Graduate Theses & Dissertations


Effect of the neonicotinoid imidacloprid on embryogenesis and anuran survivorship in frog virus 3 infected tadpoles
Exposure of pre-metamorphic amphibians to neonicotinoid insecticides may be contributing to the global decline in amphibian populations. In this study, anuran embryos and tadpoles of the African clawed frog (Xenopus laevis) and the North American leopard frog (Lithobates pipiens) were used to determine the effects of embryonic exposure to neonicotinoids. In addition, Xenopus was used to determine if prolonged exposure to neonicotinoids influenced tadpole sensitivity to frog virus 3 (FV3). Exposure of anuran embryos to concentrations of the neonicotinoid insecticide, imidacloprid, ranging from 1 -20 ppm induced a concentration dependent increase in malformations of the retina in Xenopus embryos. However, similar responses were not observed with embryos of leopard frogs. Exposure of Xenopus tadpoles to 500 ppb concentration of imidacloprid followed by challenge with FV3 showed that pesticide exposure unexpectedly decreased the rates of mortality, although total mortalities by the end of the experiment were not significantly different from controls. This unexpected observation may be attributed to a reduced inflammatory response induced by exposure to imidacloprid. Despite the low acute toxicity of neonicotinoid insecticides to vertebrates, these studies indicate that exposure to this class of insecticides causes sublethal effects in anuran species during early life stages. Author Keywords: embryogenesis, Lithobates pipiens, neonicotinoid, ranavirus, tadpole, Xenopus laevis
successful invader in expansion
Researchers have shown increasing interest in biological invasions for the associated ecological and economic impacts as well as for the opportunities they offer to study the mechanisms that induce range expansion in novel environments. I investigated the strategies exhibited by invasive species that facilitate range expansion. Invasive populations exhibit shifts in life-history strategy that may enable appropriate responses to novel biotic and abiotic factors encountered during range expansion. The spatio-temporal scales at which these shifts occur are largely unexplored. Furthermore, it is not known whether the observed dynamic shifts represent a consistent biological response of a given species to range shifts, or whether the shifts are affected by the abiotic characteristics of the new systems. I examined the life-history responses of female round gobies Neogobius melanastomus across fine and coarser spatial scales behind the expansion front and investigated whether invasive populations encountering different environmental conditions (Ontario vs France) exhibited similar life-history shifts. In both study systems, I found an increase in reproductive investment at invasion fronts compared to longer established areas at coarse and fine scales. The results suggest a similar response to range shifts, or a common invasion strategy independent of environmental conditions experienced, and highlight the dynamic nature of an invasive population’s life history behind the invasion front. The second part of my research focused on the development of an appropriate eDNA method for detecting invasive species at early stages of invasion to enable early detection and rapid management response. I developed a simple, inexpensive device for collecting water samples at selected depths for eDNA analysis, including near the substrate where eDNA concentration of benthic species is likely elevated. I also developed a protocol to optimise DNA extraction from water samples that contain elevated concentration of inhibiters, in particular near-bottom samples. Paired testing of eDNA and conventional surveys was used to monitor round goby expansion along its invasion pathway. Round gobies were detected in more sites with eDNA, permitting earlier, more accurate, upstream detection of the expansion front. My study demonstrated the accuracy and the power of using eDNA survey method to locate invasion fronts. Author Keywords: Age-specific reproductive investment, DNA extraction, Energy allocation, Fecundity, Invasion front, Range expansion
Temperature effects on the routine metabolic rates of brook trout (Salvelinus fontinalis) eggs, alevin and fry
Early developmental stages of cold-adapted ectotherms such as brook trout (Salvelinus fontinalis) are at risk of mortality with increasing water temperatures because of their sensitivity to changes in their environment. I studied the mass and routine metabolic rate (RMR) of wild-origin brook trout eggs, alevin and young fry reared at normal (5°C) and elevated (9°C) temperatures for the duration of the study or at mismatched temperatures. This setup determined if preconditioning acclimation for one temperature benefits or hinders the organism later in life. Three levels of biological organization (ancestry, population, family) were studied using Akaike’s Information Criterion (AIC) to identify models that best accounted for variation in the data. Family, mass and temperature were most important in predicting body mass and mass-adjusted RMR, although population and ancestral-level differences were also detected at some life stages. Strong variation in body mass and mass-adjusted RMR among families may indicate adaptive potential within brook trout populations to respond to increases in water temperature with climate change. Author Keywords: Acclimation, AIC, Brook trout (Salvelinus fontinalis), Environmental matching, Routine metabolic rate, Temperature
Exploring reproduction in wild blue lupine (Lupinus perennis) in comparison to L. polyphyllus and L. albus
Wild lupine (Lupinus perennis) restoration efforts seek to increase and connect populations, using seeds, to facilitate the recovery of endangered butterflys in Ontario. This study observed plant growth and phytohormone levels of L. albus, L. polyphyllus, and L. perennis through stages of seed development, each with varying strategies in growth and reproductive investment. L. polyphyllus is similar to L. perennis in morphology, acting as similar comparable with L. albus, a well-studied annual, as an outgroup comparator. Wild lupines showed a lack of sexual reproductive effort as they did not put as much effort into above ground growth, and few in the population reproduces. They also showed cis-zeatin, a weaker cytokinin, throughout development and had higher amounts of abscisic acid at the end of seed maturity, impacting their ability to develop and germinate. These factors contribute to why wild lupines are difficult to restore using seeds, limiting expansion and challenging restoration. Author Keywords: L. albus, L. perennis, L. polyphyllus, plant physiology, seed development, Wild blue lupine
Linking Inuit and Scientific Knowledge and Observations to Better Understand Arctic Char (Salvelinus alpinus (L.)) Community Monitoring
Arctic Char (Salvelinus alpinus (L.)) have been, and remain, an important subsistence resource for the Inuvialuit, the Inuit of the western Canadian Arctic. The effects of climate variability and change (CVC) in this region have been noticeably increasing over the past three decades. There are concerns as to how CVC will affect Arctic Char and the Inuvialuit who rely on this resource as they will have to adapt to changes in the fishery. Community-based monitoring, is an important tool for managing Arctic Char. Therefore, my dissertation focused on the central question of: Which community-based monitoring factors and parameters would provide the information needed by local resources users and decision-makers to make informed choices for managing Arctic Char populations in light of CVC? This question is investigated through an exploratory research approach and a mixed method research design, using both scientific and social science methods, and quantitative (scientific ecological knowledge and observation) and qualitative (Inuvialuit knowledge and observation) information. It is formatted as three journal manuscripts, an introduction, and an integrative discussion. The first manuscript examines potential habitat parameters for monitoring landlocked Arctic Char condition in three lakes on Banks Island in the Inuvialuit Settlement Region. The second manuscript examines potential local environmental parameters for monitoring landlocked Arctic Char growth in the same three lakes. The third manuscript investigates aspects of Arctic Char community-based monitoring programs (CBMP) in the Canadian North that have led to the sustained collection of useful data for management of the resource. This dissertation makes contributions to the field of research by demonstrating the utility of a mixed methods approach. The results demonstrate similarities and differences in char growth and condition within and among Capron, Kuptan and Middle lakes on Banks Island. This supports both lake-specific and regional climate-driven changes, meaning both lake habitat and local environmental monitoring parameters should be used in char CBMP. The investigation of char CBMP across northern Canada demonstrates that an adaptive monitoring approach is important for subsistence fisheries, as changing lifestyles and environmental changes impacting a fishery can have direct effects on the successful operation of char CBMP. Author Keywords: Arctic Char, community-based monitoring, environment, Inuit Knowledge, mixed methods, Traditional Knowledge
Enhancing forensic entomology applications
The purpose of this thesis is to enhance forensic entomology applications through identifications and ecological research with samples collected in collaboration with the OPP and RCMP across Canada. For this, we focus on blow flies (Diptera: Calliphoridae) and present data collected from 2011-2013 from different terrestrial habitats to analyze morphology and species composition. Specifically, these data were used to: 1) enhance and simplify morphological identifications of two commonly caught forensically relevant species; Phormia regina and Protophormia terraenovae, using their frons-width to head-width ratio as an additional identifying feature where we found distinct measurements between species, and 2) to assess habitat specificity for urban and rural landscapes, and the scale of influence on species composition when comparing urban and rural habitats across all locations surveyed where we found an effect of urban habitat on blow fly species composition. These data help refine current forensic entomology applications by adding to the growing knowledge of distinguishing morphological features, and our understanding of habitat use by Canada’s blow fly species which may be used by other researchers or forensic practitioners. Author Keywords: Calliphoridae, Ecology, Forensic Entomology, Forensic Science, Morphology, Urban
Social discrimination by female polar bears (Ursus maritimus) when accompanied by dependent offspring during the ice-free season in southern and western Hudson Bay and James Bay
Polar bears are generally described as solitary, but features of their life cycles and habitats regularly necessitate interaction. Effective conspecific assessment, including accurate recognition and discrimination, likely confers benefits, especially to females accompanied by dependent young. Individuals in the Southern (SH) and Western (WH) Hudson Bay subpopulations are ideal for studying polar bear social behaviours because of the prolonged high densities of the ice-free season. First, I looked outside family groups to model their fine scale sociospatial organization on land. Capture locations were more likely to correspond to family groups when there were fewer neighbouring bears, when a greater proportion of neighbours were female, and when the focal individual and neighbours were significantly related. Second, I looked within the family group to assess offspring recognition. Of 288 offspring in 207 family groups captured in the SH subpopulation from 1999 through 2013, only one case of adoption (of a singleton) was observed. Author Keywords: Adoption, Kin Recognition, Logistic Regression, Maternity Analysis, Social Discrimination, Sociospatial
Fate and Effects of Silver Nanoparticle Addition in a Lake Ecosystem
The potential release of nanoparticles into aquatic environments is raising global concerns. As antimicrobials, silver nanoparticles (AgNPs) are among the most prominent form in use. Despite this, their fate, long-term toxicity, and ecological relevance have yet to be investigated largely under natural settings with seasonality and environmental complexity. To better understand the environmental significance, we released AgNPs into Lake 222 at the Experimental Lakes Area over two years. AgNPs remained suspended in the water column and were detected throughout the lake and in the lower food web. Total Ag concentrations ranged from below 0.07 to 18.9 μg L-1 in lake water, and were highly dynamic seasonally both in the epilimnion and hypolimnion depending on the physical, chemical and biological conditions of the lake. Approximately 60% of the measured Ag mass in October was present in the sediment in 2014 and 50% in 2015 demonstrating relatively high sedimentation and removal from the water column. During winter months, Ag was largely absent in the water column under the ice. After ice melt and before summer stratification, Ag concentrations increased in the lake suggesting AgNPs may not be tightly bound to the sediment and are able re-enter the water column during spring mixing events. Despite temporal variation, total Ag was highly synchronous across spatial locations for both years, indicating rapid dispersal upon lake entry. When investigating AgNP sizes using spICPMS, size distributions were similar across spatial locations, with the 40-60 nm size class constituting approximately 60% of all particles identified. Large aggregates (>100 nm) and dissolved Ag were infrequently detected within the lake. Ag accumulated in the lower food web ranging from 0.27-16.82 μg Ag mg C-1 in the bacterioplankton and 0.17-6.45 μg Ag mg C-1 in algae (particulate fraction). Partial least squares models revealed the highest predictors of Ag accumulation were dissolved nutrients including DOC, TDN, TDP in bacterioplankton. Major predictors for particulate Ag included temperature, dissolved oxygen, and sampling date. The diversity of predictors among biological compartments emphasizes the importance of understanding the role of environmental complexity within the lower food web. Despite Ag accumulation we did not detect strong negative effects on the lake food web. An increase in particulate and bacterioplankton chlorophyll-a occurred after addition in contrast to reference lakes, which may indicate a hormetic response to low dose AgNP concentrations. Our findings provide the first whole-lake perspective regarding Ag fate and toxicity, suggesting small scale experiments may overestimate environmental responses. Author Keywords: Ecotoxicity, Fate, Lower food web, Silver Nanoparticles, Whole-lake addition
Island Syndrome and Stress Physiology of Mice in the Genus Peromyscus
Biological differences between island and mainland conspecifics have been well studied, but few studies have addressed differences in stress physiology. Stressors, such as predation and competition for resources, cause the release of glucocorticoids (GCs). Characteristics of island wildlife, called “island syndrome”, are attributed to low levels of predators and competitors. I tested the hypothesis that island syndrome includes differences in GC levels between island and mainland rodents using two approaches; first, using white-footed mice (Peromyscus leucopus) from a near-shore archipelago (Thousand Islands, Ontario) and the nearby mainland; second, using study-skins of deer mice (Peromyscus maniculatus) from two archipelagos offshore of Vancouver Island, British Columbia. White-footed mice in the near-shore archipelago did not show characteristics of island syndrome, or changes in GC levels (feces and hair); however deer mice from both archipelagos in British Columbia were heavier and had lower hair GCs for their size than Vancouver Island mice. Author Keywords: Glucocorticoids, Island rule, Island syndrome, Peromyscus, Stress physiology
Stoichiometric food quality affects responses of Daphnia to predator-derived chemical cues
While both resource quality and predator-derived chemical cues can each have profound effects on zooplankton populations and their function in ecosystems, the strength and nature of their interactive effects remain unclear. We conducted laboratory experiments to evaluate how stoichiometric food quality (i.e., algal carbon (C):phosphorus (P) ratios) affects responses of the water flea, Daphnia pulicaria, to predator-derived chemical cues. We compared growth rates, body elemental content, metabolic rates, life history shifts, and survival of differentially P-nourished Daphnia in the presence and absence of chemical cues derived from fish predators. We found effects of predator cues and/or stoichiometric food quality on all measured traits of Daphnia. Exposure to fish cues led to reduced growth and increased metabolic rates, but had little effect on the elemental content of Daphnia. Elevated algal C:P ratios reduced growth and body %P, increased respiration, and increased body %C. Most of the effects of predator cues and algal C:P ratios of Daphnia were non-interactive. In contrast, the declines in daphnid survival and related population growth rates that arose because of poor food quality were amplified in the presence of predator-derived cues. Our results demonstrate that stoichiometric food quality interacts with anti-predator responses of Daphnia, but these effects are trait-dependent and appear connected to animal life-history evolution. Author Keywords: Daphnia, ecological stoichiometry, indirect predator effects, life history, phosphorus, predator-prey relationships
Ground-truthing effective population size estimators using long-term population data from inland salmonid populations
Effective population size (Ne) is a foundational concept in conservation biology, in part due to its relationship to the adaptive potential of populations. Although Ne is often estimated for wild populations, it is rarely calibrated against actual population estimates (Nc) other than to produce Ne/Nc ratios. This project used demographic and genetic data for from two intensively-studied populations of lake trout (Salvelinus namaycush) in Ontario’s Experimental Lake Area (ELA) as baseline data for evaluating the performance of multiple Ne estimators. Several temporal and single-time (point) genetic methods of estimating Ne were compared against demographic Ne estimates and known population data, as well as variation and consistency within and among Ne estimators. Changes in genetic Ne estimates over time were also compared to changes in demographic structure and fluctuating census estimates, including the effect of an experimentally manipulated population bottleneck on demographic and genetic Ne estimates during population reduction and recovery. Sampling years that included the most pre-, during and post-bottleneck data revealed the lowest estimates using temporal estimators (Ne = 16 to 18) despite pre- and post-bottleneck census estimates of 591 and 565. Estimation of Ne had increasingly tighter confidence intervals as sample sizes approached the actual number of breeding individuals in each population. Performance differences among the tested estimators highlight their potential biases and reliance on different assumptions, illustrating their potential value and caveats for assessing adaptive potential of wild populations. Author Keywords: Effective Population Size, Experimental Lakes Area, Fish Population Assessment, Lake Trout, Population Demographics, Population Genetics
Time to adapt
To better understand species’ resilience to climate change and implement solutions, we must conserve environments that maintain standing adaptive genetic variation and the potential generation of new beneficial alleles. Coding trinucleotide repeats (cTNRs) providing high-pace adaptive capabilities via high rates of mutation are ideal targets for mitigating the decline of species at risk by characterizing adaptively significant populations. Ultimately, adaptive genetic information will inform the protection of biological diversity below the species level (i.e., “Evolutionarily Significant Units” or “ESUs”). This dissertation investigates cTNRs within candidate genes to determine their prevalence and influence under selection in North American mammals. First, I evaluated the potential for somatic mosaicism in Canada lynx (Lynx canadensis), and found that tissue-specific mosaicism does not confound cTNR genotyping success in lynx. Second, I assessed a selection of clock gene cTNRs across characterized mammals and found that these repeats are abundant and highly variable in length and purity. I also identified preliminary signatures of selection in 3 clock gene cTNRs in 3 pairs of congeneric North American mammal species, highlighting the importance of cTNRs for understanding the evolution and adaptation of wild populations. I further evaluated the influence of selection on the NR1D1 cTNR within Canada lynx sampled across Canada using environmental correlation, where I estimated the variation in NR1D1 cTNR alleles explained by environmental and spatial variables after removing the effects of neutral population structure. Although most variation was explained by neutral structure, environment and spatial patterns in eastern lynx populations significantly explained some of the variation in NR1D1 alleles. To examine the role of island populations in the generation and distribution of adaptive genetic variation, I used 14 neutral microsatellites and a dinucleotide repeat within a gene linked to mammalian body size, IGF-1, and found that both genetic drift and natural selection influence the observed genetic diversity of insular lynx. Finally, I estimated the divergence dates of peripheral lynx populations and made recommendations towards the conservation of Canada lynx; high levels of genetic differentiation coupled with post-glacial colonization histories and patterns of divergence at cTNR loci suggest at least 4 ESUs for Canada lynx across their range. Author Keywords: adaptation, Canada lynx, candidate genes, coding trinucleotide repeats, evolution, natural selection


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