Graduate Theses & Dissertations

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Time Series Algorithms in Machine Learning - A Graph Approach to Multivariate Forecasting
Forecasting future values of time series has long been a field with many and varied applications, from climate and weather forecasting to stock prediction and economic planning to the control of industrial processes. Many of these problems involve not only a single time series but many simultaneous series which may influence each other. This thesis provides methods based on machine learning of handling such problems. We first consider single time series with both single and multiple features. We review the algorithms and unique challenges involved in applying machine learning to time series. Many machine learning algorithms when used for regression are designed to produce a single output value for each timestamp of interest with no measure of confidence; however, evaluating the uncertainty of the predictions is an important component for practical forecasting. We therefore discuss methods of constructing uncertainty estimates in the form of prediction intervals for each prediction. Stability over long time horizons is also a concern for these algorithms as recursion is a common method used to generate predictions over long time intervals. To address this, we present methods of maintaining stability in the forecast even over large time horizons. These methods are applied to an electricity forecasting problem where we demonstrate the effectiveness for support vector machines, neural networks and gradient boosted trees. We next consider spatiotemporal problems, which consist of multiple interlinked time series, each of which may contain multiple features. We represent these problems using graphs, allowing us to learn relationships using graph neural networks. Existing methods of doing this generally make use of separate time and spatial (graph) layers, or simply replace operations in temporal layers with graph operations. We show that these approaches have difficulty learning relationships that contain time lags of several time steps. To address this, we propose a new layer inspired by the long-short term memory (LSTM) recurrent neural network which adds a distinct memory state dedicated to learning graph relationships while keeping the original memory state. This allows the model to consider temporally distant events at other nodes without affecting its ability to model long-term relationships at a single node. We show that this model is capable of learning the long-term patterns that existing models struggle with. We then apply this model to a number of real-world bike-share and traffic datasets where we observe improved performance when compared to other models with similar numbers of parameters. Author Keywords: forecasting, graph neural network, LSTM, machine learning, neural network, time series
Population Genetics and Gut Microbiome Composition Reveal Subdivisions and Space Use in a Generalist and Specialist Ungulate
Natural populations are often difficult and costly to study, due to the plethora of confounding processes and variables present. This is of particular importance when dealing with managed species. Ungulates, for example, act as both consumers and prey sources; they also provide economic benefit through harvest, and as such, are of high ecological and economic value. I addressed conservation and management concerns by quantifying subdivision in wild populations and combined movement with non-invasive sampling to provide novel insight on the physiological drivers of space use in multiple species. This thesis explored biological patterns in ungulates using two distinct approaches: the first used molecular genetics to quantify gene flow, while the second examined the relationship between movement and the gut microbiome using high-throughput sequencing and GPS tracking. The goal of the first chapter was to quantify gene flow and assess the population structure of mountain goats (Oreamnos americanus) in northern British Columbia (BC) to inform management. I used microsatellites to generate genotype data and used a landscape genetics framework to evaluate the possible drivers behind genetic differentiation. The same analyses were performed at both a broad and fine scale, assessing genetic differentiation between populations in all of northern BC and in a case management study area northeast of Smithers BC. The results indicated panmixia among mountain goats regardless of scale, suggesting distance and landscape resistance were minimally inhibiting gene flow. Therefore, management at local scales can continue with little need for genetically informed boundaries, but regulations should be tailored to specific regions incorporating data on local access and harvest pressure. My second chapter aimed to determine the extent to which the gut microbiome drives space-use patterns in a specialist (mountain goat) and generalist (white-tailed deer, Odocoileus virginianus) ungulate. Using fecal samples, we generated genomic data using 16S rRNA high-throughput sequencing to evaluate gut diversity and gut microbiome characteristics. Additionally, individuals were fitted with GPS collars so that we could gain insight into movement patterns. Gut microbiome metrics were stronger predictors of space use and movement patterns with respect to home range size, whereas they were weaker predictors of habitat use. Notably, factors of both the gut microbiome and age of a given species were correlated with changes in space use and habitat use. Ultimately, this research linked high-throughput sequencing and GPS data to better understand ecological processes in wild ungulates. Author Keywords: gene flow, genomics, gut microbiome, home range, population genetic structure, ungulates
Comparative efficacy of eDNA and conventional methods for monitoring wetland anuran communities
Identifying population declines and mitigating biodiversity loss require reliable monitoring techniques, but complex life histories and cryptic characteristics of anuran species render conventional monitoring challenging and ineffective. Environmental DNA (eDNA) detection is a highly sensitive and minimally invasive alternative to conventional anuran monitoring. In this study, I conducted a field experiment in 30 natural wetlands to compare efficacy of eDNA detection via qPCR to three conventional methods (visual encounter, breeding call, and larval dipnet surveys) for nine anuran species. eDNA and visual encounter surveys detected the greatest species richness, with eDNA methods requiring the fewest sampling events. However, community composition results differed among methods, indicating that even top performing methods missed species detections. Overall, the most effective detection method varied by species, with some species requiring two to three methods to make all possible detections. Further, eDNA detection rates varied by sampling season for two species (A. americanus and H. versicolor), suggesting that species-specific ecology such as breeding and larval periods play an important role in eDNA presence. These findings suggest that optimized monitoring of complex anuran communities may require two or more monitoring methods selected based on the physiology and biology of all target species. Author Keywords: amphibian, anuran, conventional monitoring, eDNA, environmental DNA, species richness
Assessing the Cost of Reproduction between Male and Female Sex Functions in Hermaphroditic Plants
The cost of reproduction refers to the use of resources for the production of offspring that decreases the availability of resources for future reproductive events and other biological processes. Models of sex-allocation provide insights into optimal patterns of resource investment in male and female sex functions and have been extended to include other components of the life history, enabling assessment of the costs of reproduction. These models have shown that, in general, costs of reproduction through female function should usually exceed costs through male function. However, those previous models only considered allocations from a single pool of shared resources. Recent studies have indicated that the type of resource currency can differ for female and male sex functions, and that this might affect costs of reproduction via effects on other components of the life history. Using multiple invasibility analysis, this study examined resource allocation to male and female sex functions, while simultaneously considering allocations to survival and growth. Allocation patterns were modelled using both shared and separate resource pools. Under shared resources, allocation patterns to male and female sex function followed the results of earlier models. When resource pools were separate, however, allocations to male function often exceeded allocations to female function, even if fitness gains increased less strongly with investment in male function than with investment in female function. These results demonstrate that the costs of reproduction are affected by (1) the types of resources needed for reproduction via female or male function and (2) via trade-offs with other components of the life history. Future studies of the costs of reproduction should examine whether allocations to reproduction via female versus male function usually entail the use of different types of resources. Author Keywords: Cost of Reproduction, Gain Curve, Life History, Resource Allocation Patterns, Resource Currencies
Assessing Brook Trout (Salvelinus fontinalis) Seasonal Occupancy in Haliburton County, ON Using Environmental DNA
Brook trout (Salvelinus fontinalis) are declining across Ontario in both numbers and distribution, prompting concern for their future. Here, conventional, emerging, and predictive tools were combined to document brook trout occupation across seasons using streams in Haliburton County, ON as model systems. By using the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry’s (OMNRFs) Aquatic Ecosystem Classification (AEC) system variables with environmental DNA (eDNA) sampling and backpack electrofishing, my research supports the development of species occupancy models (SOMs) and eDNA as tools to document brook trout occurrence. To do this, eDNA sampling was validated in Canadian Shield stream environments by comparison with single-pass backpack electrofishing before seasonally sampling two river systems across their main channel and tributaries to assess occupancy. Streams were classified as potential high, moderate, and low-quality brook trout habitats using indicator variables within the AEC and sampled seasonally with eDNA to quantify occupancy and relate it to habitat potential at the county scale. Results showed eDNA to be an effective tool for monitoring fish across Canadian Shield landscapes and that brook trout occupancy varied seasonally within and across watersheds, suggesting that habitat and fish management strategies need to consider seasonal movement and spatial connectivity. Using these tools will enable biologists to efficiently predict and document brook trout occurrences and habitat use across the landscape. Author Keywords: Aquatic Ecosystem Classification, brook trout, Canadian Shield, connectivity, environmental DNA, seasonal occupation
Diversity, Biogeography, and Functional Traits of Native Bees from Ontario’s Far North and Akimiski Island, Nunavut
Bees (clade Anthophila), are poorly studied in northern Canada, as these regions can be difficult to access and have a short growing season. This study examined bees from two such regions: Ontario’s Far North, and Akimiski Island, Nunavut. I present this study as the largest biogeographical study of bees performed in these remote areas to enhance knowledge of northern native bees. I found 10 geographically unexpected species in Ontario and on Akimiski Island. Rarefaction and the Chao 1 Diversity Index showed that Akimiski is nearly as diverse as the Far North of Ontario, a significantly larger area. I also found, based on log femur length versus latitude, Bombus worker size was consistent with Bergmann’s rule, and there were no apparent statistical differences in the community weighted means of functional traits between the Far North’s Boreal Shield and Hudson Bay Lowlands ecozones. This work provides invaluable knowledge of the native bee species from these regions, which has implications for their future conservation. Author Keywords: Akimiski Island, Bergmann's rule, Chao 1, Community-weighted means, native bees, rarefaction
Shoreline Stewardship
This thesis aimed to determine what factors influence individual- and community-level shoreline stewardship attitudes and behaviours. Shoreline stewardship is part of the broader literature of environmental stewardship and place-based conservation. The needs and barriers limiting stewardship action were examined, as were the opportunities for increased impact. The Love Your Lake (LYL) program served as a case study into the impact of ENGO programming on shoreline stewardship among shoreline property owners in Ontario. This was investigated using a program workshop, interviews and focus groups with past program participants, and existing participant survey data. Community-Based Social Marketing principles were used to further examine the opportunities for increased impact on stewardship behaviour. The study found that the LYL program was effective in starting or continuing a conversation in communities around shoreline health. Some of the remaining needs and/or barriers included limited time at the cottage; limited knowledge of how to fix existing shoreline issues; low stock of local native plants and environmentally minded landscapers; ineffective messaging; a lack of interest, enthusiasm or concern; and weak environmental policies and governance of shorelines. Some participants also listed cost as a barrier, while others felt it had been well addressed already. Most participants thought that education could be a barrier but that it had been well addressed locally through LYL or other programming. Some key motivators and opportunities to increase shoreline stewardship included community building, increased lake association capacity, improved communication and marketing strategies, and persistence. Author Keywords: Community-Based Social Marketing, Environmental Stewardship, Lake Health, Place-Based Conservation, Pro-Environmental Behaviour, Shoreline Stewardship
Perspectives on Poultry
The contemporary denigration of poultry combined with the intensification of industrialized animal agriculture has deepened divides between humans and poultry, creating a disconnect that holds implications for both parties and the sustainability of North American food systems. This study explores how people with poultry keeping experience perceive these animals, how their views are influenced and how these narratives may intersect with themes of sustainability. Surveys and interviews aimed at small flock keepers and commercial farmers within an area of Central Ontario revealed that poultry sentience was widely recognized among participants. Overall, this study’s findings disrupt commonly held notions that poultry are one-dimensional beings and highlight the mutual benefits that can come when the distance is lessened between humans and poultry. This research contends that reimagining human-poultry relationships could improve our ability to consider and challenge dominant systems that perpetuates unsustainable food production and negatively affects both animal and human life. Author Keywords: history poultry keeping, human-animal studies, human-poultry relationships, keeper attitudes, poultry sentience, sustainable food systems
Enhanced weathering and carbonation of kimberlite residues from South African diamond mines
Mafic and ultramafic mine wastes have the potential to sequester atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) through enhanced weathering and CO2 mineralization. In this study, kimberlite residues from South African diamond mines were investigated to understand how weathering of these wastes leads to the formation of secondary carbonate minerals, a stable sink for CO2. Residues from Venetia Diamond Mine were fine-grained with high surface areas, and contained major abundances of lizardite, diopside, and clinochlore providing a maximum CO2 sequestration capacity of 3–6% of the mines emissions. Experiments utilized flux chambers to measure CO2 drawdown within residues and unweathered kimberlite exhibited greater negative fluxes (-790 g CO2/m2/year) compared to residues previously exposed to process waters (-190 g CO2/m2/year). Long-term weathering of kimberlite residues was explored using automated wet-dry cycles (4/day) over one year. Increases in the δ13C and δ18O values of carbonate minerals and unchanged amount of inorganic carbon indicate CO2 cycling as opposed to a net increase in carbon. Kimberlite collected at Voorspoed Diamond Mine contained twice as much carbonate in yellow ground (weathered) compared to blue ground, demonstrating the ability of kimberlite to store CO2 through prolonged weathering. This research is contributing towards the utilization of kimberlite residues and waste rock for CO2 sequestration. Author Keywords: CO2 fluxes, CO2 mineralization, CO2 sequestration, Enhanced weathering, Kimberlite, Passive carbonation
Fungal pathogen emergence
The emergence of fungal hybrid pathogens threatens sustainable crop production worldwide. To investigate hybridization, the related smut fungi, Ustilago maydis and Sporisorium reilianum, were selected because they infect a common host (Zea mays), can hybridize, and tools are available for their analysis. Hybrid dikaryons exhibited filamentous growth on plates but reduced virulence and limited colonization in Z. mays. Select virulence genes in the hybrid had similar transcript levels on plates and altered levels during infection of Z. mays relative to each parental dikaryon. Virulence genes were constitutively expressed in the hybrid to determine if its pathogenic development could be influenced. Little impact was observed in hybrids with increased expression of effectors known to modify host response and metabolism. However, increased expression of transcriptional regulators of stage specific pathogenic development increased the hybrid’s capacity to induce symptoms. These results establish a base for investigating molecular aspects of fungal hybrid pathogen emergence. Author Keywords: effectors, hybrid pathogenesis assays, Sporisorium reilianum, transcription factors, Ustilago maydis, virulence factors
Finding Cowboy Joe
Canadian authored diverse LGBTQ2S children's picture books can help counter socialized aspects of heteronormativity and other forms of oppression. This thesis outlines the challenging process for identifying and locating Canadian authored diverse LGBTQ2S children's picture books, with suggestions provided for mitigating this process. Twenty-two books (list and summaries included) are collected and then analysed through three different lenses: Sipe’s Semiotically Framed Theory of Text-pictured Relationships; intersectionality; and Canadian Studies. Findings include: the significance of a micro press in offering representation for queer intersectionality, the shift from the portrayal of discrimination against queer parents to an attention to the policing of children’s gender identity and expression, and the embrace of the child on their own terms. In addition, a Canadian queer children’s book has been created by the researcher, developed through the process of writing of this thesis. Author Keywords: Canadian authors, Canadian identity, children’s picture books, countering heteronormativity, ethnic diversity, LGBTQ2S
(Re)encountering black bears
This thesis explores the perceptions of human-bear interactions in Ontario, suggesting that they have been shaped by narratives that have roots in colonial perceptions of nonhuman animals. Further, I seek to consider how these interactions could unfold differently if we rethought our relationships and responsibilities to these beings, in particular through an embrace of Indigenous-led conservation informed by ideas of animal welfare. The methods used for this research were first empirical, through qualitative data collection via interviews. Second, it was interpretive, through the observation of bear experiences and through the analysis of circulated and conceptual themes of bear information found in media articles. What emerged was an understanding that the mitigation efforts which are used when human-bear interactions occur are deeply influenced by political, social, and cultural factors that cannot be removed from these matters, asserting that a reconceptualization of current conservation frameworks needs to be considered. Author Keywords: Compassionate conservation, Human-bear interactions, Human-wildlife relations, Indigenous conservation, Narrative inquiry, Wildlife conservation

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Format: 2021/10/18