Graduate Theses & Dissertations

Pages

Determinants of Breeding Bird Diversity in Ontario's Far North
190 species of birds are known to breed in Ontario’s far north making the region an important nursery for boreal birds. Digital point count data were collected using two different autonomous recording units (ARUs): one model with two standard microphones to detect birds and anurans, and one model with one standard microphone and one ultrasonic microphone for detecting bats. ARUs were deployed either in short or long-term plots, which were four to six days or approximately 10 weeks, respectively. I assessed differences in breeding bird richness detections between ARU and plot types. I also tested the relative impact of the habitat heterogeneity and species-energy hypotheses in relation to breeding birds and created predictive maps of breeding bird diversity for Ontario’s far north. I found no difference in species richness estimates between the two ARU models but found that long-term plots detected about 7 more bird species and 1.5 more anuran species than short-term plots. I found support for both the species-energy and habitat heterogeneity hypotheses, but support for each hypothesis varied with the resolution of the analysis. Species-energy models were better predictors of breeding bird diversity at coarser resolutions and habitat heterogeneity models were better predictors at finer resolutions. Breeding bird diversity was highest in the Ontario Shield Ecozone compared with the Hudson Bay Lowlands Ecozone, but concentrated areas of higher diversity found in the Lowlands were associated with large rivers and the associated coastlines. Author Keywords: boreal birds, breeding birds, habitat heterogeneity, Hill diversity, Ontario, species-energy hypothesis
Forensic Epistemology
Forensic epistemology is the study of knowledge as it relates to forensic science and can be broken into four sources; intuitive, authoritative, logical and empirical. In a four-phase research approach, I explored reasoning skills (logical knowledge) used by crime scene experts and methods (empirical knowledge) for forensic case-specific experimentation. First, the reasoning skills of crime scene investigators (CSI) and bloodstain pattern analysts (BPA) were tested, correlated to demographics and reasoning categories were compared. Practitioner’s with graduate level education performed better on the reasoning test, however, significant differences were not found between test scores and years of experience. Similarly, there was no difference between test scores and employment status (specifically, police or civilian employees), for the CSI group nor within the BPA group. This information suggests that level of education plays the most important role in the development and use of reasoning skills, whereas experience and employment status are not as influential. Second, I investigate potential strategies in selecting data types for case-specific experimentation in pattern-interpretation disciplines within forensic science. I also examined the epistemic status of practitioner case experimentation in forensic science. Practitioners were more confident in a mixed-method approach when conducting case-specific experimentation. In addition, there is a knowledge gap in experimental design for some forensic practitioners. Third, is a reprint of the introductory section of my published book entitled The Scientific Method in Forensic Science: A Canadian Handbook that abridges knowledge gained from this dissertation with further evidence-based literature review and experiential examples. This phase summarizes the scientific method in forensic science and provides guidance for forensic science students and practitioners. The final phase merges the findings from the primary studies with a literature review; offering scientific evidence supporting suggested research and pedagogic strategies that can help increase the epistemic status of forensic science. Author Keywords: case-specific research, epistemology, forensic science, hypothetico-deductive reasoning, logic, research models
Investigation of a Model for Stain Selection and a Robust Estimation for Area of Origin in Bloodstain Pattern Analysis
Bloodstain pattern analysis is fundamental to crime scene investigations by providing insight into the estimation of the area of origin of a blood source. The selection of bloodstains from an impact pattern is the foundation from which the estimation of the area of origin is derived. The purpose of this research was to develop a theoretical model for stain selection and establish a more robust estimation for the area of origin in the analysis of impact patterns. This model was developed by using quantitative data from marked zones on the impact pattern target surface. The minimum distance between the known blood source location and a single bloodstain line of trajectory was calculated for every bloodstain within each pattern investigated. It has been determined that the zone location of a bloodstain is relevant for improving accuracy, and that stains with all alpha angles can be used to calculate an area of origin estimation. Finally, research within this thesis also validated directional analysis and investigated the number of stains that may be required for a precise area of origin estimation. Keywords: Forensic science, Bloodstain, Impact pattern, Bloodstain pattern analysis, Statistics, Forensic Physics
Biodiversity patterns along a forest time series in a remediated industrial landscape
Sudbury, Ontario is an epicenter of research on industrially degraded landscapes. Regreening efforts over the past 40 years have changed the landscape, leading to an increase in forest cover in the “barrens”, that once covered more than 100,000 ha. This study characterized changes in plant and insect composition using a space for time approach in the pine plantations. A total of 25 treated sites were sampled and soil characteristics, understory plants and insect communities were assessed. All sites were contaminated with copper and nickel, but the metals had little influence on biodiversity. Vegetation diversity metrics were more strongly correlated with the pH of the organic soil horizons, while the insect community shows little response to site characteristics, and rather vegetation cover. Plant composition changes are similar to those in pine stands undergoing natural recovery and as liming effects fade there may be a decline in insect community richness. Author Keywords: Biodiversity, Heavy Metals, Mining, Remediation
multi-faceted approach to evaluating the detection probability of an elusive snake (Sistrurus catenatus)
Many rare and elusive species have low detection probabilities, thereby imposing unique challenges to monitoring and conservation. Here, we assess the detection probability of the Eastern Massasauga (Sistrurus catenatus) in contrast to a more common and conspicuous species, the Eastern Gartersnake (Thamnophis sirtalis). We found that patterns of detection probability differed between species, wherein S. catenatus was detected less often and under a more specific set of sampling conditions. Correspondingly, detection trials with S. catenatus found a high non-detection rate, while detection trials with artificial models suggest that regional differences in detection probability are driven by variation in population density and habitat use. Our results suggest that current monitoring efforts are not sufficient, and that S. catenatus is frequently undetected. Accordingly, we highlight the importance of species-specific monitoring protocols when monitoring rare and elusive species, and recommend a multi-faceted approach that estimates detection probability and identifies species-specific challenges to monitoring. Author Keywords: detection probability, elusive species, monitoring programs, non-detection, S. catenatus, snakes
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
Passive sampling of indoor and outdoor atmospheric nitrogen dioxide in the greater Toronto area
The reliability and performance of four passive sampler membrane coatings specific to nitrogen dioxide (NO2) were evaluated through co-exposure at multiple Ontario Ministry of Environment and Climate Change (OMOECC) active monitoring stations. All four coatings performed relatively similar under a wide range of meteorological conditions, notably showing exposure-specific atmospheric uptake rates. Further, indoor and outdoor atmospheric concentrations of NO2 (a marker of traffic-related air pollution) were evaluated at multiple elementary schools in a high-density traffic region of Toronto, Ontario, using a Triethanolamine based passive sampler membrane coating. Samplers were also co-exposed at OMOECC active monitoring stations to facilitate calibration of exposure-specific atmospheric uptake rates. Indoor NO2 atmospheric concentrations were 40 to 50% lower than outdoor concentrations during the spring−summer and autumn−winter periods, respectively. In large cities such as Toronto (Population 2,700,000), the influence of a single major road on outdoor and indoor NO2 concentrations is predominantly masked by spatially-extensive high-density traffic. Author Keywords: active sampler, membrane coating type, nitrogen dioxide, passive sampler, Toronto, traffic density
Evaluating the Effects of Habitat Loss and Fragmentation on Canada Lynx
Current major issues in conservation biology include habitat loss, fragmentation and population over-exploitation. Animals can respond to landscape change through behavioural flexibility, allowing individuals to persist in disturbed landscapes. Individual behaviour has only recently been explicitly included in population models. Carnivores may be sensitive to changing landscapes due to their wide-ranging behaviour, low densities and reproductive rates. Canada lynx (Lynx canadensis) is a primary predator of snowshoe hares (Lepus americanus). Both species range throughout the boreal forests of North America, however lynx are declining in the southern range periphery. In this dissertation, I developed new insights into the effects of habitat loss and fragmentation on lynx. In Chapter 2, I created a habitat suitability model for lynx in Ontario and examined occurrence patterns across 2 regions to determine if habitat selection is flexible when different amounts of habitat are available. Although lynx avoided areas with <30% suitable habitat where suitable land cover is abundant, I found that they have flexible habitat selection patterns where suitable land cover is rare and occurred in low habitat areas. In Chapter 3, I investigated the effects of dispersal plasticity on occupancy patterns using a spatially explicit individual-based model. I showed that flexible dispersers, capable of crossing inhospitable matrix, had higher densities and a lower risk of patch extinction. In contrast, inflexible dispersers (unable to cross inhospitable matrix), were most limited by landscape connectivity, resulting in a high extinction risk in isolated patches. I developed three predictions to be explored with empirical data; (1) dispersal plasticity affects estimates of functional connectivity; (2) variation in dispersal behaviour increases the resilience of patchy populations; and (3) dispersal behaviour promotes non-random distribution of phenotypes. Finally, in Chapter 4, I examined the consequences of anthropogenic harvest on naturally cycling populations. I found that harvest mortality can exacerbate the effects of habitat fragmentation, especially when lynx densities are low. Dynamic harvest regimes maintained lynx densities and cycle dynamics while reducing the risk of population extinction. These results suggest that lynx display some flexibility to changing landscapes and that the metapopulation structure is more resilient to increasing habitat loss and fragmentation than previously understood. Future studies should focus on determining a threshold of connectivity necessary for population persistence and examining the effects of habitat loss on the fecundity of lynx. Author Keywords: Fluctuating Populations, Habitat Fragmentation, Landscape Ecology, Occupancy Dynamics, Population Ecology, Spatially Explicit Population Models
Studies of the Giardia intestinalis trophozoite cell cycle
To study the Giardia intestinalis cell cycle, counterflow centrifugal elutriation (CCE) was used to separate an asynchronous trophozoite culture into fractions enriched for cells at the different stages of the cell cycle. For my first objective, I characterized the appearance of a third peak (Peak iii) in our flow cytometry analysis of the CCE fractions that initially suggested the presence of 16N cells that are either cysts or the result of endoreplication of Giardia trophozoites. I determined that this third peak consists of doublets of the 8N trophozoites at the G2 stage of the cell cycle that were not removed effectively by gating parameters used in the analysis of the flow cytometry data. In the second objective, I tested the use of a spike with RNA from the GS isolate of Giardia as an external normalizer in RT-qPCR on RNA from CCE fractions and encystation cultures of Giardia from the WB isolate. My results showed that the GS RNA spike is as effective as the use of previously characterized internal normalizer genes for these studies. For the third objective, I prepared two sets of elutriation samples for RNA seq analysis to determine the transcriptome of the Giardia trophozoite cell cycle. I confirmed the results of the cell cycle specific expression of several genes we had previously tested by RT-qPCR. Furthermore, our RNA-seq identified many genes in common with those identified from a microarray analysis of the Giardia cell cycle conducted by a collaborator. Finally, I observed an overall <4 fold change in differentially expressed genes during the G1/S and G2/M phase of the cell cycle. This is a modest change in gene expression compared to 10 - 30 fold changes for orthologous genes in mammalian cell cycles. Author Keywords: Cell cycle, Counterflow Centrifugal Elutriation, Flow Cytometry, RNA-sequencing, RT-qPCR
Forest Roost Use by Little Brown Bats (Myotis lucifugus) in Ontario
Roosts offer bats protection from predators, shelter from external environmental conditions, and a space where sociality, mating, and the rearing of young can occur. However, knowledge gaps still remain for many forest roosting species, such as the little brown bat (Myotis lucifugus) surrounding what roosts are selected, and what variables are influential at differing scales of selection. As a species-at-risk, identifying and predicting roost habitat selection may aid conservation and management. I identified forest roosts in a previously unexamined area of this species’ range using radio-telemetry, and measured tree-scale characteristics of located roosts. I then used a logistic model selection process with stand-scale variables to predict roost presence across forest stands. Height of trees in a given stand was the best predictor of roost presence - which may be linked to solar exposure and other thermal benefits. I then examined roost-level variables effecting the abundance of roosting bats in an artificial roosting environment (bat boxes). I found that temperature and social effects were both significant predictors of bat abundance, with warmer minimum temperatures in the box having a positive effect. These results suggest maternal bats may select roosts with higher minimum temperatures, likely due to the energetic benefits that may be gained over the course of reproduction. Author Keywords: forest roost, habitat selection, little brown bat, Myotic lucifugus, roost choice, stand selection
Assessing and Mitigation the Impacts of Mining-induced Flooding on Arctic-nesting Birds
Mining and resource development are growing industries in the Arctic, resulting in increased conflict with wildlife. Best practices for mitigation require an understanding of the potential ecological effects. One such effect concerns the flooding of terrestrial bird habitat from dewatering of lakes during mining pit development. I first assessed the efficacy of bird deterrents to mitigate impacts of mining-induced flooding on arctic-nesting birds at a gold mine in Nunavut. I used a Before-After Control Impact (BACI) design to determine changes in male territory densities, between year and treatment types (Control, High and Low Deterrent Intensity). Additionally, I assessed whether deterrents impacted daily survival rates of two passerine species, and the incubation behaviour of female Lapland Longspur. Finally, I quantified nest losses during the breeding season due to direct flooding of the tundra nesting habitat caused by mining operations. Deterrents did not affect male territory densities and neither deterrent treatment nor year affected the daily survival rate of nesting passerines. Female Lapland Longspurs exposed to deterrents exhibited more incubation off-bouts than control females. I documented six flooded nests. Deterrents used in this study appear to be ineffective in mitigating nesting in potential zones of impact. Incidental take accounted for about 1.2% of all nests found in the 0.48 km2 Whale Tail Lake study area. Author Keywords: arctic-nesting birds, audio deterrents, incidental take, mining and resource development, nest incubation, visual deterrents
Regional differences in the whistles of Australasian humpback dolphins (genus Sousa)
Most delphinids produce narrowband frequency-modulated whistles with a high level of plasticity to communicate with conspecifics. It is important to understand geographic variation in whistles as signal variation in other taxa has provided insight into the dispersal capabilities, genetic divergence and isolation among groups, and adaptation to ecological conditions. I investigated whistle variation of Indo-Pacific humpback dolphins (Sousa chinensis chinensis), Taiwanese humpback dolphins (S. c. taiwanensis) and Australian humpback dolphins (S. sahulensis) to test whether differences in whistles support the hypotheses of population structure, regional and species differences in the genus Sousa, which were based on morphological and genetic data. I also investigated important factors that may contribute to local distinctiveness in whistles including behavioural state, group size, and the influence of vessel noise. Multivariate analyses of seven acoustic variables supported the hypotheses of population structure, regional and species differences. Acoustic diversification between groups is likely influenced by behaviour and social contexts of whistles, and environmental noise. The use of sound to identify discrete groups of humpback dolphins may be important in future studies where genetic and morphological studies may not reveal recent differentiation or are difficult to conduct. Author Keywords: Bioacoustics, Cetacean, Geographic variation, Population biology, Sousa, Whistle characteristics

Pages

Search Our Digital Collections

Query

Enabled Filters

  • (-) = Environmental and Life Sciences

Filter Results

Date

2004 - 2024
(decades)
Specify date range: Show
Format: 2024/02/22