Graduate Theses & Dissertations

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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
Exploring the Scalability of Deep Learning on GPU Clusters
In recent years, we have observed an unprecedented rise in popularity of AI-powered systems. They have become ubiquitous in modern life, being used by countless people every day. Many of these AI systems are powered, entirely or partially, by deep learning models. From language translation to image recognition, deep learning models are being used to build systems with unprecedented accuracy. The primary downside, is the significant time required to train the models. Fortunately, the time needed for training the models is reduced through the use of GPUs rather than CPUs. However, with model complexity ever increasing, training times even with GPUs are on the rise. One possible solution to ever-increasing training times is to use parallelization to enable the distributed training of models on GPU clusters. This thesis investigates how to utilise clusters of GPU-accelerated nodes to achieve the best scalability possible, thus minimising model training times. Author Keywords: Compute Canada, Deep Learning, Distributed Computing, Horovod, Parallel Computing, TensorFlow
Risk of Mortality for the Semipalmated Plover (Charadrius semipalmatus) Throughout Its Life Cycle
Three long-term mark and recapture/resight data sets of individually marked Semipalmated Plovers (Charadrius semipalmatus) were analyzed using Cormack-Jolly- Seber models. Data came from two breeding populations (Churchill, Manitoba, Canada, n=982, and Egg Island, Alaska, USA, n=84) and one overwintering population (Cumberland Island, Georgia, USA, n=62). For Alaska and Georgia, time-invariant models were best-supported, giving annual survival estimates of 0.67 (95%C.I.: 0.58- 0.76) and 0.59 (95%C.I.: 0.49-0.67) respectively. Data from Manitoba supported a timedependent model: survival estimates varied from 1.00 to 0.36, with lowest estimates from recent years, supporting observations of local population decline. Seasonal survival analysis of the Georgia population indicated lower mortality during winter (monthly Φoverwinter: 0.959, 95%CI: 0.871-0.988; for 6 month period Φoverwinter: 0.780 (0.440-0.929)) than during combined breeding and migratory periods (monthly ΦBreeding+Migration: 0.879 (0.825-0.918); for 8 month ΦBreeding+Migration: 0356 (0.215-0.504)). I recommend, based on high resight rates, continued monitoring of survival of wintering populations, to determine potential range-wide population declines. Keywords: survival, longevity, mortality, shorebird, overwinter, breeding, migration, life cycle Author Keywords: life cycle, longevity, mortality, non-breeding, shorebird, survival
Phosphoric Acid Chemically Activated Waste Wood
Activated Carbon (AC) is commonly produced by gasification, but there has been increasing interest in chemical activation due to its lower activation temperatures and higher yields. Phosphoric acid, in particular, succeeds in both these areas. Phosphoric acid activated carbon (PAC) can be environmentally sustainable, and economically favourable, when the phosphoric acid used in the activation is recycled. This thesis describes the digestion and activation of waste wood using phosphoric acid, as well as methods used to recover phosphoric acid, functionalize the produced activated carbon with iron salts and then test their efficacy on the adsorption of target analytes, selenite and selenate. In order to achieve an efficient phosphoric acid based chemical activation, further understanding of the activation process is needed. A two-step phosphoric acid activation process with waste wood feed stock was examined. The filtrate washes of the crude product and the surface composition of the produced PAC were characterized using X-ray Photoelectron Spectroscopy (XPS), Fourier Transform-Infrared spectroscopy (FT-IR), Ion Chromatography (IC), and 31P Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR). XPS of the unwashed PAC contained 13.3 atomic percent phosphorous, as phosphoric acid, while the washed sample contained 1.4 atomic percent phosphorous as PO43-, and P2O74-. Using 31P NMR, phosphoric acid was identified as the primary phosphorous species in the acidic 0.1 M HCl washings, with pyrophosphates also appearing in the second 0.1 M NaOH neutralizing wash, and finally a weak signal from phosphates with an alkyl component also appearing in the DI wash. IC showed high concentrations of phosphoric acid in the 0.1 M HCl wash with progressively lower concentrations in both the NaOH and DI washes. Total phosphoric acid recovery was 96.7 % for waste wood activated with 25 % phosphoric acid, which is higher than previous literature findings for phosphoric acid activation. The surface areas of the PAC were in the 1500-1900 m2g-1 range. Both pre and post activation impregnation of iron salts resulted in iron uptake. Pre-activation resulted in only iron(III) speciation while post-activation impregnation of iron(II)chloride did result in iron(II) forming on the PAC surface. The pre-activated impregnated PAC showed little to no adsorption of selenite and selenate. The post-activation impregnated iron(II)chloride removed up to 12.45 ± 0.025 mg selenium per g Iron-PAC. Competitive ions such as sulfate and nitrate had little effect on selenium adsorption. Phosphate concentration did affect the uptake. At 250 ppm approximately 75 % of adsorption capacity of both the selenate and the selenite solutions was lost, although selenium was still preferentially adsorbed. Peak adsorption occurred between a pH of 4 and 11, with a complete loss of adsorption at a pH of 13. Author Keywords: Activated Carbon, doping, Iron, phosphoric acid, selenium
Population-Level Ambient Pollution Exposure Proxies
The Air Health Trend Indicator (AHTI) is a joint Health Canada / Environment and Climate Change Canada initiative that seeks to model the Canadian national population health risk due to acute exposure to ambient air pollution. The common model in the field uses averages of local ambient air pollution monitors to produce a population-level exposure proxy variable. This method is applied to ozone, nitrogen dioxide, particulate matter, and other similar air pollutants. We examine the representative nature of these proxy averages on a large-scale Canadian data set, representing hundreds of monitors and dozens of city-level populations. The careful determination of temporal and spatial correlations between the disparate monitors allows for more precise estimation of population-level exposure, taking inspiration from the land-use regression models commonly used in geography. We conclude this work with an examination of the risk estimation differences between the original, simplistic population exposure metric and our new, revised metric. Author Keywords: Air Pollution, Population Health Risk, Spatial Process, Spatio-Temporal, Temporal Process, Time Series
Near-road assessment of traffic related air pollutants along a major highway in Southern Ontario
The spatial and temporal variation in atmospheric nitrogen dioxide (NO2), ammonia (NH3), and 17 elements (V, Cr, Fe, Ni, Cu, Zn, As, Cd, Pb, Mg, Al, Ca, Co, Se, Sb, Mn, and Na) were measured at 40 road side locations along a ~250 km traffic density gradient of 40,000–400,000 vehicles on the King’s Highway 401, in Ontario, Canada. Elemental concentrations were measured over a year, using moss bags as passive samplers, for four quarterly three-month exposure periods (October 2015 – October 2016). Gaseous NO2 and NH3 concentrations were measured using Willem’s badge passive diffusive samplers for twelve one-week exposure periods (one per month: October 2015–October 2016). Dry deposition of nitrogen was estimated using the inferential method. There were significant linear relationships between NO2 and NH3 and average annual daily traffic (AADT) volumes across the study area; higher concentrations corresponded to higher volume traffic sites. Average NO2 concentrations at sites ranged from 23.5 to 73 μg/m3, with an annual average of 43.7 μg/m3. Ammonia ranged from 2.56 to 13.55 μg/m3, with an annual average of 6.44 μg/m3. There were significant quarterly variations in NO2, with concentrations peaking during the winter months. In contrast, NH3 showed no significant quarterly variation, but a slight peak occurred during the summer. Gaseous NO2 and NH3 were highly positively correlated (r = 0.63), suggesting a common emission source from traffic. Concentrations in exposed moss were determined by subtracting the total concentration of each metal in the exposed sample from the background concentration present in the moss. Relative accumulation factors (RAF) and contamination factors were also calculated to determine the anthropogenic influence on tissue concentrations in exposed moss. All metals showed elevated levels versus background concentrations, with all metals except Ni and Co showing considerable enrichment. The highest levels of contamination were from V, Cr, Fe, Zn, Cd, Sb, Pb and Na. Principal component analysis indicated 5 clear clusters of related elements, with PC1 accounting for 36.2% and PC2 accounting for 25.6% of the variance. Average annual daily traffic was significantly related to Cr, Fe, Cu, Sb, Mn, Al, and Na. Road side monitoring shows consistently higher concentrations than active monitoring sites located further from the edge of the road, indicating a need for increased road side monitoring in Ontario, Canada. Author Keywords:
Tests of the Invasional Meltdown Hypothesis in invasive herbaceous plant species in southern Ontario
According to the Invasional Meltdown Hypothesis (IMH), invasive species may interact in their introduced range and facilitate future invasions. This study investigated the possibility that Alliaria petiolata, an invasive allelopathic herbaceous plant in Ontario, is facilitating invasions by additional alien species. Two allelopathic focal species were chosen for this study: the native Solidago canadensis and the invasive A. petiolata. Field surveys in southern Ontario that quantified plant biodiversity in plots that included one or both focal species revealed no support for the IMH, although fewer species co-existed with A. petiolata than with S. canadensis. A year-long recruitment experiment in Peterborough, Ontario, also produced results inconsistent with the IMH, although did provide some evidence that A. petiolata limited recruitment of other species. These results collectively show negative impacts on regional biodiversity by A. petiolata, even in the absence of an invasional meltdown. Author Keywords: allelopathy, Alliaria petiolata, co-occurrence surveys, invasional meltdown hypothesis, invasive species, Solidago canadensis
Using a real-world chopping task to study motor learning and memory
Typically task interference is studied using reaching adaptation tasks (visuomotor rotation and/or force-field learning). Participants in these experiments are already experts at the base task (point-to-point, planar reaching) and their ability to adapt reaching to the imposed perturbation is studied. The pattern of data induced by the perturbation is used to make inferences about the nature and neural correlates of our learning and memory for reaching perturbations, specifically, and motor performance in general. We wanted to see if it is possible to demonstrate this same interference pattern using a novel vegetable-chopping task, where we can easily recreate natural performance settings using a task for which we can easily identify non-experts. Participants performed a chopping task in which they are asked to chop a sweet potato into 5 mm-wide slices, matching the beat of a metronome (120 bpm). Following this initial learning, participants were exposed to an interference condition. Participants then performed trials of the original task again. Interference was inferred if the second performance of the original task was impaired, compared to initial performance. Experiment 1 involved novice choppers, and either the force or frequency of chops was manipulated. Only the altered frequency task produced interference effects. In Experiment 2, competent and expert choppers had to manage either a faster or slower frequency. We found evidence for interference in competents, but not experts. These results support the idea that the vulnerability to interference of motor memory changes with practice, and so any inferences made about memory structure must take into account not only expert performance, but every level of skill. Author Keywords: expertise, interference, motor learning, reaching adaptation
Effects of Geographic Factors on the Wild Harvest of Large Mammals across North America
While the harvest of mammals is monitored in each jurisdiction across Canada and the USA, there has been no analysis of this wild harvest at a continental scale across North America. The recreational wild harvest of large mammals varies geographically across North America, and I hypothesized that this variation is influenced by both anthropogenic and other environmental factors on the landscape. I tested this hypothesis using annual harvest tallies collected by Conservation Visions Inc. for mammals for each state, provincial, and territorial jurisdiction in Canada and the USA. I built multiple additive models of the harvest, in one harvest year, 2015 – 2016, to test for landscape gradients that explain the variation in harvest levels for seven large mammal species: white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus), black bear (Ursus americanus), bighorn sheep (Ovis canadensis), elk (Cervus canadensis), mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus), pronghorn (Antilocapra americana), and moose (Alces alces). I built these models from a suite of nine putative predictor variables that comprised landcover, human footprint, and evapotranspiration. For all large mammal species except for pronghorn, anthropogenic influence had a positive effect on the wild harvest density, consistent with the idea that the proximity of human populations and roads are important for fostering wild harvest activity by providing hunters access to hunting areas. The harvest of white-tailed deer, elk, and pronghorn were negatively affected by vegetation structure, urbanization, and primary productivity, respectively. Understanding the recreational wild harvest at a broad-spatial scale provides a unique perspective of the North American model of wildlife conservation and spurs future comparative analyses of the wild harvest across spatial scales. Author Keywords: Anthropogenic Influence, Hunting, Large Mammals, Primary Productivity, Vegetation Structure, Wild Harvest
Assessing the Clinical Usefulness of Three Tablet-Based Visuomotor Tasks to Evaluate Closed Head Injury
Evidence suggests that visuomotor system behaviour may be more sensitive to the prolonged effects of mild brain injuries than neuropsychological tests. We evaluated whether participants with a mild closed head injury (CHI) would show lingering visuomotor deficits, but not cognitive deficits, up to three years post-injury compared to participants with an orthopaedic injury and healthy controls. All three groups completed a tablet-based visuomotor assessment tool and a brief neuropsychological test battery. The CHI participants scored comparable to the control groups on the neuropsychological tests, but when assessed for visuomotor function requiring adjustment to a changing stimulus, CHI participants showed poorer performance than the control groups. Combined, these findings add to the evidence that CHI can lead to persistent visuomotor deficits that extend beyond those of neuropsychological tests. Therefore, visuomotor assessment should be included in brain injury and recovery evaluation, and this can be accomplished easily using tablet-based tasks. Author Keywords: closed head injury, neuropsychological assessment, recovery, tablet, traumatic brain injury, visuomotor

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