Graduate Theses & Dissertations


Caribou experience direct and indirect negative effects of harassment from biting flies, influencing behavior and activity on several spatial and temporal scales. I used systematic insect collection surveys during the summers of 2011 and 2012 to examine the spatial and temporal distributions of black flies (Simuliidae), mosquitoes (Culicidae), and deer flies and horse flies (Tabanidae) in a managed boreal forest in northern Ontario. Mosquitoes had a positive association with densely treed habitats, whereas black flies more often occurred in open areas, and tabanids had a strong presence in all habitat types. Habitats in proximity to large bodies of water had fewer biting flies than inland areas. Young stands supported higher abundances of tabanids despite vegetation community type. Next, I tested for seasonal effects of biting fly abundance on caribou activity by modelling the seasonal trend in abundance for each fly family for each year and compared this to an index of daily activity for 20 radio-collared female caribou in 2011 and 10 females in 2012. I modeled this index of caribou activity for each animal in each year and extracted the set of partial correlation coefficients from multiple regressions to test for effects of biting fly abundances on caribou activity. Caribou reduced their daily activity when tabanids were more numerous, and increased activity when mosquitoes were numerous. This divergent response may reflect a difference in the efficacy of moving to reduce harassment, owing to the stronger flight capabilities of tabanids. Author Keywords: Activity, Anthropogenic Disturbance, Behaviour, Insect harassment, Temporal distribution, Woodland Caribou
Home range use, habitat selection, and stress physiology of eastern whip-poor-wills (Antrostomus vociferus) at the northern edge of their range
The distribution of animals is rarely random and is affected by various environmental factors. We examined space-use patterns, habitat selection and stress responses of whip-poor-wills to mining exploration activity.To the best of my knowledge, fine scale patterns such as the habitat composition within known home ranges or territories of eastern whip-poor-wills have not been investigated. Using a population at the northern edge of the distribution in an area surrounding a mining exploration site, we tested whether variations in habitat and anthropogenic disturbances influence the stress physiology of individuals. We found no effect of increased mining activity on the stress physiology of birds but found a significant scale-dependent effect of habitat on their baseline and stress-induced corticosterone levels, and we suggest that these are the result of variations in habitat quality. The importance of other factors associated with those habitat differences (e.g., insect availability, predator abundance, and microhabitat features) warrants further research. Author Keywords: anthropogenic disturbances, Antrostomus vociferus, corticosterone, eastern whip-poor-will, habitat selection, radio-­telemetry
Productive Capacity of Semi-Alluvial Streams in Ontario
Changes in climate and land-use practices are leading to higher peak flows and increased transport capacity of channel substrate. Semi-alluvial streams underlain by bedrock or clay were examined to understand the potential impacts of alluvium loss on the biological community and overall productive capacity of semi-alluvial rivers. More specifically, this research investigates the productivity of gravels, bedrock, and consolidated clay, through the biomass and density of periphyton, coarse particulate organic matter, benthic invertebrates, and fish. The ecological approach undertaken demonstrates the relationships among each trophic level and linkages to productive capacity between different substrate types. Significant results were detected at the stream type level and substrate level. Bedrock-based streams were overall more productive in terms of CPOM, biomass and density of benthos in comparison to clay-based streams. Stream reaches with small to large areas of exposed bedrock or clay at the site level did not differ to areas with 100% gravel coverage in the comparison of any variable, including stream fishes. At the substrate level, gravels demonstrated the highest productive capacity in comparison to bedrock and clay substrates. CPOM biomass in gravels compared to bedrock and clay at a ratio of 30:14:1, respectively. Biomass of benthic invertebrates also demonstrated a higher productivity on gravels with a ratio of 59:19:1 in comparison to bedrock and clay, respectively. Positive relationships between CPOM and benthic invertebrate biomass were detected in both stream types. Relationships were also detected between fish biomass and benthic invertebrate biomass. Examination of benthic fishes also demonstrated positive relationships with benthic invertebrate biomass and density. Clay substrate on all accounts supported little biota. Results indicate alluvium loss in clay bed streams could reduce productive capacity. Understanding and integration of the potential impacts of alluvium loss would aid management and No Net Loss compensation plans to protect fisheries resources in semi-alluvial streams. Author Keywords:
Demography of a Breeding Population of Whimbrel (Numenius phaeopus) Near Churchill, Manitoba, Canada
I used a GIS raster layer of an area in the Churchill, Manitoba region to investigate the effect of breeding habitat on demography and density of Whimbrel from 2010 through 2013. Program MARK was used to quantify adult and daily nest survival. Apparent annual survival of 0.73 ± 0.06 SE (95% CI = 0.60-0.83) did not significantly differ between sexes or habitats and was lower than expected based on longevity records and estimates for other large-bodied shorebirds. Nest success, corrected for exposure days, was highly variable, ranging from a low of 3% (95% CI = 0-12%) in 2011 to a high of 71% (95% CI = 54-83%) in 2013. The highest rate of nest survival occurred in the spring with the warmest mean temperature. I developed a generalized linear model (GLM) with a negative-binomial distribution from random plots that were surveyed for abundance to extrapolate a local breeding population size of 410 ± 230 SE and density of 3.2 birds per square km ± 1.8 SE. The result of my study suggests that other aspects of habitat not captured by the land cover categories may be more important to population dynamics. Author Keywords: abundance, apparent survival, curlew, land cover map, nest-site fidelity, nest success
Spatial and Temporal Variation in Peatland Geochemistry in Sudbury, Ontario, Canada
The damage to Sudbury's landscape from over a century of smelter and logging activity has been severe and impacts well documented. However, despite their abundance in the region, wetlands have received little attention. Recent studies have identified that nutrient limitation is as much a problem as metal toxicity and highlighted not only the importance of wetlands but also the need for more detailed studies examining the role of wetlands in the recovery of lakes. The objective of this work is to characterize the spatial and temporal variability in the geochemistry of 18 wetlands (poor fens) surrounding Sudbury, Ontario. Peat and water chemistry in the wetlands exhibited large spatial and temporal variability. Copper and Ni concentrations in surface peat decreased with distance from the largest smelter in the area, but water chemistry was also strongly influenced by natural factors such as climate, groundwater and peat carbon content. Redox processes contribute greatly to temporal variation in pore-water chemistry: the August and October campaigns were characterized by higher SO4, lower pH and higher concentrations of metals such as Ni, Cu and Mn compared with the May campaign. Other factors contributing to the temporal variability in pore water chemistry include DOC production, senescence and water source. Despite the large variability, soil-solution partitioning can be explained by pH alone for some metals. Modeling is significantly improved with the addition of other variables representing dissolved organic matter quality and quantity, sulphate concentration and hydrology. Author Keywords: metal contamination, metal mobility, organic matter quality, peatland geochemistry
Reintroducing species in the 21st century
Climate change has had numerous impacts on species' distributions by shifting suitable habitat to higher latitudes and elevations. These shifts pose new challenges to biodiversity management, in particular translocations, where suitable habitat is considered crucial for the reintroduced population. De-extinction is a new conservation tool, similar to reintroduction, except that the proposed candidates are extinct. However, this novel tool will be faced with similar problems from anthropogenic change, as are typical translocation efforts. Using ecological niche modelling, I measured suitability changes at translocation sites for several Holarctic mammal species under various climate change scenarios, and compared changes between release sites located in the southern, core, and northern regions of the species' historic range. I demonstrate that past translocations located in the southern regions of species' ranges will have a substantial decline in environmental suitability, whereas core and northern sites exhibited the reverse trend. In addition, lower percentages (< 50% in certain scenarios) of southern sites fall above the minimal suitability threshold for current and long-term species occurrence. Furthermore, I demonstrate that three popular de-extinction candidate species have experienced changes in habitat suitability in their historic range, owing to climate change and increased land conversion. Additionally, substantial increase in potentially suitable space is projected beyond the range-limits for all three species, which could raise concerns for native wildlife if de-extinct species are successfully established. In general, this thesis provides insight for how the selection of translocation sites can be more adaptable to continued climate change, and marks perhaps the first rigorous attempt to assess the potential for species de-extinction given contemporary and predicted changes in land use and climate. Author Keywords: climate change, de-extinction, ecological niche models, MaxEnt, reintroduction, translocation
Moving North
Since their successful reintroduction, the eastern wild turkey (Meleagris gallopavo silvestris) has expanded its range north. Due to different and potentially more severe limiting factors, management approaches generalized from studies within the historical range may not be appropriate to apply to northern populations. To better understand northern wild turkey ecology, GPS and VHF transmitters were used to track habitat selection and survival of female turkeys at the species northern range edge in Ontario, Canada. These northern turkeys exhibited larger seasonal home range sizes relative to those in their historical range, and selected deciduous forest and pasture and fields within the study area. Supplemental food was also selected by turkeys when choosing autumn and winter ranges. The northern turkeys also suffered a low annual survival rate, and high mortality from predation. These findings underscore the challenges of maintaining turkey populations in northern environments, and will help inform management strategies. Author Keywords: Eastern Wild Turkey, Euclidean distance analysis, Habitat selection, Meleagris gallopavo silvestris, Northern range edge, Survival
Human Activity and Habitat Characteristics Influence Shorebird Habitat Use and Behaviour at a Vancouver Island Migratory Stopover Site
Pacific Rim National Park Reserve's 16 km of coastal beaches attract many thousands of people and shorebirds every year. To identify locations where shorebirds concentrate and determine the impact of human activity and habitat characteristics on shorebirds, I conducted shorebird and visitor surveys at 20 beach sectors during fall migration in 2011 to 2013 and spring migration in 2012 and 2013. The probability of shorebird presence decreased with increasing number of people at a beach sector. The time that shorebirds spent at a sector increased with increasing sector width. Close proximity to people increased the proportion of time shorebirds spent moving while shorebirds spent more time moving and less time foraging on wider beaches than on narrower ones. My findings suggest that placing restrictions on beach access and fast moving activities (e.g., running) may be necessary to reduce shorebird disturbance at Pacific Rim and similar stopover areas. Author Keywords: habitat use, human disturbance, predation risk, prey availability, shorebird, stopover
Nutritional stoichiometry and growth of filamentous green algae (Family Zygnemataceae) in response to variable nutrient supply
In this study, I investigate the effects of nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) on the nutritional stoichiometry and growth of filamentous green algae of the family Zygnemataceae in situ and ex situ. I found a mean of Carbon (C):N:P ratio of 1308:66:1 for populations growing in the Kawartha Lakes of southern Ontario during the summer of 2012. FGA stoichiometry was variable, with much of the variation in algal P related to sediment P (p < 0.005, R2 = 0.58). Despite large variability in their cellular nutrient stoichiometry, laboratory analysis revealed that Mougeotia growth rates remained relatively consistent around 0.28 day-1. In addition, Mougeotia was found to be weakly homeostatic with respect to TDN:TDP supply (1/HNP = 0.32). These results suggest that FGA stoichiometry and growth rates are affected by sediment and water N and P. However, they will likely continue to grow slowly throughout the summer despite variable nutrient supply. Author Keywords: Chlorophyll concentration, Filamentous algae, Growth rate, Homeostatic regulation, Nutritional stoichiometry
Changes to the Arctic and sub-Arctic climate are becoming increasingly evident as it warms faster than other areas of the globe, supporting evidence that predictions of future warming will be amplified due to positive feedback mechanisms. The Southern Hudson Bay polar bear (Ursus maritimus) subpopulation is one of the most southerly subpopulations in the world, putting it at increased risk due to effects of climate change. Whereas many other subpopulations have been the subject of intense research and monitoring, little research has been completed detailing the movement behaviour and space use of bears within Southern Hudson Bay. I used detailed movement data collected on female polar bears to establish a baseline of movement information for this subpopulation to which future work can be compared and effects of climate change can be assessed I evaluated the use of core areas during critical periods of the year (breeding and ice breakup) and evaluated common space use as a means of assessing site fidelity during the breeding season. Movement rates and home range sizes were comparable to those of the neighbouring Western Hudson Bay subpopulation. I also found evidence of increased occurrences of long distance, late fall movements along the coast to the northwest, presumably to gain earlier access to first ice. Though space use analysis did not reveal evidence of site fidelity to specific breeding areas in Hudson Bay, I found that core use areas are at risk of substantially shortened ice duration (x¯ =76 days shorter) using projected ice data based on the high emissions A2 climate change scenario. Author Keywords: climate change, Hudson Bay, movement, polar bear, sea ice, utilization distribution
Early Responses of Understory Vegetation to Above Canopy Nitrogen Additions in a Jack Pine Stand in Northern Alberta
Abstract Early Responses of Understory Vegetation After One Year of Above Canopy Nitrogen Additions in a Jack Pine Stand in Northern Alberta Nicole Melong Nitrogen (N) emissions are expected to increase in western Canada due to oil and gas extraction operations. An increase in N exposure could potentially impact the surrounding boreal forest, which has adapted and thrived under traditionally low N deposition. The majority of N addition studies on forest ecosystems apply N to the forest floor and often exclude the important interaction of the tree canopy. This research consisted of aerial NH4NO3 spray applications (5, 10, 15, 20, 25 kg N ha-1yr-1) by helicopter to a jack pine (Pinus banksiana Lamb.) stand in the Athabasca Oil Sands Region (AOSR) in northern Alberta, Canada. The main objective was to assess the impacts of elevated N after one year of treatment on the chemistry of understory vegetation, which included vascular plants, terricolous lichens, epiphytic lichens and a terricolous moss species. Changes in vegetation chemistry are expected to be early signs of stress and possible N saturation. Increased N availability is also thought to decrease plant secondary compound production because of a tradeoff that exists between growth and plant defense compounds when resources become available. Approximately 60% of applied N reached the ground vegetation in throughfall (TF) and stemflow (SF). Nitrate was the dominant form of N in TF in all treated plots and organic N (ON) was the dominant form of N in SF in all plots. The terricolous non-vascular species were the only understory vegetation that responded to the N treatments as N concentration increased with increased treatment. Foliar chemistry of the measured epiphytic lichens, vascular species, and jack pine was unaffected by the N treatments. Based on biomass measurements and N concentration increases, the non-vascular terricolous species appear to be assimilating the majority of TF N after one year. Vegetation from the high treatment plot (25 kg N ha-1yr-1) was compared to a jack pine forest receiving ambient high levels of N (21 kg N ha-1yr-1) due to its proximity to Syncrude mining activities. Nitrogen concentrations in plant tissues did not differ between the two sites; however, other elements and compounds differed significantly (Ca, Mg, Al, Fe). After one year of experimental N application, there were no environmental impacts consistent with the original N saturation hypothesis. Author Keywords: Athabasca Oil Sands Region, Canopy Interactions, Jack Pine, Nitrogen, Secondary Chemistry, Understory Vegetation
Effect of Water Surface Simulated Rain Drop Impacts on Water to Air Chemical Transfers of Perfluorinated Carboxylic Acids (PFCAs)
Perfluorinated carboxylic acids (PFCAs) are anthropogenic environmentally ubiquitous surfactants that tend to concentrate on water surfaces. This investigation looked at the effect of simulated rain on the atmospheric concentration of a suite of PFCAs (C2 - C12) above the bulk water system. Increased air concentrations of all PFCAs were detected during simulated rain events. Long chain PFCAs (>C8) were found to be much more concentrated in the air above the bulk water system than their short chain counter parts (


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