Graduate Theses & Dissertations


Fish and invertebrate use of invasive Phragmites in a Great Lakes freshwater delta
Invasive Phragmites australis ssp. australis (herein “Phragmites”) has established and rapidly spread throughout many coastal areas of the Great Lakes. Known to displace native vegetation communities as it forms large, monotypic stands, Phragmites has a bad reputation when it comes to losses of biodiversity and habitat provision for wildlife. However, the extent to which Phragmites provides habitat for fish and invertebrates in coastal freshwater wetlands remains relatively unquantified. Thus, this study assessed whether fish assemblages and invertebrate communities in stands of Phragmites differ from those in stands of two native emergent vegetation communities, Typha spp. and Schoenoplectus spp. The findings showed significant differences in habitat variables among the vegetation communities in terms of water depth, macrophyte species richness, stem density and water quality. While abundance of the functional feeding group filterer-collectors was found to be significantly less in stands of Phragmites when compared to Schoenoplectus, no difference was observed in invertebrate taxa richness among vegetation communities. Lastly, no difference in fish assemblage or invertebrate community was detected when using multivariate analyses, implying that invasive Phragmites provides habitat that appears to be as valuable for fish and invertebrates as other emergent vegetation types in the St. Clair River Delta. The findings of this study will ultimately benefit the literature on invasive Phragmites and its role as fish habitat in freshwater wetlands, and aid management agencies in decisions regarding control of the invasive species. Author Keywords: aquatic invasive species, aquatic macroinvertebrates, freshwater fish, freshwater wetlands, nMDS, Phragmites
Syrphidae (Diptera) of northern Ontario and Akimiski Island, Nunavut
Syrphids, also known as hover flies (Diptera: Syrphidae) are a diverse and widespread family of flies. Here, I report on their distributions from a previously understudied region, the far north of Ontario, as well as Akimiski Island, Nunavut. I used samples collected through a variety of projects to update known range and provincial records for over a hundred species, bringing into clearer focus the distribution of syrphids throughout this region. I also analysed a previously un-tested trap type for collecting syrphids (Nzi trap), and report on results of DNA analysis for a handful of individuals, which yielded a potential new species. Author Keywords: Diptera, Ontario, range extension, Syrphidae
Habitat selection by sympatric Canada lynx (Lynx canadensis) and bobcat (Lynx rufus)
Range expansion by the bobcat (Lynx rufus) may be contributing to range contraction by the Canada lynx (Lynx canadensis), but interactions between them are not well understood. To investigate the potential for competition, I conducted a literature review of hierarchical habitat selection by these two species. I determined that the lynx and the bobcat select different resources at the first and second orders, and that the fourth order is under-studied compared to higher orders. I therefore conducted a snow-tracking study of fine-scale habitat selection by lynx and bobcat in an area of sympatry in northern Ontario. I found that the two species selected similar resources at the fourth order, but appeared to be allopatric at the level of the home range. These results suggest that competition is unlikely to occur between lynx and bobcat, and other factors should be considered as more probable causes of the lynx range contraction. Author Keywords: Bobcat, Canada lynx, Competition, Habitat selection, Scale, Snow tracking
Temporo-spatial patterns of occupation and density by an invasive fish in streams
Since its introduction to North America in the 1990s, the Round Goby has spread throughout the Great Lakes, inland through rivers and is now moving into small tributary streams, a new environment for this species in both its native and invaded ranges. I explored density and temporal occupation of Round Gobies in four small streams in two systems in south-central Ontario, Canada in order to determine what habitat variables are the best predictors of goby density. Two streams are tributaries of Lake Ontario and two are tributaries of the Otonabee River, and all of these streams have barriers preventing upstream migration. I found that occupation and density differed between the systems. In the Otonabee River system, Round Gobies occupy the streams year round and the most important factor determining adult density is distance from a barrier to upstream movement, with the entire stream occupied but density highest next to the barriers. In the Lake Ontario system, density is highest at mid-stream and Round Gobies appear to occupy these streams mainly from spring to fall. Adult density in Lake Ontario tributaries is highest in sites with a high percentage of cobble/boulder and low percentage of gravel substrate, while substrate is less important in Otonabee River tributaries. Occupation and density patterns may differ due to contrasting environmental conditions in the source environments and distance to the first barrier preventing upstream movement. This study shows diversity in invasion strategies, and provides insight into the occurrence and movement patterns of this species in small, tributary streams. Author Keywords: biological invasion, Generalised Additive Mixed Model, habitat, Neogobius melanostomus, Round Goby, stream
How Abiotic and Biotic Factors Can Alter the Competitive Landscape in an Aggressive Species Complex (Genus
Competition is known to impact population dynamics through both indirect and direct interactions, and direct interactions can often lead to injury in one or both parties. As such, response to injury through tissue regeneration can be important for surviving post-competitive interaction. However, the impacts of outside factors like temperature and genome size (e.g. polyploidy) are not well studied, especially in syntopic systems. We addressed this knowledge gap by comparing regeneration rates of diploid Ambystoma laterale and triploid unisexual Ambystoma at two ecologically-relevant temperatures. Environmental factors appeared to have stronger effects on regeneration than ploidy level, but overall mass was impacted more strongly by ploidy level. Interestingly, there was an interaction between temperature and time within unisexuals that was absent when comparing different ploidy levels, implying temperature has a more complex effect on polyploids. This study supports the hypothesis that polyploid organisms are better equipped to respond to shifts in their environments, which can give them a competitive advantage at the northern range limit of this species complex. Author Keywords: Ambystoma, Genome dosage, Hybrid vigor, Polyploidy, Thermal optimum, Tissue regeneration
Predicting Irregularities in Arrival Times for Toronto Transit Buses with LSTM Recurrent Neural Networks Using Vehicle Locations and Weather Data
Public transportation systems play important role in the quality of life of citizens in any metropolitan city. However, public transportation authorities face criticisms from commuters due to irregularities in bus arrival times. For example, transit bus users often complain when they miss the bus because it arrived too early or too late at the bus stop. Due to these irregularities, commuters may miss important appointments, wait for too long at the bus stop, or arrive late for work. This thesis seeks to predict the occurrence of irregularities in bus arrival times by developing machine learning models that use GPS locations of transit buses provided by the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) and hourly weather data. We found that in nearly 37% of the time, buses either arrive early or late by more than 5 minutes, suggesting room for improvement in the current strategies employed by transit authorities. We compared the performance of three machine learning models, for which our Long Short-Term Memory (LSTM) [13] model outperformed all other models in terms of accuracy. The error rate for LSTM model was the lowest among Artificial Neural Network (ANN) and support vector regression (SVR). The improved accuracy achieved by LSTM is due to its ability to adjust and update the weights of neurons while maintaining long-term dependencies when encountering new stream of data. Author Keywords: ANN, LSTM, Machine Learning
What’s the trouble with women? Fostering female engagement in substance abuse programming
Although Canada’s healthcare system is designed for everyone to access services regardless of the person’s gender, age, or income, there are significant barriers for individuals accessing substance abuse services that live in areas outside of urban centres (Adbool, et al., 2017; Hardill, 2011). Women are particularly stigmatized by the lack of anonymity in smaller communities and often avoid engaging in substance abuse programs (Ashley, Marsden, & Thomas, 2003). The aim of the current thesis was to explore RedPath, a grassroots initiative in Port Hope, Ontario, geared to engaging individuals and encourage them to participate in substance abuse programming. This initiative employs a member from the community, called an Activator, who is tasked with engaging their peers. A qualitative study was conducted to explore the role of a hired RedPath Activator in facilitating access of female community members with substance abuse issues to services in the Port Hope community. Her role in supporting women was a specific interest, as the selection of a female Activator was a strategy to support the engagement of women to the program. The data was analyzed using a thematic content analysis approach. The most significant of these themes were (1) barriers and challenges in the community and (2) building trust to facilitate engagement and maintain attendance in the program. Author Keywords: activator, community, mental health, substance abuse, woman, women
Do birds of a feather flock together
Populations have long been delineated by physical barriers that appear to limit reproduction, yet increasingly genetic analysis reveal these delineations to be inaccurate. The eastern and mid-continent populations of sandhill cranes are expanding ranges which is leading to convergence and warrants investigation of the genetic structure between the two populations. Obtaining blood or tissue samples for population genetics analysis can be costly, logistically challenging, and may require permits as well as potential risk to the study species. Non-invasively collected genetic samples overcome these challenges, but present challenges in terms of obtaining high quality DNA for analysis. Therefore, methods that optimize the quality of non-invasive samples are necessary. In the following thesis, I examined factors affecting DNA quality and quantity obtained from shed feathers and examined population differentiation between eastern and mid-continent sandhill cranes. I found shed feathers are robust to environmental factors, but feather size should be prioritized to increase DNA quantity and quality. Further, I found little differentiation between eastern and mid-continent populations with evidence of high migration and isolation-by-distance. Thus, the two populations are not genetically discrete. I recommend future population models incorporate migration between populations to enhance our ability to successfully manage and reach conservation objectives. Author Keywords: feathers, genetic differentiation, non-invasive DNA, population genetics, population management, sandhill crane (Antigone canadensis)
role of corticosterone in breeding effort and reproductive success in tree swallows
Glucocorticoids (e.g., corticosterone (CORT)) are hypothesized to mediate decisions regarding reproductive investment during breeding, but the directionality of the relationship is not clear. The CORT-fitness hypothesis posits that high levels of CORT arise from challenging environmental conditions in which an individual will conserve resources for future reproduction or self-maintenance, and thus result in lower reproductive success (a negative relationship). In contrast, the CORT-adaptation hypothesis suggests that, during energetically demanding periods, CORT will mediate physiological or behavioural changes that result in increased reproductive investment and success (a positive relationship). Inconsistencies arise due to the various species and life-history stages studied, and the complex interactions between fitness and glucocorticoids. Using an experimental approach, I investigated the relationship between CORT and reproductive success by manipulating baseline CORT levels in female tree swallows Tachycineta bicolor prior to laying using silastic implants. Implants failed to raise CORT levels of females during either incubation or the nestling stage, and maternal treatment had no effect on indices of fitness at either stage. Using a correlative approach, partial support for the CORT-adaptation hypothesis was found: There was a positive relationship between CORT and hatching success. This only occurred when CORT was measured during incubation, when baseline CORT levels may stimulate increased reproductive effort and success. In contrast, during the nestling stage baseline CORT levels were not related to reproductive investment or success. Maternal CORT levels during incubation also did not influence nestling phenotype, although nestling stress CORT levels were higher in individuals that survived to fledging. In conclusion, CORT mediates reproductive effort and success during some breeding stages, but it is still unclear why this is the case and whether this same pattern will prevail in other contexts. Author Keywords: corticosterone, HPA axis, maternal effects, reproductive success, tree swallow
Balance is key
While preferences for symmetry are seemingly universal, they can be seen at their most extreme among individuals high in trait incompleteness. As yet, it is unclear why incompleteness yields heightened symmetry preferences. Summerfeldt et al. (2015) speculated that individuals high in incompleteness may develop heightened preferences for symmetry due to its greater perceptual fluency. Accordingly, the aim of the present set of three experiments was to examine this relationship. Implicit preferences for symmetry were measured using a modified version of the Implicit Association Test (IAT) reported by Makin et al. (2012). Experiments 1 (N = 24) and 2 (N = 24) examined whether the general implicit preferences for symmetry and influence of perceptual fluency reported by Makin et al. (2012) extended to a within-subjects design. Experiment 3 (N = 86) examined whether trait incompleteness is related to greater implicit preferences for symmetric stimuli, and whether perceptual fluency affects this association. Results showed that incompleteness and implicit preferences were related, and that incompleteness-related differences in preferences were eliminated when the patterns were equally perceptually fluent, supporting the idea that incompleteness-related preferences for symmetry are linked to perceptual fluency. Implications of these findings are discussed. Author Keywords:
Relationship Between Precarious Employment, Behaviour Addictions and Substance Use Among Canadian Young Adults
This thesis utilized a unique data-set, the Quinte Longitudinal Survey, to explore relationships among precarious employment and a range of mental health problems in a representative sample of Ontario young adults. Study 1 focused on various behavioural addictions (such as problem gambling, video gaming, internet use, exercise, compulsive shopping, and sex) and precarious employment. The results showed that precariously employed men were preoccupied with gambling and sex while their female counterparts preferred shopping. Gambling and excessive shopping diminished over time while excessive sexual practices increased. Study 2 focused on the association between precarious employment and substance abuse (such as tobacco, alcohol, cannabis, hallucinogens, stimulants, and other substances). The results showed that men used cannabis more than women, and the non-precarious employed group abused alcohol more than individuals in the precarious group. This research has implications for both health care professionals and intervention program developers when working with young adults in precarious jobs. Author Keywords: Behaviour Addictions, Precarious Employment, Substance Abuse, Young Adults


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