Graduate Theses & Dissertations


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
The objective of this dissertation is to measure the influence of the contemporary influx of women’s involvement in the horror genre in three dimensional capacities: female representation in horror films, female representation as active, participatory spectators and female representation in the industrial production of horror. Through the combined approach of theoretical and empirical analysis, this dissertation examines the social conditions that facilitated women’s infiltration of the horror genre. Beginning with psychoanalytic theories of spectatorship, it is demonstrated that female filmmakers have challenged horror’s traditional images of victimized women through the development new forms of feminine representation in contemporary horror films. Using data collected from a sample of 52 self-identified female horror fans, it is revealed that the purported invisibility of female horror spectators is a consequence of their alternative modes of consumption. Through interviews conducted with four female producers and an examination of their cultural productions, I illustrate that women have reconstituted the horror genre as a space for inclusivity, political activism and feminist empowerment. Cohesively, these findings reveal the contemporary feminist reclamation of horror to be a form of resistance intended to challenge the patriarchal structures that facilitated women’s historical exclusion from the horror genre. Author Keywords: Abjection, Feminism, Film, Gender, Horror, Psychoanalysis
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
effects of heat dissipation capacity on avian physiology and behaviour
In endotherms, physiological functioning is optimized within a narrow range of tissue temperatures, meaning that the capacity to dissipate body heat is an important parameter for thermoregulation and organismal performance. Yet, experimental research has found mixed support for the importance of heat dissipation capacity as a constraint on reproductive performance. To investigate the effects of heat dissipation capacity on organismal performance, I experimentally manipulated heat dissipation capacity in free-living tree swallows, Tachycineta bicolor, by trimming feathers overlying the brood patch, and monitored parental provisioning performance, body temperature, and offspring growth. I found that individuals with an enhanced capacity to dissipate body heat (i.e., trimmed treatment) provisioned their offspring more frequently, and reared larger offspring that fledged more consistently. Although control birds typically reduced their nestling provisioning rate at the highest ambient temperatures to avoid overheating, at times they became hyperthermic. Additionally, I examined inter-individual variation in body temperature within each treatment, and discovered that body temperature is variable among all individuals. This variability is also consistent over time (i.e., is repeatable), irrespective of treatment. Further, I found that individuals consistently differed in how they adjusted their body temperature across ambient temperature, demonstrating that body temperature is a flexible and repeatable physiological trait. Finally, I used a bacterial endotoxin (lipopolysaccharide) to examine the regulation of body temperature of captive zebra finches (Taeniopygia guttata) during an immune challenge. Exposure to lipopolysaccharide induces sickness behaviours, and results in a fever, hypothermia, or a combination of the two, depending on species and dosage. I asked what the relative role of different regions of the body (bill, eye region, and leg) is in heat dissipation/retention during the sickness-induced body temperature response. I found that immune-challenged individuals modulated their subcutaneous temperature primarily through alterations in peripheral blood flow, particularly in the legs and feet, detectable as a drop in surface temperature. These results demonstrate that the importance of regional differences in regulating body temperature in different contexts. Taken together, my thesis demonstrates that heat dissipation capacity can affect performance and reproductive success in birds. Author Keywords: body temperature, heat dissipation, tree swallow, zebra finch
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
Extraction and Characterization of Hyaluronic Acid and Collagen from Eggshell Membrane Waste
Connecting academia to industry is one important way to advance towards meeting the United Nations (UN) Sustainability Goals (SDGs).1 Sustainability can be applied to all industrial sectors with the SDGs being implemented by 2030.2 This research contributes to the SDGs by investigating a way to remediate an industrial waste stream in the egg-breaking industry. If adopted, this would reduce the amount of eggshell membrane (ESM) waste placed in landfill where it does not decompose properly. The work described in this thesis specifically targets extraction of collagen and hyaluronic acid (HA), two components of the ESM that are of commercial value in the cosmetic, pharmaceutical, and biomedical industries3,4 . Deliverables from this research include economically viable extraction methods, developed based on green chemistry approaches, that can be transferred from lab bench to industrial scale. The extraction development process was guided by the 12 Principles of Green Chemistry5,6,7 and the 12 Principles of Green Engineering.8 HA was most successfully extracted using a sodium acetate solution on ground ESM. Filtrate was collected, exhaustively dialyzed and lyophilized. High molecular weight HA was recovered. Fourier transform infrared attenuated total reflectance (FTIR-ATR) spectroscopy and proton nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy compared extracted material to reference HA identifying successful extraction. Collagen was extracted using acetic acid or pepsin enzyme digestion. Hydrophilic interaction liquid chromatography (HILIC) coupled with mass spectrometry (MS) compared amino acid composition of extracted materials to reference collagen material. FTIR-ATR spectra also supported successful extraction of collagen. This work identifies that HA and collagen can be conveniently extracted from ESM using an economical approach that can be implemented into egg-breaking facilities. This work highlights the benefits of connecting academia to industry to advance green chemical approaches while implementing sustainable practices into existing industry. Author Keywords: collagen, eggshell membrane waste, extraction, green chemistry, hyaluronic acid, sustainability
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
Adoption of a Finite Element Model of Material Deformation Relevant to Studying Corneal Biomechanics
The human cornea is required to exhibit specific material properties to maintain its regular shape under typical intraocular pressures which then allow for its correct optical functionality. In this thesis, the basis of continuum solid mechanics and the finite element method are introduced. We use finite element modelling to simulate the extension of an effective-1d, linear-elastic bar, a cornea-like body governed by Poisson’s equation, and the deformation of a loaded, linear-elastic, cube. Preliminary results for the deformation of a simulated, linear-elastic, cornea have also been achieved using the finite element approach. Author Keywords: continuum solid mechanics, corneal biomechanics, finite element method, intraocular pressure


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