Graduate Theses & Dissertations

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Problem-Solving and Cognitive Flexibility in Older Adolescents and Young Adults
Ill-structured problems have changing components that solvers need to adapt their solutions to. Well-structured problems have strict, well-defined procedures, and solvers must know which procedures to apply and when. Research has suggested that these two types of problems utilize different problem-solving skills. The current study focused on the relation between ill-structured interpersonal problem solving, novel well-structured problem-solving, and cognitive flexibility in young adults and older adolescents. It was predicted that because of the changing components of ill-structured problems, cognitive flexibility would more strongly predict these compared to well-structured problems. The current study sample consisted of 73 undergraduates with an average age of 20.43 years. The results showed that cognitive flexibility is equally associated with ill-structured problem-solving and well-structured problem-solving. This suggests that cognitive flexibility may support the perspective coordination involved in solving ill-structured problems and that cognitive flexibility may support switching between search strategies when solving a novel well-structured problem. Author Keywords: adolescent, adult, cognitive flexibility, ill-structured problem-solving, novel problems, well-structured problem-solving
role of Cln5 in autophagy, using a Dictyostelium discoideum model of Batten disease
This thesis investigated the role of the neuronal ceroid lipofuscinosis protein, Cln5, during autophagy. This was accomplished by performing well-established assays in a Dictyostelium cln5 knockout model (cln5-). In this study, cln5- cells displayed a reduced maximum cell density during growth and impaired cell proliferation in autophagy-stimulating media. cln5- cells had an increased number of autophagic puncta (autophagosomes and lysosomes), suggesting that autophagy is induced when cln5 is absent. cln5- cells displayed increased amounts of ubiquitin-positive proteins but had no change in proteasome protein abundance. During the development of cln5- cells, fruiting bodies developed precociously and cln5- slug size was reduced. Lastly, when cln5- cells were developed on water agar containing ammonium chloride (NH4Cl), a lysosomotropic agent, the formation of multicellular structures was impaired, and the small slug phenotype was exaggerated. In summary, these results indicate that Cln5 plays a role in autophagy in Dictyostelium. The cellular processes that regulate autophagy in Dictyostelium are similar to those that regulate the process in mammalian cells. Thus, this research provides insight into the undefined pathological mechanism of CLN5 disease and could identify cellular pathways for targeted therapeutics. Author Keywords: Autophagy, Batten disease, Cln5, Dictyostelium discoideum, NCL
Tracking Mercury and Mercury Stable Isotopes Throughout the Wabigoon/English River System
In the Wabigoon/English River system, mercury concentrations downstream from Dryden, ON, where there was a former chlor-alkali plant, remain elevated in sediments and biota. Understanding the current extent and severity of mercury contamination downstream from the former chlor-alkali plant is of great interest in furthering the clean-up of mercury within the traditional territory of Asubpeeschoseewagong Netum (Grassy Narrows) First Nation. The objective of this study was to evaluate the current level and extent of mercury contamination within sediments, crayfish, Hexagenia mayflies, yellow perch, spottail shiner and walleye in the Wabigoon/English River system. An additional objective was to use mercury stable isotope analysis to distinguish between legacy mercury from the former chlor-alkali plant and mercury from geogenic sources. Mercury contamination within surface sediments and biota at locations as far as 178 kms downstream of the historical source of mercury contamination are elevated relative to the reference lake, Wabigoon Lake. Isotope ratios in young of the year fish and sediments collected from within the system were distinct from fish from the reference lake, Wabigoon Lake, indicating that anthropogenic mercury contamination is distinguishable from geogenic mercury. Author Keywords:
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
Passage population size, demography, and timing of migration of Red Knots (Calidris canutus rufa) staging in southwestern James Bay
Many shorebirds rely on small numbers of staging sites during long annual migrations. Numerous species are declining and understanding the importance of staging sites is critical to successful conservation. We surveyed endangered rufa Red Knots staging in James Bay, Ontario during southbound migration from 2009 to 2018. We used an integrated population model to estimate passage population size in 2017 and 2018 and found that up to 27% of the total rufa population staged in James Bay. We also extended the model to incorporate age composition of the passage population. In future applications, this method could improve our understanding of the role of breeding success in population declines. We then estimated annual apparent survival from 2009 to 2018. Survival remained near constant, though lower than estimated elsewhere in the Red Knot range, which may reflect higher permanent emigration rates rather than truly lower survival. This work demonstrates that this northern region is a key staging site for endangered Red Knots and should be included in conservation planning. Author Keywords: integrated population model, mark-recapture, migratory stopover, shorebirds, species at risk, survival
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
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
Potential for Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Sediments of Agricultural Streams and Lake Erie
This thesis examines how dissolved organic matter quantity and quality and nutrients influence the flux potential of greenhouse gases (GHG) from sediments collected from streams across southern Ontario as well as Lake Erie. Sediments were collected and incubated in a laboratory setting where headspace gases and interstitial waters were analyzed. Results demonstrated that nutrients (dissolved organic carbon (DOC), total dissolved phosphorous (TDP) and total dissolved nitrogen (TDN)) were commonly significant predictors of CO2, CH4, and N2O fluxes, but spatial discrepancies were observed for the significance of DOM quality and sedimentary characteristics. Land use was not found to be directly related to gas flux potential. Different relationships were observed between the streams and lake, and between the basins of Lake Erie. Overall, results from this study suggest that sediments from freshwater systems have the potential to be sources of GHG, the degree of which depends on nutrient concentrations and DOM structure from watershed inputs. Author Keywords: dissolved organic matter, greenhouse gases, Lake Erie, nutrients, sediment, streams
Disease ecology of ophidiomycosis in free-ranging snakes
Ophidiomycosis (snake fungal disease) is caused by the pathogen Ophidiomyces ophiodiicola. Infected snakes exhibit dermal lesions, occasional systemic infections, and, in some cases, mortality. We studied snakes at Rondeau Provincial Park, Ontario, Canada, to explore whether ophidiomycosis develops during brumation or year-round. Throughout their active season, we quantified the prevalence of clinical signs of the disease on snakes and conducted qPCR of skin swabs to determine the prevalence of O. ophiodiicola on snakes. Prevalence of O. ophiodiicola and disease symptoms were highest on eastern foxsnakes (Pantherophis vulpinus) and very rare on other snake species. In P. vulpinus, pathogen and clinical sign prevalence was highest, directly after emergence from overwintering, with the majority of P. vulpinus being able to resolve clinical signs of ophidiomycosis by the return of winter. When we analyzed the survivorship of P. vulpinus we determined that the likelihood of a snake dying with ophidiomycosis is similar to a snake dying without ophidiomycosis. Given that P. vulpinus were the most affected species at our study site, ophidiomycosis does not appear to pose an imminent threat to our study population of P. vulpinus under current conditions. Author Keywords: Eastern Foxsnake, Fitness, Ophidiomycosis, Pantherophis vulpinus, Seasonal trends, Snake fungal disease

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Format: 2024/04/13