Graduate Theses & Dissertations


Shorebird Stopover Ecology and Environmental Change at James Bay, Ontario, Canada
I examined how shorebirds respond to environmental change at a key subarctic migratory bird stopover site, the southwestern coast of James Bay, Ontario, Canada. First, I investigated if the morphology of sandpipers using James Bay during southbound migration has changed compared to 40 years prior. I found shorter, more convex and maneuverable wings for sandpipers in the present-day compared to the historical monitoring period, which supports the hypothesis that wing length change is driven by increases in predation risk. Secondly, I assessed the relationship between migration distance, body condition, and shorebird stopover and migratory decisions. Species that travelled farther distances from James Bay to wintering areas migrated with more characteristics of a time-minimizing migration strategy whereas species that travelled shorter distances migrated with energy minimizing strategies. Body condition impacted length of stay, wind selectivity at departure, groundspeeds, and probability of stopover and detection in North America after departing James Bay. Thirdly, I examined annual variation in dry/wet conditions at James Bay and found that shorebirds had lower body mass in years with moderate drought. In the present-day, drought resulted in lower invertebrate abundance and refuelling rates of shorebirds during stopover, which led to shorter stopover duration for juveniles and a higher probability of stopover outside of James Bay for all groups except white-rumped sandpiper. Finally, I estimated the relative importance of intertidal salt marsh and flat habitats to the diets of small shorebirds and found that semipalmated and white-rumped sandpiper (Calidris pusilla and C. fuscicollis) and semipalmated plover (Charadrius semipalmatus) diets consist of ~ 40 – 75% prey from intertidal marsh habitats, the highest documented in the Western Hemisphere for each species. My research shows that James Bay is of high importance to white-rumped sandpipers, which are unlikely to stop in North America after departing James Bay en route to southern South America. Additionally, intertidal salt marsh habitats (and Diptera larvae) appear particularly important for small shorebirds in the region. My thesis shows that changing environmental conditions, such as droughts, can affect shorebird refuelling and stopover strategies. Author Keywords: body condition, diet, environmental change, migration, ornithology, stopover ecology
Investigating the regional variation in frequencies of the invasive hybrid cattail, Typha × glauca
Interspecific hybridization rates can vary depending on genomic compatibilities between progenitors, while subsequent hybrid spread can vary depending on hybrid performance and habitat availability for hybrid establishment and persistence. As a result, hybridization rates and hybrid frequencies can vary across regions of parental sympatry. In areas around the Laurentian Great Lakes, Typha × glauca is an invasive plant hybrid of native Typha latifolia and introduced Typha angustifolia. In areas of parental sympatry in Atlantic Canada and outside of North America, T. × glauca has been reported as either rare or non-existent. I investigated whether the low frequencies of hybrids documented in Nova Scotia, Atlantic Canada, are influenced by reproductive barriers that prevent hybrid formation or environmental factors (salinity) that reduce hybrid performance. I identified an abundance of hybrids in the Annapolis Valley (inland) and a scarcity of hybrids in coastal wetlands through preliminary site surveys throughout Nova Scotia. In Annapolis Valley populations, flowering times of progenitor species overlapped, indicating that asynchronous flowering times do not limit hybrid formation in this region. Viable progeny were created from interspecific crosses of T. latifolia and T. angustifolia from Nova Scotia, indicating that there are no genomic barriers to fertilization and germination of hybrid seeds. Typha × glauca germination in high salinity was significantly lower than that of T. latifolia, but there was no difference at lower salinities. Therefore, while germination of hybrid seeds may be impeded in the coastal wetlands where salinity is high, inland sites have lower salinity and thus an environment conducive to hybrid germination. However, I found that once established as seedlings, hybrids appear to have greater performance over T. latifolia across all salinities through higher ramet production. Moreover, I found that T. latifolia sourced from Ontario had reduced germination and lower survivorship in high salinities compared to T. latifolia sourced from Nova Scotia, which could indicate local adaptation by T. latifolia to increased salinity. These findings underline that interactions between environment and local progenitor lineages can influence the viability and the consequent distribution and abundance of hybrids. This, in turn, can help explain why hybrids demonstrate invasiveness in some areas of parental sympatry but remain largely absent from other areas. Author Keywords: flowering phenology, Hybridization, invasive species, physiology, pollen compatibility, salinity tolerance
Study of Aerosols for use in Water Remediation of Pharmaceutical Pollutants
In this thesis, aerosolization was studied as a possible means of water remediation for several environmentally relevant pharmaceutical pollutants, known for their persistence in wastewater effluent and potable water sources. Seven different pharmaceutical compounds and a well-known plasticizer were all shown to decrease considerably in concentration in aerosol that was produced and subsequently collected within a short time span. Strong evidence is presented that an enhanced rate of partitioning into the gas phase at the air-water interface of water droplets exists for every compound tested relative to that occurring in bulk solution. UV photolysis in aerosols was also explored and shown for sulfamethoxazole to be at least an order of magnitude faster in aerosols then in bulk solution. The implications towards both the environmental fate, and removal of these compounds from water sources is discussed. Author Keywords: Aerosols, Air-water partitioning, Pharmaceuticals, Photolysis, Sulfamethoxazole
Anthropogenic microfibres in background natural environments in Ireland
Microfibres, which are threadlike particles < 5 mm, are the most common type of microplastic reported in the environment. However, few studies have focused on their abundance in background natural environments. This study assessed the abundance of microfibres in rainfall samples (from four precipitation monitoring stations) and across three headwater lake catchments that were in remote, undeveloped areas, away from anthropogenic disturbance and anthropogenic emission sources (i.e., sites were background natural environments). Anthropogenic microfibres were observed in all samples using visual identification methods, with Raman spectroscopy confirming the presence of polyester film and synthetic pigments, e.g., indigo and hostasol green. The estimated annual average atmospheric deposition of microfibres was ~28,800 mf m-2. Meteorological variables, e.g., rain, wind direction, and relative humidity were correlated with the abundance of microfibres. The average abundance of microfibres in headwater lake catchments was 24 mf g-1 in moss, 0.70 mf m-3 in surface trawl, 9,690 mf m-3 in subsurface, 910 mf kg-1 in lake sediment and 576 mf kg-1 in lakeshore sediment. Author Keywords: Atmospheric Deposition, Background Environments, Headwater Lake Catchments, Microfibres, Microplastics, Rainfall
Cytokinins in nematodes
To investigate cytokinins (CKs) in nematodes, CK profiles of a free-living Caenorhabditis elegans and a plant parasitic Heterodera glycines (soybean cyst nematode, SCN) were determined at the egg and larval stages. SCN had higher total CK level than C. elegans; however, CKs in SCN were mostly inactive precursors, whereas C. elegans had more bioactive forms. This is the first study to show that methylthiols are present in nematodes and may affect plant infection. In infectious SCN larvae, methylthiol levels were much higher than in eggs or C. elegans larvae. Furthermore, The CK profiles of SCN-susceptible and resistant Glycine max cultivars at three developmental stages revealed that, regardless of the resistance level, SCN infection caused an increase in root CKs. One resistant cultivar, Pion 93Y05, showed significantly high levels of bioactive N6-isopentenyladenine (iP) in the non-infected roots which indicated a potential role of CKs in soybean resistance to SCN. Author Keywords: Cytokinins, HPLC-MS/MS, Nematode, SCN resistance, Soybean
Ligand Binding Properties of Giardia Flavohemoglobin
The parasitic protist Giardia intestinalis possesses flavohemoglobin (gFlHb), an enzyme that detoxifies nitric oxide to the less harmful nitrate, and is a potential target for antigiardial drugs that act as ligands to the iron of its heme cofactor. In this work, the binding constants KD of gFlHb, three active-site variants (Q54L, L58A, Y30F) and the E. coli flavohemoglobin (Hmp) towards cyanide, azide and several substituted imidazoles were measured by optical titration. Certain cases such as gFlHb and Hmp were studied further by isothermal titration calorimetry. Binding constants for cyanide and the imidazoles ranged from 2 to 100 M, with the highest affinities observed with for miconazole, a bulky substituted imidazole. Azide was a poor ligand, with binding constants between 0.48 and 26 mM. Among gFlHb and its mutants, L58A tended to have the highest ligand affinities, as mutation of the distal leucine to a less bulky distal alanine residue facilitates the access of the exogenous ligand to the heme iron. In contrast, the Q54L and Y30F variants had binding affinities that in most cases were similar to wild type, which suggests that the inability of their side chains to form hydrogen bonds to these ligands is not a significant factor in binding of imidazole ligands to the enzyme. Comparative results for Hmp and gFlHb ligand binding affinities revealed slight differences which might be explained by the presence of different residues in their active sites apart from their conserved residues. Author Keywords: Flavohemoglobin, Giardia intestinalis, Imidazole binding, Ligand binding, Nitrosative stress
Patterns of Vegetation Succession on Nickel-Copper Mine Tailings near Sudbury, Ontario
Natural establishment of vegetation on mine tailings is generally limited. Understanding the processes leading to vegetation germination and the survival mechanisms that vegetation species employ in these harsh environments is critical to future remediation efforts. As metalliferous mine tailings are generally nutrient-poor, high in harmful metals, and acidic, vegetation species require distinct mechanisms to germinate and survive in such harsh environments. In this study, edaphic and biotic factors linked to vegetation establishment and diversity were studied at two nickel-copper (Ni-Cu) tailings sites near Sudbury, Ontario. One site had experienced minimal treatment, and the second site was split into partial (hand-distribution of lime) and full (lime, fertilizer, seeding) treatment areas. Tailings were generally acidic, low in organic matter and “available” nutrients, and high in metals such as Al, Cu, Fe, and Ni, but these physical and chemical properties were extremely spatially variable. At both sites, vegetation was distributed in sparse patches, with the greatest diversity in treated areas. There was no clear link between metals and vegetation establishment/diversity at the sites. The primary limiting nutrients on the tailings were phosphorous (P) and potassium (K), and while there were areas of increased soil fertility at the sites, they were not clearly associated with increased vegetation diversity. Both traditional ecological succession and nucleation succession patterns were observed on the site, and the chief species associated with nucleation were primary colonizing trees such as B. papyrifera and P. tremuloides. The relationship between B. papyrifera nutrient retranslocation and tailings restoration was assessed and while B. papyrifera at the sites were deficient in P and K, the trees efficiently retranslocated both P and K during senescence. This research can provide insight into possibilities for future revegetation of similar tailings, enabling industry to make educated decisions when choosing where and how to revegetate, mimicking natural succession patterns. Author Keywords: Acid-mine drainage, Betula papyrifera, ecosystem health, metals, Sudbury, tailings
Investigation of Air Recirculation and Thermal Efficiency within a Climate Controlled Passage
Historically, entrances have been used for passage between two separate temperature environments, such as moving from inside to outside of a building. Energy loss through entrances is a cause for concern, as it has been known to increase energy consumption to replace the lost energy; and with the exchange of air masses and cold air entering the building, human discomfort may occur. In this research, thermal efficiency and air circulation within a Conventional Entrance (CE) and Climate Controlled Passage (CCP) are compared. A small scale model of the CE and CCP was constructed to examine forty-eight energy exchange conditions, emulating those found through an entrance between a temperature controlled lab and the model. Instruments such as a power meter, a flow explorer laser Doppler anemometer, and thermocouples were used to measure and compare the energy consumption, velocity vectors, and temperature energy within the entrance. Results indicate that the CCP did retain thermal energy compared to the CE. The CE developed sloped isotherm lines and air flow that enabled and maintained thermal exhaust. Conversely, the CCP developed horizontal isotherm lines and a two-layer density current to recirculate and retain thermal energy. The research demonstrates that it is possible to increase energy efficiency of entrances in many applications. Author Keywords: Air Recirculation, Building, Entrance, Oven, Thermal Energy Efficiency, Two-layer Density Current
Modelling Monthly Water Balance
Water balance models calculate water storage and movement within drainage basins, a primary concern for many hydrologists. A Thornthwaite water balance model (H2OBAAS) has shown poor accuracy in predicting low flows in the Petawawa River basin in Ontario, so lake storage and winter snow processes were investigated to improve the accuracy of the model. Lake storage coefficients, represented by the slopes of lake stage vs. lake runoff relationships, were estimated for 19 lakes in the Petawawa River basin and compared on a seasonal and inter-lake basis to determine the factors controlling lake runoff behaviour. Storage coefficients varied between seasons, with spring having the highest coefficients, summer and fall having equal magnitude, and winter having the lowest coefficients. Storage coefficients showed positive correlation with lake watershed area, and negative correlation with lake surface area during summer, fall, and winter. Lake storage was integrated into the H2OBAAS and improved model accuracy, especially in late summer, with large increases in LogNSE, a statistical measure sensitive to low flows. However, varying storage coefficients with respect to seasonal lake storage, watershed area, and surface area did not improve runoff predictions in the model. Modified precipitation partitioning and snowmelt methods using monthly minimum and maximum temperatures were incorporated into the H2OBAAS and compared to the original methods, which used only average temperatures. Methods using temperature extremes greatly improved simulations of winter runoff and snow water equivalent, with the precipitation partitioning threshold being the most important model parameter. This study provides methods for improving low flow accuracy in a monthly water balance model through the incorporation of simple snow processes and lake storages. Author Keywords: Lake Storage, Model Calibration, Monthly Water Balance, Petawawa River, Precipitation Partitioning, Snow Melt
Shorebird Habitat Use and Foraging Ecology on Bulls Island, South Carolina During the Non-Breeding Season
Recent declines in North American shorebird populations could be linked to habitat loss on the non-breeding grounds. Sea-level rise and increased frequency of coastal storms are causing significant erosion of barrier islands, thereby threatening shorebirds who rely on shoreline habitats for foraging. I conducted shorebird surveys on Bulls Island, South Carolina in the winters of 2018 and 2019 and examined habitat selection and foraging behaviour in Dunlin (Calidris alpina), Sanderling (Calidris alba), Semipalmated Plovers (Charadrius semipalmatus), and Piping Plovers (Charadrius melodus). Area, tidal stage, and invertebrate prey availability were important determinants of shorebird abundance, behaviour, and distribution. My study highlights the importance of Bulls Island’s habitat heterogeneity to supporting a diverse community of non-breeding shorebirds. Considering both the high rate of erosion and the increased frequency of disturbance along the shoreline of the island, intertidal habitats should be monitored to predict negative effects of changes in habitat composition and area on non-breeding shorebirds. Author Keywords: foraging behaviour, habitat loss, habitat selection, invertebrate prey, non-breeding, shorebirds
Discriminating grey wolf (Canis lupus) predation events in a multi-prey system in central Saskatchewan
I investigated if spatio-temporal behaviour of grey wolves (Canis lupus) determined via GPS collar locations could be used to discriminate predation events generally, and among prey species, in Prince Albert National Park during winter, 2013-2017. I used characteristics of spatio-temporal GPS clusters to develop a predictive mixed-effect logistic regression model of which spatial clusters of locations were wolf kill sites. The model suffered a 60 % omission error when tested with reserved data due to the prevalence of deer kills with correspondingly low handling time. Next, I found a multivariate difference in the percentage of habitat classes used by wolves in the 2 hours preceding predation events of different prey species, suggesting that wolf habitat use reflects prey selection at a fine-scale. My results highlight the difficulty and future potential for remoting discriminating wolf predation events via GPS collar locations in multi-prey ecosystems. Author Keywords: Canis lupus, GPS clusters, GPS collars, grey wolf, habitat use, predation
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


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