Graduate Theses & Dissertations

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SARS-CoV-2 Protein-based Detection Using Localized Surface Plasmon Resonance
During the COVID-19 pandemic, nucleic acid and antibody-based testing methods were heavily relied upon, but can be costly, time-consuming and exhibit high false -negative and -positive rates. Thus, alternative strategies are needed. Viral antigens such as the SARS-CoV-2 spike (S) glycoprotein are critical in the function of the virus and useful as diagnostic biomarkers for viral infections. For biosensing applications, aptamers are suitable high-affinity and cost-effective binding partners for their specific targets. Using localized surface plasmon resonance (LSPR), real-time, rapid acquisition of results can be achieved, essential for improving the efficacy of a sensor. Herein, LSPR aptamer sensors were fabricated for the detection of the SARS-CoV-2 protein. Data indicate that the best performing aptasensor was the streptavidin-biotin sensor, while the current gold aptasensor exhibited lower sensitivity and the fabrication of the carboxyl aptasensor was unsuccessful. The S1 aptamer selectively bound the S1 protein with high binding affinity. Excellent shelf-life stability, reusability, and high recovery in complex matrices was also maintained. Additionally, a receptor binding domain (RBD) functionalized sensor was fabricated to examine the interactions with angiotensin converting enzyme 2 (ACE2), for future assessment of inhibitors used in drug therapies. Overall, LSPR has been demonstrated as a viable tool for measuring SARS-CoV-2 related aptamer-protein and protein-protein interactions, and this strategy may be applied to other viral or non-viral antigen targets. Author Keywords: Antigen-based Detection, Coronavirus, COVID-19, Inhibition, Localized Surface Plasmon Resonance, SARS-CoV-2
The Relations Between Identity Developmental Processes, Study Habits, and Academic Performance
Adolescence is a time when young people focus their attention on setting and pursuing long-term goals. Contemporary approaches of identity development focus on three pivotal processes underlying the identity formation process and the maintenance of one’s identity (e.g., core values, etc.). These processes are commitment (commitments to a goal), in-depth exploration (exploration of choices and options), and reconsideration of commitment (feelings of uncertainty about current commitments). The primary purpose of the current study was to examine the relations between identity processes, study habits, and academic performance in 45 female undergraduate students (M age = 21.00). Utilizing a self-report measure, findings suggested a significant positive relation between educational and relational commitment, as well as reconsideration of commitments in the educational domain and reconsideration of commitments in the relational domain. In terms of identity processes and grades, a regression analysis revealed that educational reconsideration of commitments predicted academic performance. Further, for those employing poor study habit skills, educational reconsideration of commitment predicted academic performance. The present study offers insight on the importance of assessing adolescent’s uncertainty of educational and relational commitments, while also highlighting the protective factor of maintaining good study habit strategies. Author Keywords: academic performance, adolescence, educational, identity, relational, study habits
Exploring the Role of Natural Antisense Transcripts in the Stress Response of Ustilago maydis
Fungal pathogens adapt to environmental changes faster than their hosts, due in part to their adaptive mechanisms exhibited in response to stress. Ustilago maydis was used to investigate potential natural antisense transcript (NAT) RNA-mediated mechanisms that enhance fungal adaptation to stress. Of the 349 NATs conserved amongst U. maydis and two related smut fungi, five NATs were identified as having altered transcript levels in response to multiple stress conditions. Subsequently, antisense transcript expression vectors were created for select NATs and transformed into U. maydis haploid cells. When exposed to stress conditions, two antisense expressing mutant strains exhibited alterations in growth. RT-qPCR analysis of mRNA complementary to expressed NATs revealed no significant change in mRNA levels, which suggests NAT expression may influence stress response through dsRNA formation or other RNA mediated mechanisms. These results establish a basis for further investigations into the connection between NATs and the stress response of fungi. Author Keywords: natural antisense transcripts, non-coding RNAs, stress response, Ustilago maydis
Gene flow directionality and functional genetic variation among Ontario, Canada Ursus americanus populations.
Rapidly changing landscapes introduce challenges for wildlife management, particularly for large mammal populations with long generation times and extensive spatial requirements. Understanding how these populations interact with heterogeneous landscapes aids in predicting responses to further environmental change. In this thesis, I profile American black bears using microsatellite loci and pooled whole-genome sequencing. These data characterize gene flow directionality and functional genetic variation to understand patterns of dispersal and local adaptation; processes key to understanding vulnerability to environmental change. I show dispersal is positively density-dependent, male biased, and influenced by food productivity gradients suggestive of source-sink dynamics. Genomic comparison of bears inhabiting different climate and forest zones identified variation in genes related to the cellular response to starvation and cold. My thesis demonstrates source-sink dynamics and local adaption in black bears. Population management must balance dispersal to sustain declining populations against the risk of maladaptation under future scenarios of environmental change. Author Keywords: American black bear, Dispersal, Functional Genetic Variation, Gene Flow Directionality, Genomics, Local Adaptation
Functional Variation within Middle Paleolithic Ground Stone Tools
In the southern Levant, ground stone tools (GST) provide insight into early plant food exploitation, butchery, and cognition. Outside of these examples, GST evidence is scarce, particularly for the Middle Paleolithic. An extensive assemblage of GST recovered from Nesher Ramla, an open-air hunting camp in Israel, presents the unique opportunity to study the role of GST within Middle Paleolithic behaviour. Use-wear and residue analysis, together with replication experiments are employed to investigate GST function within a specific period of site use by focusing on GST from the Upper Sequence (Units I-II) which reflects a trend of decreasing site-use intensity. The results indicate that GST were employed for bone breaking and knapping during the final phases of occupation while comparison with Unit V suggests longer occupations involved more diverse and extensive use of GST. GST at open-air sites are also proposed to represent a strategy for intensive exploitation of location-specific resources. Author Keywords: Ground Stone Tools, Hammerstones, Middle Paleolithic, Residue Analysis, southern Levant, Use-Wear Analysis
Abundance and Distribution of Microplastics in Lake Scugog Catchment, Ontario
Plastic pollution is a growing concern, owing to its durability, ubiquity, and potential health impacts. The overall objective of this study was to assess the abundance and distribution of microplastics within Lake Scugog catchment, Ontario. This was fulfilled through two tasks (i) the development of a microplastic particle budget for the lake catchment, and (ii) the determination of the dry deposition of atmospheric microplastics in Port Perry, Ontario. The total input of microplastics into Lake Scugog (atmospheric deposition and stream inflow) was 2491 x106 mp/day, while the output (lake outflow and sedimentation) was 1761 x106 mp/day, suggesting that 29% of inputs were retained in the lake. The dry deposition of microplastics in Port Perry was 1257 mp/m2/day, which was high when compared to bulk deposition (37 mp/m2/day) in the same area. By quantifying the major pathways of microplastics better management techniques can be implemented. Author Keywords: Catchment, Dry Deposition, Microplastics, Ontario, Particle Budget, Plastic pollution
Particulate Matter Component Analyses in Relation to Public Health in Canada
This thesis explores the shot-term relationship between exposure to ambient air pollution and human health through metrics such as mortality and hospitalization in Canada. We begin by detailing the organization and interpolation of air pollution data from its partially quality-controlled source form. Analyses of seasonal, regional and temporal trends of all major components of PM2.5, was performed, showing a seasonal variation across most regions and validating the dataset. A one-pollutant statistical Generalized Additive Model was applied to the data, estimating the health risk associated with exposure to thirteen different components of PM2.5. The selected components were based on those that compromised the majority of the mass and included: sulphate, nitrate, zinc, silicon, iron, nickel, vanadium, potassium, organic carbon, organic matter, elemental carbon, total carbon. Trends based on annual estimates of the association for PM2.5, and its constituents,were compared, showing that carbonaceous compounds, sulphate and nitrate had similar estimates of association. Many estimates, as is common in population ecologic epidemiology, had association estimates statistically indistinguishable from zero, but with clear features of interest, including evident differences between cold and warm season associations in Canada's temperate climate. A method to model two correlated pollutants (in this case, PM2.5 and O3) was developed using thin plate splines. In this approach, the location of the response surface (after accounting for the temperature, a smooth function of time and day of week) that corresponds to the average pollutant concentration and the average plus one unit was used as the estimate of the joint contribution of pollutants due to a unit increase. The estimates from the thin plate spline (TPS) approach were compared to the single pollutant models, with large increases and decreases in PM2.5 and O3 being captured in the TPS estimates. However, this approach indicated significantly larger error in the estimates than would be expected, indicating a possible future area for refinement. Author Keywords: Air pollution, Environmental Epidemiology, Generalized Additive Models, Human Health, Multivariate Models, Thin Plate Splines
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
Use and Utilization of Loose and Commingled Human Dental Remains in Investigations of Ancient Human Populations
Commingled teeth present a unique opportunity for a novel application of standard methodological approaches commonly utilized in dental anthropological studies. Unfortunately, little research has been conducted on loose or commingled dental assemblages to determine if they are suitable samples for reconstructing bioarchaeological narratives of ancient human populations. The lack of research on commingled dental samples is surprising, given that teeth are highly resistant to post-depositional deterioration and are often some of the only remains left in high deteriorated burials. An experimental analysis of a commingled dental assemblage recovered from four chultuns at Ka'kabish, Belize, was conducted to address this lack of research and provide a real-world example of the potential use and utilization of commingled dental assemblages in investigations of ancient human populations. Author Keywords: Anthropology, Belize, Commingled, Dental, Maya, Methods
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
ADHD Symptomatology Across Adulthood
Objective: To improve on several methodological issues and research gaps regarding current literature investigating the stability of ADHD symptomatology across adulthood and relationships between the two core ADHD symptom dimensions (i.e., inattention and hyperactivity-impulsivity) and multiple life outcomes in adults. Method: A large sample of postsecondary students were initially assessed for ADHD symptomatology using the Conners’ Adult ADHD Rating Scale (CAARS). Six years later, academic success was assessed using students’ official academic records (e.g., final GPAs and degree completion status), and fifteen years later, participants were re-assessed using the CAARS and several measures of life success (e.g., relationship satisfaction, career satisfaction, and stress levels). Results: Inattention and hyperactivity-impulsivity symptoms showed strong stability across the 15-year period. Additionally, greater inattention symptoms during emerging adulthood and early middle adulthood were consistently associated with poorer life success (e.g., lower GPAs, poorer relationship and career satisfaction), particularly for men. Associations for hyperactivity-impulsivity symptoms were less consistent. Conclusion: ADHD symptomatology can be conceptualized as a stable, dimensional trait across adulthood, with robust associations with measures of life success. Author Keywords: academic success, ADHD, adults, job satisfaction, relationship satisfaction, stability
Relationships between bird densities and distance to mines in Northern Canada
Increased mining activity in the Canadian Arctic has resulted in significant changes to the environment that may be influencing some tundra-nesting bird populations. In this thesis I examine the direct and indirect effects of mining on birds nesting in the Canadian Arctic. I first perform a literature review of the effects that mining in the Arctic has on northern environments and wildlife and outline several ways in which mines affect Arctic-breeding birds. By using the Program for Regional and International Shorebird Monitoring (PRISM) Arctic plot-based bird survey data from across the Canadian Arctic, collected from 1995 to 2018, I identify the effects of distance to mining operations on the occupancy patterns of Arctic-breeding bird species. Six species’ densities were significantly impacted by mine proximity (Canada/Cackling Goose, Long-tailed Duck, Long-tailed Jaeger, Pectoral Sandpiper, Savannah Sparrow, and Rock Ptarmigan) across five major mine sites. Each species has its own unique relationship to distance from mining activity. Author Keywords: Bird populations, Canadian Arctic, Mining, Mining activities, PRISM, Tundra-nesting birds

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Format: 2023/02/05