Graduate Theses & Dissertations

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Influence of nitrogen deposition on the vegetation community of Irish oak woodlands
In this study, the influence of N deposition on the vegetation community of semi-natural oak woodlands in Ireland was assessed through national and regional scale analysis of forest plot data. At both scales, Canonical Correspondence Analysis suggested that N deposition was a predictor of community composition, although site-specific soil characteristics were the strongest predictors of the species dataset. Threshold Indicator Taxon Analysis suggested that the vegetation community demonstrated the most change at 13.2 kg N ha-1 yr-1. While this change point falls within the current recommended critical load range for nutrient nitrogen for acidophilous oak dominated woodlands (10 to 15 kg N ha-1 yr-1), it is notable that 23% of species recorded had individual change points below this range, and could potentially be lost from this habitat if deposition increases. The results from this study suggest that, for acidophilous oak woodlands, habitat conservation policies should be unified with N emission reduction policies. Author Keywords: community composition, critical load, nitrogen depositioin, oak woodland, species richness, Taxon Indicator Threshold Analysis
Scarring, sex assignment, and sex-specific sociality of Indo-Pacific humpback dolphins (Sousa chinensis) in the Pearl River Estuary and eastern Taiwan Strait
The Pearl River Estuary (PRE) and eastern Taiwan Strait (ETS) populations of Indo-Pacific humpback dolphins (Sousa chinensis) contain ~600 and 100 catalogued individuals, respectively. Population demography is important for conservation actions but few animals have been sexed by conventional methods. Longitudinal analysis of tooth-rake scars on dorsal fins showed scars disappear within 7 months; sexing adults by scarring is likely not impacted by juvenile scarring. Using dorsal fin photographs, sex assigned for 87% of catalogued PRE adults (n=300) and for 93% of ETS adults (n=60), using scars hypothesized from male-male competition, was in concordance with sex assigned by DNA, calf association, and ventral photographs. Scarring was higher in presumed males than females and in PRE females than ETS females. Female:male sex ratios were 3:2 (PRE) and 2:1 (ETS), though this likely results from biases in photo-identification methods. Social analysis with presumed sexes showed strong female-female associations in both populations but stronger female-male and male-male associations in PRE. These results support sex differentiation by scarring, which was a non-invasive approach, and sex assignment for many PRE and ETS individuals. Author Keywords: Indo-Pacific humpback dolphins, photo-identification, scarring, sex differentiation, sexes, social structure
Ecological and morphological traits that affect the fitness and dispersal potential of Iberian pumpkinseed (Lepomis gibbosus)
The Pumpkinseed (Lepomis gibbosus) is a sunfish that is endemic to eastern portions of Canada and the United States. During the late 19th century, the species was introduced into Europe, and it is now present in over 28 countries. Previous attempts to determine the characteristics that can predict the spread of non-indigenous species have been largely unsuccessful, but new evidence suggests that phenotypic plasticity may help to explain the dispersal and range expansion of some organisms. Experimental comparisons on lower-order taxa have revealed that populations from areas outside of their native range are capable of exhibiting stronger levels of phenotypic plasticity than counterparts from their source of origin. Using Pumpkinseed, I conducted the first native/non- native comparison of phenotypic plasticity in a vertebrate. Progeny from adult Pumpkinseed collected in Ontario, Canada and the Iberian Peninsula (Spain) were reared under variable water velocities, habitat type and competitive pressures, three ecological factors that may affect the dispersal potential of fishes introduced into novel aquatic systems. Differences in phenotypic plasticity, assessed from a morphological perspective, were compared among populations using a traditional distance-based approach. All populations exhibited divergent morphological traits that appeared to be inherited over successive generations. In each experiment, all populations responded to environmental change by developing internal and external morphological forms that, in related taxa, enhance and facilitate foraging and navigation; however, non-native populations always exhibited an overall lower level of phenotypic plasticity. Pumpkinseed from non-native areas may have exhibited a reduction in phenotypic plasticity because of population-based differences. Nevertheless, all Pumpkinseed populations studied were capable of exhibiting phenotypic plasticity to novel environmental conditions, and develop morphological characteristics that may enhance fitness and dispersal in perturbed areas. Author Keywords: Invasive species, Morphology, Phenotypic plasticity, Pumpkinseed sunfish, Reaction norm
Novel Silica Sol-Gel Passive Sampler for Mercury Monitoring in Aqueous Systems
A novel passive sampler for mercury monitoring was prepared using organosilica sol-gel materials. It comprises a binding layer with thiol groups for mercury complexation and a porous diffusive layer through which mercury can diffuse and arrive at the binding layer. Our study demonstrated that this new sampler follows the principle of passive sampling. The mass of mercury accumulated in the binding layer depends linearly on the mercury concentration in solution, the sampling rate and the exposure time. A typical sol-gel sampler is characterized by a diffusive layer of 1.2 &mum, in which mercury ions diffuse with a coefficient of D = 0.09~10-6 cm2/s. The capacity for mercury uptake is approximately 0.64 &mug/cm2. Mercury diffusion and binding in the passive sampler are independent of the type of mercury-chloride complex. Its sampling rate increases with increasing water turbulence and decreases with increasing DOM amount. The field trial of sol-gel sampler in Miller Creek shows the concentration gained from the sol-gel passive sampler is slightly lower than that from the spot sampling. Author Keywords:
SPATIAL AND TEMPORAL GENETIC STRUCTURE OF WOLVERINE POPULATIONS
Habitat loss and fragmentation can disrupt population connectivity, resulting in small, isolated populations and low genetic variability. Understanding connectivity patterns in space and time is critical in conservation and management planning, especially for wide-ranging species in northern latitudes where habitats are becoming increasingly fragmented. Wolverines (Gulo gulo) share similar life history traits observed in large-sized carnivores, and their low resiliency to disturbances limits wolverine persistence in modified or fragmented landscapes - making them a good indicator species for habitat connectivity. In this thesis, I used neutral microsatellite and mitochondrial DNA markers to investigate genetic connectivity patterns of wolverines for different temporal and spatial scales. Population genetic analyses of individuals from North America suggested wolverines west of James Bay in Canada are structured into two contemporary genetic clusters: an extant cluster at the eastern periphery of Manitoba and Ontario, and a northwestern core cluster. Haplotypic composition, however, suggested longstanding differences between the extant eastern periphery and northwestern core clusters. Phylogeographic analyses across the wolverine's Holarctic distribution supported a postglacial expansion from a glacial refugium near Beringia. Although Approximate Bayesian computations suggested a west-to-east stepping-stone divergence pattern across North America, a mismatch distribution indicated a historic bottleneck event approximately 400 generations ago likely influenced present-day patterns of haplotype distribution. I also used an individual-based genetic distance measure to identify landscape features potentially influencing pairwise genetic distances of wolverines in Manitoba and Ontario. Road density and mean spring snow cover were positively associated with genetic distances. Road density was associated with female genetic distance, while spring snow cover variance was associated with male genetic distance. My findings suggest that northward expanding anthropogenic disturbances have the potential to affect genetic connectivity. Overall, my findings suggest that (1) peripheral populations can harbour genetic variants not observed in core populations - increasing species genetic diversity; (2) historic bottlenecks can alter the genetic signature of glacial refugia, resulting in a disjunct distribution of unique genetic variants among contemporary populations; (3) increased temporal resolution of the individual-based genetic distance measure can help identify landscape features associated with genetic connectivity within a population, which may disrupt landscape connectivity. Author Keywords: conservation genetics, Holarctic species, landscape genetics, peripheral population, phylogeography, wolverine
Engaging the Unwritten Text
This study is an attempt to look at how orality plays a role in modern society to move people to action in a social engineering process. By examining the theories for the formation of publics as outlined by Jurgen Habermas and Michael Warner, I argue for the existence of an oral public and further show that it can be engineered with some of the tools provided. This theoretical foundation provides a pathway for a thorough examination of orality as a tool for social engineering and shows how the practices moved the people in the past. In this study, I posit that the oral traditions are still alive and well in modern times and still function as a tool for moving people to social action. To achieve this, orality makes use of popular culture. This study examines elements of popular culture with a view to unearthing the presence of oral modes and how they are still carrying on the same function of social engineering in a modern society. This study concludes by positioning orality as a relevant tool for social engineering in modern Nigerian society and affirms that it is still relevant in the areas of politics, literature and cultural productions with possibilities yet untapped in the area of digital technology. Author Keywords: Nigeria, Orality, Popular culture, Publics, Public Sphere, Social Engineering
Test for Pluralism
This study intervenes into the debate regarding the definition of pluralism in ecological economics and how that definition affects various characterizations of ecological economics. The methodological pluralist camp argue for the inclusion of neoclassical economics into the ecological economics fold, while the critical pluralist camp argue against the inclusion of neoclassical economics. This study provides a critical exposition of the preanalytical visions of neoclassical and ecological economics that includes their respective ontological and epistemological foundations. Those foundations are critically scrutinized for coherence, realism and relevance, and their respective ability to analyze complex systems. It is argued that combining neoclassical and ecological economics renders ecological economics incoherent, and that neoclassical economics fails the test of realism, and its conceptual apparatus is only capable of analyzing simple systems. It is also argued that ecological economics is coherent, passes the test of realism because it is ontologically, socio-historically, and descriptively realistic, and the conceptual apparatus of institutionalist ecological economics incorporates complex systems. It is concluded that practitioners of ecological economics ought to reject and jettison neoclassical economics from their fold and to develop closer connections to and alliances with practitioners of heterodox economics. Keywords: Ecological Economics, Ontology, Coherence, Realism, Systems Thinking. Author Keywords: Coherence, Ecological Economics, Ontology, Systems Thinking
Identifying Indigenous Determinants of Health
The primary research question of this study was to explore the key factors influencing Indigenous health through an investigation of Inuit health in Nunavik. This research used an exploratory sequential mixed-methods design. The qualitative phase of this project employed interviews with Inuit health experts in Nunavik. The quantitative phase involved an analysis of the regional Inuit health dataset to identify predictors of Inuit self-rated health. Qualitative results identified a number of key social, cultural, environmental, and individual determinants of health in the region. Analysis of the quantitative data identified significant associations between variables such as age, physical activity, and peacefulness of the community and self-rated health. Considered in combination, the qualitative and quantitative results of this study indicate the potential value of determinants such as food security, education, and connection to land as important to Indigenous health. The analysis demonstrates that our understanding of health in an Indigenous context has to expand to include determinants beyond physical health. Author Keywords: determinants of health, Indigenous, Inuit, Nunavik, self-rated health
SPAF-network with Saturating Pretraining Neurons
In this work, various aspects of neural networks, pre-trained with denoising autoencoders (DAE) are explored. To saturate neurons more quickly for feature learning in DAE, an activation function that offers higher gradients is introduced. Moreover, the introduction of sparsity functions applied to the hidden layer representations is studied. More importantly, a technique that swaps the activation functions of fully trained DAE to logistic functions is studied, networks trained using this technique are reffered to as SPAF-networks. For evaluation, the popular MNIST dataset as well as all \(3\) sub-datasets of the Chars74k dataset are used for classification purposes. The SPAF-network is also analyzed for the features it learns with a logistic, ReLU and a custom activation function. Lastly future roadmap is proposed for enhancements to the SPAF-network. Author Keywords: Artificial Neural Network, AutoEncoder, Machine Learning, Neural Networks, SPAF network, Unsupervised Learning
Modelling Submerged Coastal Environments
Built upon remote sensing and GIS littoral zone characterization methodologies of the past decade, a series of loosely coupled models aimed to test, compare and synthesize multi-beam SONAR (MBES), Airborne LiDAR Bathymetry (ALB), and satellite based optical data sets in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, Canada, eco-region. Bathymetry and relative intensity metrics for the MBES and ALB data sets were run through a quantitative and qualitative comparison, which included outputs from the Benthic Terrain Modeller (BTM) tool. Substrate classification based on relative intensities of respective data sets and textural indices generated using grey level co-occurrence matrices (GLCM) were investigated. A spatial modelling framework built in ArcGISTM for the derivation of bathymetric data sets from optical satellite imagery was also tested for proof of concept and validation. Where possible, efficiencies and semi-automation for repeatable testing was achieved using ArcGISTM ModelBuilder. The findings from this study could assist future decision makers in the field of coastal management and hydrographic studies. Keywords: Seafloor terrain characterization, Benthic Terrain Modeller (BTM), Multi-beam SONAR, Airborne LiDAR Bathymetry, Satellite Derived Bathymetry, ArcGISTM ModelBuilder, Textural analysis, Substrate classification Author Keywords:
Novel Functional Materials From Renewable Lipids
Vegetable oils represent an ideal and renewable feedstock for the synthesis of a variety of functional materials. However, without financial incentive or unique applications motivating a switch, commercial products continue to be manufactured from petrochemical resources. Two different families of high value, functional materials synthesized from vegetable oils were studied. These materials demonstrate superior and unique performance to comparable petrochemical analogues currently on the market. In the first approach, 3 amphiphilic thermoplastic polytriazoles with differing lipophilic segment lengths were synthesized in a polymerization process without solvents or catalysts. Investigation of monomer structure influence on the resultant functional behaviour of these polymers found distinctive odd/even behaviour reliant on the number of carbon atoms in the monomers. Higher concentrations of triazole groups, due to shorter CH2 chains in the monomeric dialkynes, resulted in more brittle polymers, displaying higher tensile strengths but reduced elongation to break characteristics. These polymers had similar properties to commercial petroleum derived thermoplastics. One polymer demonstrated self-assembled surface microstructuring, and displayed hydrophobic properties. Antimicrobial efficacy of the polymers were tested by applying concentrated bacterial solutions to the surfaces, and near complete inhibition was demonstrated after 4 hours. Scanning electron microscope images of killed bacteria showed extensive membrane damage, consistent with the observed impact of other amphiphilic compounds in literature. These polytriazoles are suited for applications in medical devices and implants, where major concerns over antibiotic resistance are prevalent. In the second approach, a series of symmetric, saturated diester phase change materials (PCMs) were also synthesized with superior latent heat values compared to commercial petrochemical analogues. These diesters exhibit melting temperatures between 39 °C and 77 °C, with latent heats greater than 220 J/g; much greater than paraffin waxes, which are currently the industry standard. Assessment of the trends between differing monomer lengths, in terms of number of CH2 groups of the 24 diesters synthesized exhibited structure/function dependencies in latent heat values and phase change temperatures, providing an understanding of the influence of each monomer on PCM thermal properties. A synthetic procedure was developed to produce these PCMs from a low value biodiesel feedstock. Application of these PCMs in the thermoregulation of hot beverages was demonstrated using a representative diester. This PCM cooled a freshly brewed hot beverage to a desired temperature within 1 minute, compared to 18 minutes required for the control. Furthermore, the PCM kept the beverage within the desired temperature range for 235 minutes, 40 % longer than the control. Author Keywords: Antimicrobial Surface, Click Chemistry, Green Chemistry, Phase Change Material, Polytriazole, Renewable
Mixed methods approaches in marine mammal science
This thesis explored the contribution of mixed methods approaches to marine mammal science through the use of concurrent and sequential designs to study distribution and feeding ecology of bowhead whales (Balaena mysticetus) in the Arctic region of Nunavik, Quebec, Canada. The study combines Inuit knowledge (IK), collected through semi-directed interviews with Inuit harvesters, and analyses of stable isotopes and trace elements (SI/TE) in baleen plates. A systematic literature review found that mixed methods are increasingly used in marine mammal ecology studies in remote locations, yet are still relatively rare and face a number of challenges. Both IK and SI/TE, indicated that bowhead whales have a seasonal pattern in their distribution and feeding ecology. They are most commonly present in productive nearshore areas in summertime, feeding in areas of great prey diversity, and moving to offshore areas in winter to fast. Mixed methods approaches used in this case study enabled the collection of complementary knowledge about bowhead whale ecology important for local management in a changing climate. This study also shows the value of mixed methods approaches for future marine mammal studies in Nunavik and elsewhere. Author Keywords: Arctic, bowhead whale, distribution, feeding ecology, mixed methods, traditional ecological knowledge

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1973 - 2033
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Format: 2023/06/03