Graduate Theses & Dissertations

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Composition and Transformation of Dissolved Organic Matter in Hudson Bay, Canada
The Hudson Bay region is a sensitive environment, where anthropogenic (e.g., dams, diversions, and/or reservoirs) impacts have increased in recent decades, potentially influencing the functioning of the ecosystem. Dissolved organic matter (DOM) entering Hudson Bay comes from both terrestrial (allochthonous) and aquatic (autochthonous) sources. The chemical composition of DOM is important, as it controls carbon biogeochemistry, nutrient cycling, and heat exchange. In rivers, estuaries, and oceans, photochemical processes and microbial degradation play a significant role in the chemical composition of DOM. Yet, our knowledge is scarce into how photochemical and microbial processes effect DOM composition specifically in Arctic aquatic systems making it difficult to predict how the carbon cycle will respond to a changing environment. This Ph.D. thesis addresses: (1) the composition of photochemically altered autochthonous and allochthonous DOM; (2) the photochemical transformations of DOM in surface waters of Hudson Bay; and (3) the microbial transformations of DOM in Hudson Bay surface waters. Using multiple analytical techniques, this work demonstrated that photochemical and microbial effects were different for light absorbing DOM compounds and ionisable DOM analyzed by Fourier transform-ion cyclotron-resonance-mass spectrometry (FT-ICR-MS). Based on FT-ICR-MS analysis, microbial processes had a greater impact on the molecular composition of allochthonous DOM originating from riverine sources and estuary whereas photochemical processes were the dominant mechanism for degradation of autochthonous DOM in Hudson Bay. Photochemical processes significantly decreased colored dissolved organic matter (CDOM) and fluorescence dissolved organic matter (FDOM) loss whereas microbial degradation was minimal in Hudson Bay river, estuary, and coastal waters. The results of this thesis highlight the importance of photochemical and microbial alteration of DOM in Arctic regions, two processes that are expected to be enhanced under climate change conditions. Author Keywords: Carbon cycle, Field flow fractionation, Microbial transformation, Optical properties, Photochemical degradation
Biosynthesis and impact of cytokinins on growth of the oyster mushroom, Pleurotus ostreatus
The oyster mushroom, Pleurotus ostreatus, is one of the most widely cultivated edible basidiomycetes. It has gained increased attention for its economic, environmental, and medicinal properties. While a lot is known about cytokinins (CKs) and their actions at the molecular and cellular levels in plants, much less is known about the function of CKs in other kingdoms. Cytokinins, which have been detected in several fungal species, play a role in pathogenic attack against plants or during plant growth promotion by plant beneficial microbes; however, the role of CKs in fungal physiology, separate from plant associations remains largely unknown. This thesis focuses on the occurrence of fungal-derived CKs in P. ostreatus when grown in vitro as submerged or aerial mycelium. Cytokinin profiling by UHPLC-HRMS/MS revealed that P. ostreatus produces CKs and that the tRNA degradation pathway is the main source of these molecules. CK dynamics within fungal growth supported previous evidence, which suggested that tRNA degradation products have a role in the physiological development of fungi for which CKs act as fungal growth regulators. A second component of the thesis demonstrated that P. ostreatus responds to exogenous applications of aromatic and isoprenoid CKs and their effects were dependent on the dose and CK type. N6-Benzyladenine (BAP), Kinetin (KIN), N6-isopentenyladenine (iP), and trans-zeatin (tZ) bioassays revealed hormone-type responses (hormesis: biphasic response). At low doses, mycelium growth could be stimulated, whereas, at high doses only inhibitory effects were observed. This stimulation/inhibition was observed whether the measured response was an increase/decrease of aerial mycelium colony diameter, biomass accumulation or a change in mycelium morphology as compared to the controls. Results indicated there is potential to alter mycelium growth and development of P. ostreatus; thus, CKs may play the role of a “mycohormone” and may be specifically helpful for medicinal fungi by increasing growth and efficiency to produce many biologically active substances with valuable medical and environmental applications. Author Keywords: cytokinins, fungal-derived CKs, hormesis, mycelium, mycohormone, Pleurotus ostreatus
Trace Metal Geochemistry in Peatlands
Peatlands can be found widely across all latitudes and play a significant role in global cycles within the earth’s biosphere. The anoxic conditions in peatlands promotes the accumulation of organic matter through decreased rates of decomposition and the storage of certain elements, which have received contaminant loading over the course of human existence, with significant increases occurring during the period of industrialization. We assessed global patterns of metal enrichment in peatlands in 439 cores distributed across 5 continents and 21 countries and measured 35 elements by depth increments and by peatland type. Global patterns in enrichment factors (EF’s) were determined for all metals with the majority of metals being found to have a median EF < 2 indicating relatively minor enrichment. Principal component analysis indicated EF’s of 6 metals (Cd, Co, Cu, Ni, Pb, and Zn), 2 metalloids (As and Sb) and Se in the upper peat horizon had similar spatial patterns among peatlands and these elements had generally the highest EF’s with many cores exceeding EF >10 and some having EF values >100. Significant differences in EF’s were found for these 9 “pollution” elements by peatland type and to a greater extent by geographic region, with higher EF values typically occurring in Europe and North America. Enrichment factors for most elements exhibited weak but significant positive correlations with modelled [1850 – present] S deposition. Estimated pools for the “pollution metals” within the 0 - 40 cm depth varied considerably, with median global pools in peat ranging from 12.9 mg m-2 (Sb) to 439 mg m-2 (Zn) for these 9 metals. Climate changes presents a significant risk to global peatland geochemistry due to expected changes in hydrologic regimes, resulting in potentially increased metal mobility though drought-induced peatland acidification, with historic areas previously impacted by industrial activities presenting the greatest risk of metal release to downstream receiving environments. Using a case study, we examined the impact of simulated 30-day drought on pore water chemistry at six sites in a peatland complex in Elliot Lake Ontario that were historically impacted by uranium (U) mining activities. All sites responded similarly to simulated drought with pore water pH significantly declining. The decline in pore water pH was likely due to increasing sulphate (SO42-) concentrations, which accompanied large increases in Al, Ni, Cu, Pb, Zn, and U. Dissolved organic carbon (DOC) increased, which may further enhance Al, Cu, and U mobility as these metals are strongly complexed by organic acids. Metal partitioning (Kd) values could be significantly predicted by pH and DOC although the strength of the relationship varied considerably among sites. Multiple linear regression and the inclusion of SO4-2 improved predictions, indicating that declines in pH as a result of SO4-2 and H+ production primarily governs metals and U partitioning in peatland soils. The results from both studies show that metal enrichment in global peatlands is highly variable, with northern peatlands in industrialized areas presenting the greatest risk of metal release to downstream surface waters based on expected hydrologic impacts from climate change due to historical and on-going metal and S deposition. Author Keywords: Acidification, Climate Change, Drought, Enrichment Factors, Global, Peatlands
Effects of Opioids on the Development and Reproductive Capacity of Japanese Medaka, Oryzias latipes
Opioid drugs are among the microcontaminants that are discharged with domestic wastewater into the aquatic environment with the potential to affect the development and reproductive capacity of aquatic organisms. To study the effects of exposure of fish to opioid drugs, Japanese medaka (Oryzias latipes) were exposed over a full life cycle to environmentally relevant (i.e. ng/L) concentrations of two opioids, codeine and fentanyl. Acute exposure of early life stage (ELS) of medaka to codeine resulted in slightly extended times to hatch, but no increase in embryo mortalities or reduced hatching success. Chronic exposure to codeine at a nominal concentration of 25,000 ng/L over a full life cycle interfered with growth, reducing the weight of the fish at maturity. Life cycle treatments with codeine at all test concentrations resulted in a significant reduction in the number of eggs produced in reproductive trials, as well as a reduction in the numbers of mature oocytes in adult females. High treatments with codeine also increased the percentage of immature sperm cells in adult males. Life cycle exposures to codeine also resulted in reduced whole-body concentrations of several hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal (HPG) axis hormones, including reduced levels of luteinizing hormone in male and female fish and a reduction in 11-ketotestosterone in males and 17β-estradiol in females. Fentanyl did not affect reproduction or HPG hormones at the exposure concentrations tested, but high fentanyl exposures increased the mortality rate among ELS’s of the F1 generation offspring from life cycle exposed adults. The results of this thesis contribute to the literature on the environmental impacts of microcontaminants of wastewater origin and, the potential for effects in fish exposed to opioids.Keywords: Opioids, microcontaminants, fentanyl, codeine, sexual development, reproduction. Author Keywords: codeine, fentanyl, microcontaminants, opioids, reproduction, sexual development
Temporal Variability of Coloured Dissolved Organic Matter in the Canada Basin, Arctic Ocean (2007-2017)
This thesis investigated coloured and fluorescent dissolved organic matter in the Canada Basin, Arctic Ocean from 2007 to 2017. The first interannual time-series of its kind in the Canada Basin incorporated the use of EEM-PARAFAC to validate a seven-component model. Statistical temporal tests revealed (1) an increasing protein-like intensity in the upper polar mixed layer (UPML); (2) increasing intensities of humic-like components in the halocline due to increasing freshwater content; and (3) no change in DOM composition in deeper Atlantic waters (AW) congruent with the long residence time of the water mass (> 30 years). The significant decline in sea ice concentration was related to a decrease in humic-like FDOM due to enhanced photodegradation and an increase in protein-like FDOM, likely the results of increased biological activities in surface layers. This research provides evidence that the changes in physical and biological environment in the Arctic regions have already profound impacts on the composition and distribution of FDOM. Author Keywords: absorbance, Arctic Ocean, dissolved organic matter, fluorescence, parallel factor analysis, time-series
ROOSTING SELECTION BEHAVIOUR OF THE EASTERN WILD TURKEY AT ITS NORTHERN RANGE EDGE
As wild turkeys (Meleagris gallopavo silvestris) move farther north, informed management decisions are critical to support the sustainability of this reintroduced species. We tracked roost tree selection and patterns of the network of roost trees, for wild turkeys, over 2 years in Peterborough, ON, using GPS and VHF transmitters. Wild turkeys showed preference for taller and larger roost trees, with winter roosts closer to buildings. The roost network exhibited a scale-free network, meaning certain roosts served as hubs, while other roosts were less frequently used. The fine scale results suggest that roost trees are selected for predator avoidance, and that selection changes with the season, probably because of its influence on foraging ability. At a larger scale, winter roosts were chosen for their proximity to supplemental food sources. These findings demonstrate the dependence of wild turkeys on humans and the supplemental sources we unintentionally provide. Author Keywords:
Proximal Soil Nutrient Sensing in Croplands through Multispectral Imaging from Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) for Precision Agriculture Applications
Currently, UAVs are deployed to measure crop health in a timely manner by mapping vegetation indices. A study using two different fields was conducted in order to search for a relationship that may exist between crop health and soil fertility. A UAV equipped with sensor technology was used for mapping of vegetation indices which were then statistically compared to soil nutrient data collected via soil sampling. Elevation data was also collected which was then statistically compared to soil nutrients as well as crop health. Results of this study were unfortunately impacted by variables outside of the researcher’s control. Moisture became the greatest limiting factor in 2016 followed by an excess of rain in 2017. Results did not show any promising correlations as moisture uncontrollably became the defining variable. Further research in a more controlled setting will need to be conducted in order to explore this potential relationship. Author Keywords: Agriculture, Multispectral Imagery, Precision Agriculture, Proximal Soil Sensing, Remote Sensing, Unmanned Aerial Vehicle
Influence of Nitrogen Deposition on Community Composition in Pinus banksiana Forests Across Northwestern Canada
Anthropogenic atmospheric emissions and subsequent deposition of nitrogen (N) can affect N-sensitive habitats and lead to shifts in plant species community composition. This study assessed the effects of N deposition on plant community composition for Jack pine forests across northwestern Canada and across a smaller subset of sites surrounding the Athabasca Oil Sands Region (AOSR) using ‘gradient forest’ analysis. Predictor influence on community composition varied depending on the scale of the study and relatively distinct thresholds were identified for different plant groups. In the larger scale study, a total deposited nitrogen (TDN) threshold of 1.5 – 3 kg N ha-1yr-1 was well suited to protect predominantly lichen species, consistent with lichen-based critical loads from other studies. Across the smaller scale study, a TDN threshold of 5.6 kg N ha-1yr-1 was primarily associated with vascular species changepoints but did include some important N-indicator lichen and bryophyte species. Author Keywords: critical loads, gradientForest, Jack pine, Nitrogen deposition, species composition
Daphnia pulicaria responses to temperature and nutrients stress
Warming climates have had various consequences on terrestrial and aquatic food webs that are expected to persist. There is evidence suggesting that certain organisms are better equipped to handle changing climates compared to others. Therefore, the purpose of my thesis was to study the adaptability of Daphnia under temperature stress and nutrient limitation. First, to examine the effects of dietary phosphorus limitation and temperature on daphniid life-history and population growth, a series of experiments were conducted in the laboratory. In general, I found that Daphnia body growth rates and life-history traits to food carbon to phosphorus (C:P) ratios change with temperature. Next, I identified a protocol to limit the genomic DNA (gDNA) from ribonucleic acid (RNA) extractions. I found that using a modified phenol-chloroform extraction protocol was the most effective way to remove gDNA from extracted Daphnia RNA samples. Overall, results from this study show that temperature and food quality interactions are more complicated than previously thought. Furthermore, the RNA extraction protocol developed will be useful in future studies examining gene expression responses in Daphnia. Author Keywords: ecological stoichiometry, gene expression, life-history, nutrient limitation, RNA puritiy, temperature
Assessing Measured and Perceived Risks to Drinking Water Sources
Microcontaminants originating from wastewater effluent and run-off from agricultural lands may be present in the sources of drinking water for rural and Indigenous communities in mixed-use watersheds. In this study, a convergent parallel mixed-methods design was applied to assess measured and perceived risks of contamination in the sources of drinking water for two communities; the Six Nations of the Grand River community in Ontario and the community of Soufriere in St. Lucia, West Indies. The overall goal of the project was to assess how measured and perceived risks of exposure to chemical and biological contaminants in drinking water sources could inform water management strategies for the communities. Quantitative data obtained from the analysis of water samples collected indicated that the highest levels and occurrence of fecal bacteria were found in the Soufriere watershed while the highest concentrations and occurrence of pesticides were found in the Grand River watershed. In the Grand River watershed, conventional treatment of water followed by activated carbon filtration and UV disinfection removed fecal bacteria and also removed many chemical microcontaminants with efficiencies as high as 98%. Data from both watersheds indicated that there was a strong positive correlation between the levels of caffeine and sucralose (i.e. indicators of wastewater contamination) in water samples and the levels of either Total Coliforms or fecal bacteria of human origin. Human health risk assessments of individual pesticides and pesticide mixtures performed by applying a hazard quotient (HQ) and hazard index (HI) model, respectively indicated that there were no apparent risks to human health from those microcontaminants. Qualitative data obtained from face-to-face interviews with water managers and health professionals working in the two communities, which were collected and analysed concurrently but independently, illustrated that there were cross-cultural similarities and differences in factors influencing the perceptions of risks associated with the sources of drinking water. These perceptions of risks were mainly influenced by factors such as heuristics or informal and informal reasoning, cognitive-affective factors, social-political institutions and cultural factors. These factors may have also influenced water managers and health professionals, as they often recommended more “soft” strategies for managing water resources in the communities. Key words: pesticides, fecal bacteria, microcontaminants, POCIS, measured risks, perceived risks, water management, First Nations, Grand River, Soufriere, St. Lucia Author Keywords: fecal bacteria, measured risks, microcontaminants, perceived risks, POCIS, water management
Temporal variation of dissolved organic matter and diffusive gradient in thin films-labile mercury in the Quesnel river, BC, and the Goose Creek tributary of Churchill river, MB
This study examined dissolved organic matter (DOM) and labile Mercury (from diffusive gradient in thin films (DGT)) in the Quesnel river, British and the Goose creek tributary of the Churchill river, Manitoba. DOM properties were measured with optical measurements of absorption coefficient (a254), spectral slopes (S275-295, SR) and fluorescence indices (HIX, BIX, FI). The DOC proxy measurements (a254) were almost 10 times higher at the Churchill site (Mean a254 116.77 cm-1) compared with the Quesnel river site (Mean a254 12.06 cm-1) during the study periods. While DGT labile Hg concentrations at the Quesnel site (2.17 to 98.97ppt) were almost 10 times more than the levels reported at the Churchill site (0.03 to 9.06 ppt). Fluorescence indices and the rise of labile Hg concentrations in spring indicated mostly terrestrial sources of DOM at both the sites. Spectral slopes and fluorescence indices substantiated that Churchill site had high molecular weight, complex and more humic DOM compared with Quesnel. DOM at both the sites was prone to temporal variation and affected by environmental conditions. Correlation between DGT labile-Hg and DOM parameters suggested that DGT collected Hg-organic complexes along with inorganic labile-Hg complexes. Author Keywords: Churchill, Diffusive gradient in thin films, Dissolved organic matter, Labile Hg, Mercury, Quesnel
Assessing limnological characteristics of subarctic Québec thaw ponds and mercury methylation and methylmercury demethylation within their sediments
Thawing permafrost due to increasingly warm temperatures in northern subarctic regions is releasing mercury. The consequent formation of thaw ponds in the peatland palsa valley of the Sasapimakwananisikw (SAS) river in Whapmagoostui-Kuujjuarapik, Québec may provide a pool for MMHg formation and a potential risk to aquatic and human life, if these ponds facilitate MMHg export through hydrological connections to nearby waterways. Hg methylation and MMHg demethylation activities were examined in thaw pond sediments using a Hg tracer isotope incubation experiment. Analysis by coupling gas chromatography cold-vapor atomic fluorescence spectrophotometry (GC-CVAFS) with inductively coupled mass spectrometry (ICP-MS) techniques showed that MMHg was produced at a higher rate and within the first 2 h of incubation for both summer and winter seasons. For thaw ponds SAS1A, SAS1B and SAS2A, MMHg was formed at 0.0048 % h-1, 0.0012 % h-1, and 0.0008 % h-1, respectively during winter and at 0.0001 % h-1, 0.0016 % h-1, and 0.0010 % h-1, respectively during summer. Detection of MMHg losses were not as expected likely due to limitations of the combined tracer spike and overestimation of the in situ ambient mercury levels. Physical and chemical properties vary within ponds, among ponds and between winter and summer. SAS1B’s location nearby an organic carbon rich palsa may be ideal to study DOC – Hg interactions. Variability in pond characteristics including depth, surface area, age, pH, temperature, colour, oxygen concentration, total dissolved and suspended solids, conductivity, carbon, mercury, ammonium, calcium, magnesium, sulfate, total phosphorous, potassium, and sodium between seasons indicate the challenge of predicting future environmental impacts of climate change related thaw pond creation in the north. Author Keywords: demethylation, mercury, methylation, methylmercury, SAS, thaw ponds

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