2009 and 2011 were used as representatives of baseline isotopic values. Temporal data from two offshore lake stations revealed that δ15N of POM was lowest mid-summer and highest after the fall turnover. POM δ13C was variable throughout the summer before declining after fall turnover. Spatial data from the lake and the tributaries revealed that POM stable isotope signatures were highly variable. Various physicochemical parameters indicative of phytoplankton biomass were significantly positively correlated with POM δ15N and significantly negatively correlated with POM δ13C. The correlations were mostly significant in the tributaries, not the lake. Moreover, many of the correlations involving δ15N of POM were driven by extreme values in Cook's Bay and its tributaries. In general, it's likely that different processes or combination of processes were affecting the δ15N and δ13C POM in the Lake Simcoe watershed as physicochemical parameters alone could not explain the variability. Measuring the δ15N of ammonium and nitrate, as well as the δ13C of DIC would help discern the dominant nitrogen and inorganic carbon cycling processes occurring in the Lake Simcoe watershed. Author Keywords: δ13C, δ15N, isotopic baseline, particulate organic matter, spatial variation, stable isotopes
Effects of biodiversity and lake environment on the decomposition rates of aquatic macrophytes in the Kawartha Lakes, Ontario
Decomposition of aquatic macrophytes has an important role in defining lake carbon (C) storage and nutrient dynamics. To test how diversity impacts decomposition dynamics and site-quality effects, I first examined whether the decomposition rate of aquatic macrophytes varies with species richness. Generally, I found neutral effects of mixing, with initial stoichiometry of component species driving decomposition rates. Additionally, external lake conditions can also influence decomposition dynamics. Therefore, I assessed how the decomposition rate of a submersed macrophyte varies across a nutrient gradient in nine lakes. I found decomposition rates varied among lakes. Across all lakes, I found Myriophyllum decomposition rates and changes in stoichiometry to be related to both nutrients and water chemistry. During the incubation changes in detrital stoichiometry were related to lake P and decomposition rates. Aquatic plant community composition and stoichiometry could alter decomposition dynamics in moderately nutrient enriched lakes. Author Keywords: Aquatic Plants, Decomposition, Diversity, Littoral, Macrophytes, Nutrients
effects of environmental variables and dissolved organic matter characteristics on the diffusion coefficient of dissolved organic matter using diffusive gradients in thin films
The efficacy of the diffusive gradients in thin films (DGT) passive samplers to provide accurate measurements of free metal ions and those complexed with dissolved organic matter (DOM) was investigated. DOM controls the diffusive properties of DOM-complexed metal species in natural systems. Knowing the diffusion coeiffiecent (D) for DOM of different molecular weights (MW) and the major environmental variables influencing D is critical in developing the use of DGT passive samplers and understanding labile species. D and MW were determined for natural and standard DOM. No noticeable changes in DOM MW were observed during the diffusion process, suggesting that DOM remains intact following diffusion across the diffusive gel. Data analysis revealed that MW had the greatest influence on D, with a negative relationship between D and MW, except in tidal areas where ionic strength influence on D was significant. This study provides further characterization of the variables influencing D using the DGT technique. Author Keywords: Diffusion coefficient, Diffusive gradients in thin films, Dissolved organic matter, Flow field-flow fractionation, Principal Component Analysis, UV-Vis Spectroscopy
Phosphorus forms and response to changes in pH in acid-sensitive soils on the Precambrian Shield
Catchment soil acidification has been suggested as a possible mechanism for reducing phosphorus (P) loading to surface waters in North America and northern Europe, but much of the research that has been conducted regarding P immobilization in pH manipulated soils has been performed at high P concentrations (> 130 μM). This study investigated how soil acidity was related to P fractionation and P sorption at environmentally relevant P concentrations to evaluate the potential influence of long term changes in soil pH on P release to surface waters. Total phosphorus (TP) concentrations declined between 1980 and 2000 in many lakes and streams in central Ontario; over the same time period forest soils in this region became more acidic. Soils were collected from 18 soil pits at three forested catchments with similar bedrock geology but varying TP export loads. The soil pH at the 18 study soil pits spanned the historic soil pH range, allowing for `space for time' comparison of soil P factions. Soils were analysed by horizon for P fractions via Hedley P fractionation. Batch P sorption experiments were performed on selected B-horizon soils at varied solution pH. Soil P fractions varied by horizon but were comparable among the three catchments, with only apatite (PHCl) differing significantly across catchments. Contrary to expectation, both soluble and labile P showed negative relationships with pH in some horizons. Mineral soils were able to sorb almost all (> 90 %) of the P in solution at environmentally relevant P concentrations (4.5 - 45.2 μM). Phosphorus sorption at environmentally relevant P concentrations was unrelated to solution pH but at high P concentration there was a positive relationship between P sorption and solution pH, suggesting a P concentration dependant P sorption mechanism. Phosphorus budgets indicate that P is accumulating within catchments, suggesting that P is being immobilized in the terrestrial environment. An alternative hypothesis, which attempts to explain both the decline in stream TP export and terrestrial P accumulation, is discussed. The results from this study suggest that acidification induced P sorption in upland soils are not a contributing factor to decreases in stream TP concentration in the study catchments. Author Keywords: central Ontario, Hedley fractionation, phosphorus, podzols, soil acidification, sorption
origin and ecological function of an ion inducing anti-predator behaviour in Lithobates tadpoles
Chemical cues are used commonly by prey to identify predation risk in aquatic environments. Previous work has indicated that negatively-charged ions of m/z 501 are possibly a kairomone that induces anti-predator responses in tadpoles. This thesis found that this ion species: (i) is produced by injured tadpoles; (ii) exhibits increased spectral intensity with higher tadpole biomass; and (iii) is not produced by starved predators. These results refute the hypothesis that the ion is a kairomone, and rather support its role as an alarm cue released from tadpoles. High resolution mass spectrometry (HR-MS) revealed a unique elemental composition for [M-H]-, m/z 501.2886, of C26H45O7S-. Collision induced dissociation (CID) of ion m/z 501 formed product ions of m/z 97 and m/z 80, HSO4- and SO3-, respectively, indicating the presence of sulfate. Green frog (Lithobates clamitans) tadpoles exposed to m/z 501, and an industrial analogue, sodium dodecyl sulphate (NaC12H25O4S), exhibited similar anti-predator responses, thereby suggesting the potential role of organic sulfate as a tadpole behavioural alterant. Author Keywords: Alarm cue, Amphibian, Chemical Ecology, Mass spectrometry, Predator-prey interactions
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

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