Graduate Theses & Dissertations


Habitat use and community structure of grassland birds in southern Ontario agro-ecosystems.
Most grassland bird populations are in decline, so it is becoming increasingly important to understand how they use agricultural field types and form their communities. I performed point counts in cultural meadow, intensive agriculture, and non-intensive agriculture areas in 2011 and 2012. Generalized linear models were used to determine the habitat relationships of six focal species. I found that non-intensive agriculture was used most often and intensive agriculture was often avoided, but there were exceptions which indicate habitat use can be species-specific. I determined in which habitats competition was likely occurring and which species pairs were competing in 2011. In 2012, I experimentally tested these relationships by introducing artificial competitors onto sites. By comparing presence-absence data from 2011 to 2012, I found evidence of habitat-mediated interspecific and conspecific attraction involving Bobolink and Grasshopper Sparrow. This research contributes to the current understanding of grassland bird community ecology and conservation. Author Keywords: agriculture, BACI, community ecology, habitat use, species at risk, species interactions
Many facilities attempt to alleviate the risk of chronic stress in captivity by providing environmental enrichment shown to minimize behavioural disorders and stress in several species. One potential form of enrichment used in zoos is training animals to perform rides for guests, however, the effect of this activity on the welfare of individual animals has never been examined. I validated the use of saliva for assessing stress in dromedary camels (Camelus dromedarius) an animal commonly used for rides. I then measured variation in salivary cortisol in four male camels during animal rides for guests at the Toronto Zoo. The camels were sampled during the ride season (from June to August) using four treatments: 1) in their pasture, 2) at the ride area not performing rides, 3) performing a low number of rides (n=50/day) and 4) performing a high number of rides (n=150/day). Furthermore, samples were taken before and after the ride season for comparison. There was a significant difference between the post-ride season treatment and the three treatments involving guest presence during the ride season (ride area, low rides, high rides. This indicates that performing rides is not a stressful experience based on the stress metrics I used, and suggests that rides may be a form of enrichment for dromedary camels. Author Keywords: ACTH challenge, animal welfare, camels, environmental enrichment, salivary cortisol, stress
I investigated the impact of beef-cattle farm management on the reproductive success of Bobolink (Dolichonyx oryzivorus) and Eastern Meadowlark (Sturnella magna) within Eastern Ontario. I monitored rotational grazing management regimes and hay cut dates while assessing breeding phenology and reproductive success of Bobolinks and Eastern Meadowlarks. In pasture paddocks the major factor determining Bobolink reproductive success was the date that cattle entered a paddock to graze, with earlier entries resulting in lower reproductive success. On a landscape scale, within a series of paddocks grazed by a single herd, as the number of paddocks grazed during the nesting season increased, the number of Bobolinks that reproduced successfully decreased. Experimental quantification of trampling showed that cattle exposure to clay pigeon targets, regardless of stocking rates, resulted in the majority of targets being trampled. In hayfields associated with beef- cattle operations, grassland birds had a higher likelihood of success when cutting occurred after 4 July. The best method to improve the reproductive success of Bobolinks and Eastern Meadowlarks is to leave some hayfields and pasture paddocks undisturbed until nesting is complete. Author Keywords: Bobolink, Dolichonyx oryzivorus, farm management, hayfield, pasture, rotational grazing
Spatial dynamics of pollination in dioecious Shepherdia canadensis in Yukon, Canada
Sexual reproduction in flowering plants depends on investment in reproduction, the mode of pollen transfer, the availabilities of nutrient resources and potential mates, and the spatial scales over which these processes take place. In this thesis, I studied the general reproductive biology of Shepherdia canadensis (L.) Nutt. (Elaeagnaceae) and the suite of pollinators that visit the plants in Ivvavik National Park, Yukon, Canada. Across ten sites, I found that S. canadensis females were larger than males, but males produced more flowers than females at most sites. Males typically occurred at higher frequencies than females with the average male to female sex ratio being 1.19 ± 0.08 (mean ± SE, n = 10 sites). Both shrub size and flower production were significantly influenced by interactions between soil nitrogen and sex. Insect visitors to S. canadensis flowers were primarily ants and flower flies (Syrphidae), but exclusion experiments indicated that visitation by flying insects yielded greater fruit production than visitation by crawling insects. I found that fruit set was limited by the density of males within populations, but only over small distances (4-6 m). This is the first study to demonstrate that female reproductive success of a generalist-pollinated dioecious plant is limited by the density of males over small spatial scales. Author Keywords: dioecy, pollinators, sex ratio, sexual dimorphism, Shepherdia canadensis
Longitudinal trends of benthic invertebrates in regulated rivers
The Serial Discontinuity Concept describes the downstream recovery of key biophysical variables below an impoundment. With the proliferation of hydropower dams to meet increasing societal demands, further refinement and understanding of the Serial Discontinuity Concept is needed to accurately predict downstream impacts and ensure the proper management of rivers. In this study, I examine SDC predictions on physical, chemical and biological recovery in regulated rivers providing evidence from 1) a comprehensive literature review and 2) a formal test using two regulated rivers in Northern Ontario. I specifically address how these changes are reflected in benthic invertebrate abundance, diversity, and community composition. The literature review and case studies support the predicted recovery of temperature, periphyton, substrate, and drift. In addition, the study suggests that two recovery gradients exist in regulated rivers: 1) a longer, thermal gradient taking up to hundreds of kilometres downstream; and 2) a shorter, resource subsidy gradient recovering within 1-4 km downstream of an impoundment. Total benthic invertebrate abundance varies considerably and depends on the degree of flow alteration and resource subsidies from the upstream reservoir. In contrast, benthic diversity is reduced below dams irrespective of dam location and operation with little recovery observed downstream. Contrary to SDC predictions, the longitudinal gradient in regulated rivers is not a compaction of functional changes seen over several stream orders in natural rivers but a response to dam design and reservoir conditions. Stoneflies and dragonflies are particularly sensitive to regulation while filter feeding invertebrates are enhanced. Ward and Stanford's (1983) Serial Discontinuity Concept is still a useful framework for testing hypotheses. Future studies should further expand the SDC through empirical estimation within the context of the landscape to gain a better scientific understanding of regulated river ecology. Author Keywords: benthic invertebrates, dams, longitudinal, recovery, River Continuum Concept, Serial Discontinuity Concept
Selection on functional genes across a flying squirrel (genus Glaucomys) hybrid zone
While hybridization between distinct taxa can have undesirable implications, it can also result in increased genetic variability and potentially, the exchange of adaptive genes or traits. Adaptive variation acquired through introgressive hybridization may be particularly advantageous for species facing rapid environmental change. I investigated a novel, climate change-induced hybrid zone between two flying squirrel species: the southern (Glaucomys volans) and northern (G. sabrinus) flying squirrel. I was interested in the occurrence of hybridization and introgression, the type of selective pressures maintaining the hybrid zone and the potential for adaptive introgression. I found relatively low hybridization and introgression frequencies (1.7% and 2.9% of the population, respectively) and no evidence of selection on hybrids or backcrosses in particular environments. I conclude that the data are more consistent with a hybrid zone maintained by endogenous (environment-independent) selection. I tested for adaptive introgression using two functional genes: IGF-1 and CLOCK. I documented intermediate functional allele frequencies in backcrosses compared to parental populations, suggesting the alleles do not confer fitness advantages in backcrosses. Despite lack of evidence for current adaptive introgression, genetic admixture between G. volans and G. sabrinus may provide adaptive potential should these species face more rapid or drastic environmental change in the future. Author Keywords: adaptive introgression, flying squirrel, Glaucomys sabrinus, Glaucomys volans, hybridization, introgression
Ice age fish in a warming world
In the face of climate change, the persistence of cold-adapted species and populations will depend on their capacity for evolutionary adaptation of physiological traits. As a cold-adapted Ice Age relict species, lake trout (Salvelinus namaycush) are ideal for studying potential effects of climate change on coldwater fishes. I studied the thermal acclimation capacity and aerobic metabolism of age 2+ lake trout from four populations across four acclimation temperatures (8ºC, 11ºC, 15ºC, and 19ºC). One population had marginally significant higher active metabolic rate (AMR) and metabolic scope across all temperatures. There was no interpopulation variation for critical thermal maximum (CTM), standard metabolic rate (SMR), or thermal acclimation capacity. Acclimation resulted in a 3ºC increase in thermal tolerance and 3-fold increase in SMR for all populations. At 19ºC, SMR increased and AMR declined, resulting in sharply reduced metabolic scope for all populations. The limited intraspecific variation in thermal physiology suggests that climate change may threaten lake trout at the species rather than population level. Author Keywords: Climate Change, Lake Trout, Metabolic Rate, Salvelinus namaycush, Temperature, Thermal Acclimation
Speciation of Aluminum and Zinc in Three Streams of a Forested Catchment of the Boreal Zone
This study presents a detailed assessment of the chemical speciation of aluminum and zinc in three streams of a small, acid-sensitive forested catchment on the southern edge of the Precambrian Shield. Speciation analysis was achieved using an in-situ analytical technique known as Diffusive Gradient in Thin film (DGT) which measures labile metals, and a predictive computer algorithm (WHAM VI) which calculates metal species concentrations. Three types of DGT with different metal scavenging capabilities were used and a total of 11 deployments performed across four seasons. WHAM VI predictions showed that the organic fraction of aluminum was the main contributor to the dissolved concentrations in the main inflow stream (PC1) (~ 80 %) and the lake's outflow (PCO) (~ 75%); in the upland stream (PC1-08) the inorganic fraction contributed ~ 75%. For zinc the free ion was the single most important contributor to the dissolved concentration (< 90%) in all three streams. A comparative study of the DGT and WHAM methods showed an agreement between their inorganic concentrations during the spring season. Both methods indicate the greatest environmental impact for Al takes place during snow melt period in PCO and PC1-08 and in the summer for PC1. The greatest environmental impact for Zn predicted with WHAM VI, occurs during the spring in all three streams. Author Keywords: Aluminum, DGT, Metal speciation, WHAM, Zinc
Cytokinin Oxidase/Dehydrogenase (CKX) Gene Family in Soybeans (Glycine max)
Glycine max (soybean) is an economically important plant species that registers a relatively low yield/seed weight compared to other food and oil seed crops due to higher rates of flower and pod abortion. Alleviation of this abortion rate can be achieved by altering the sink strength of the reproductive organs of soybeans. Cytokinin (CK) plays a fundamental role in promoting growth of sink organ (flowers and seeds) by increasing the assimilate demand. Cytokinin oxidase/dehydrogenase (CKX) is an enzyme that catalyses the irreversible breakdown of active CKs and hence reduce the cytokinin content. The current thesis uncovers the members of CKX gene family in soybeans and the natural variations among CKX genes within soybean varieties with different yield characteristics. The identification of null variants of OsCKX2 that resulted in large yield increases by Ashikari et al. (2005) provided a rationale for current thesis. The soybean CKX genes along with the ones from Arabidopsis, Rice and Maize were used to construct a phylogenetic tree. Using comparative phylogeny, protein properties and bioinformatic programs, the potential effect of the identified natural variations on soybean yield was predicted. Five genes among the seventeen soybean CKXs identified, showed polymorphisms. One of the natural variations, A159G, in the gene GmCKX16 occurred close to the active site of the protein and was predicted to affect the activity of enzyme leading to higher accumulation of CKs and hence increased seed weight. Use of such natural variations in marker assisted breeding could lead to the development of higher yielding soybean varieties. Author Keywords: CKX, Cytokinins, Seed weight, Seed Yield, SNPs, Soybeans
Carbon and Nitrogen Isotope Changes in Streams along an Agricultural Gradient
Nitrogen is a major constituent of agricultural fertilizers, and nitrogen inputs to stream water via runoff and groundwater lead to a variety of negative environmental impacts. In order to quantify the movement of nitrogen through aquatic food webs, fourteen streams with varying land uses across South-Central Ontario were sampled for two species of fish, freshwater mussels, and water for measurement of isotope ratios of δ15N and δ13C. I found that nitrogen isotopes in fish, water, and mussels were related to the percentage of riparian monoculture, and that carbon isotopes were unrelated to monoculture. Though all species were enriched as monoculture increased, the rate of δ15N enrichment as monoculture increased did not vary between species. This study has improved our understanding of how monoculture affects nutrient enrichment in stream food webs, and assesses the validity of using nitrogen isotopes to measure trophic positions of aquatic organisms across an environmental gradient. Author Keywords: agriculture, fish, food webs, nitrogen, stable isotopes, streams
Seasonal variation in nutrient and particulate inputs and outputs at an urban stormwater pond in Peterborough, Ontario
Stormwater ponds (SWPs) are a common feature in new urban developments where they are designed to minimize runoff peaks from impervious surfaces and retain particulate matter. As a consequence, SWPs can be efficient at retaining particle-bound nutrients, but may be less efficient at retaining nutrients that are present primarily in the dissolved form, like nitrogen (N). However, the forms of nutrients (e.g. particulate vs. dissolved) likely differ with hydrologic and seasonal conditions and few studies have examined year-round differences in nutrient forms and concentrations at urban SWPs. In order to contrast total suspended solids (TSS), phosphorus (P) and nitrogen (N) levels between low and high flow conditions, sampling was conducted at an urban SWP in Peterborough, ON between November 2012 and October 2013. Only an increase in TSS levels at the outflow between low and high flow conditions was observed, as well as a decrease in TSS levels at the outflow compared to Inflow 1 under low flow conditions. Nitrate-N (NO3-N) was the dominant form of N entering the pond under all flow conditions, whereas the fraction of total-P (TP) that was particulate increased under high flow conditions. Nevertheless, the dissolved fraction of TP was consistently high in these urban inlets. Only NO3-N was significantly greater in the inflows than outflow and only under low flow conditions. Increases in the proportions of organic-N and ammonium-N in the outlet suggest that biological processing is important for N retention. Author Keywords: nitrogen, Ontario, phosphorus, stormwater ponds, total suspended solids
Fate of Silver Nanoparticles in Lake Mesocosms
The fate of silver nanoparticles (AgNPs) in surface waters determines the ecological risk of this emerging contaminant. In this research, the fate of AgNPs in lake mesocosms was studied using both a continuous (i.e. drip) and one-time (i.e. plug) dosing regime. AgNPs were persistent in the tested lake environment as there was accumulation in the water column over time in drip mesocosms and slow dissipation from the water column (half life of 20 days) in plug mesocosms. In drip mesocosms, AgNPs were found to accumulate in the water column, periphtyon, and sediment according to loading rate; and, AgNP coating (PVP vs. CT) had no effect on agglomeration and dissolution based on filtration analysis. In plug mesocosms, cloud point extraction (CPE), single-particle-inductively coupled mass spectroscopy (spICP-MS), and asymmetrical flow field-flow fractionation (AF4-ICP-MS) confirmed the temporal dissolution of AgNPs into Ag+ over time; however, complexation is expected to reduce the toxicity of Ag+ in natural waters. Author Keywords: AF4-ICP-MS, cloud point extraction, fate, mesocosms, silver nanoparticles, SP-ICP-MS


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