Graduate Theses & Dissertations


Interpretation of forest harvest recovery using field-based and spectral metrics in a Landsat time series in Northwestern Ontario
The forestry sector has a well-developed history of using remote sensing to identify structural characteristics of forests and to detect and attribute changes that occur in forested landscapes. Monitoring the recovery of disturbed forests is an important factor in long term forest management. However, forest that is recovered spectrally may not be recovered when considered in terms of a Free to Grow assessment. A Free to Grow assessment is used in Ontario to determine whether a disturbed site will likely achieve a desired future state, i.e., is recovered according to a forestry perspective. The objective of this research was to determine the relationship between a pixel-based Landsat Time Series of spectral recovery and the results of Free to Grow assessments. Spectral trajectories were generated from representative pixels within known harvested forest areas. Results indicate that while Free to Grow sites often achieve spectral recovery (>90%), many non-Free to Grow sites were classified as spectrally recovered, suggesting that improved methods of spectral recovery monitoring are needed. Author Keywords: forest recovery, Free to Grow, Landsat Time Series, LandTrendr, Pixel-based, spectral recovery
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
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:
collaborative ecotoxicological risk assessment of in-place pollutants in Owen Sound Bay, Lake Huron within the Saugeen Ojibway Nation Territory
Owen Sound Bay, which is located within the traditional territory of the Saugeen Ojibway Nation (SON), is contaminated as a result of historical industrial and shipping activity. Gross contamination of the sediments in the inner part of the Bay (i.e., Owen Sound Harbour) includes high concentrations of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and other organic compounds, as well as metals that may pose a risk to the SON fishery for lake whitefish (Coregonus clupeaformis). However, evaluating the environmental risks posed by contaminated sediments is a challenge, as these risks are dependent upon several factors and require multiple lines of evidence. Including Indigenous communities in environmental risk assessment and the management of those risks is vital for sustaining ecosystem integrity, as well as respecting Treaty Rights. In this study, a risk assessment framework was developed that included several risk assessment tools used in Western science and also encompassed the concerns and values of the SON, including the application of SON-ecological knowledge. Methods for risk evaluation included gathering lines of evidence though community workshops, as well as field sampling in the Bay to determine the concentrations of PAHs and other organic contaminants in sediments and in the water column. Laboratory studies of toxicity to early life stages of lake whitefish and Japanese medaka (Oryzias latipes) and sediment disturbance simulations to evaluate biological responses in juvenile lake whitefish were also completed as lines of evidence. The results indicate that leaving the harbour “as is” without a thorough analysis of remediation options fails to address the concerns of the people within the SON communities. Overall, this research demonstrated a successful process for developing a collaborative risk assessment framework that recognizes the sovereignty of Indigenous peoples and promotes Nation-to-Nation decision making. Author Keywords: biomarkers, Coregonus clupeaformis, Indigenous knowledge, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, risk assessment, source tracking
Understanding Angler Dynamics in a Recreational Lake Trout (Salvelinus namaycush) Fishery in Algonquin Provincial Park Using Long-Term Access Creel Data
In order to effectively manage recreational fisheries, it is important to understand how the resource is being used. In this thesis, long-term creel census data, collected on Lake Opeongo in Algonquin Provincial Park, Ontario, Canada was used to assess fine-scale angler dynamics within a recreational Lake Trout (Salvelinus namaycush) fishery. The spatial distribution of angler reported catch locations of Lake Trout within the lake, was assessed using an Optimized Hotspot Analysis in ArcGIS. Areas of significant clustering of catch locations were revealed during all time periods and varied in size and location both seasonally and temporally. Cormack-Jolly-Seber models were used to evaluate the probability of individual angling boats persisting in the regional fishery and being detected on Lake Opeongo through time, as well as to examine the effect of angler travel distance and gas prices on participation parameters. Time-varying models revealed that the probability of an angler persisting in the fishery varied, while detection estimates remained stable. Travel distance had a negative effect on both parameters while increased gas prices only had a slight negative effect on detection estimates. Additionally, among Lake Opeongo anglers, angling avidity varied as did lake specific fishing experience. Average CUE was found to be higher among angling parties who visited the lake more often than fishing parties who visited relatively few times. Author Keywords:
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
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
Biogeography of Carabidae (Coleoptera) in the Boreal forest
Basic biogeographic information is lacking for many species, such as where species are found, and how they dispersed there. Using ground beetles collected during 2008-2015 from across northern Ontario and Akimiski Island, Nunavut, I present new information on ground beetle distribution in this eastern Nearctic boreal forest, including 2 first Canadian records, 9 first provincial and 48 first territorial records, as well as 74 new records that extend the known range of many large and common ground beetles several hundred kilometres. I used these distributions to redress the knowledge gap that includes fundamental distribution data, i.e. the Wallacean shortfall, and to inform later chapters in my thesis.In Chapter 3, I examine the range expansion pattern of Carabus granulatus, a non-native species, as it spread across northeastern North America and I provide a new range record. Northern Ontario is already under threat from non-native species entering the region and it is important to conduct studies in the region before more disturbance associated with development occurs. In Chapter 4, I examine the hypothesis that northern Ontario effectively acts as a climate plateau for poikilotherms, using the predictions from Bergmann's rule as my metric. The body length of ground beetles does not appear to change over the small temperature gradient that exists across northern Ontario latitudes, supporting the climate plateau hypothesis. In Chapter 5, I test hypotheses about dispersal mechanisms that contributed to post glacial re-establishment of ground beetles using predictions of geographic distribution patterns as metrics. I found that ground beetles were likely carried downstream by rivers which aided their dispersal northward from southern refugia. I infer from the current geographic distributions that flightless ground beetle species are still expanding their range in this boreal region. Finally, I argue that there is an urgent need for more basic research on species distributions while it is still possible in regions like northern Ontario, before increased industrial and agricultural development, and expanding resource extraction projects obliterate evidence of historic ecological processes. Author Keywords: Boreal forest, Carabidae, Coleoptera, Passive dispersal, Post-glacial distribution, Range extension
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
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
Characterizing the demographic history and prion protein gene variation to infer susceptibility to chronic wasting disease in a naïve population of white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus)
Assessments of the adaptive potential of natural populations are essential for understanding and predicting responses to environmental stressors like climate change and infectious disease. The range of stressors species face in a human-dominated landscape, often have contrasting effects. White-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus, deer) are expanding in the northern part of their range following decreasing winter severity and increasing forage availability, caused by climate change. Chronic wasting disease (CWD), a prion disease affecting cervids, is likewise expanding and represents a major threat to deer and other cervids We obtained tissue samples from free-ranging deer across their native range in Ontario, Canada which has yet to detect CWD in wild populations of cervids. High throughput sequencing was used to assess neutral genomic variation and variation in the gene responsible for the protein that misfolds into prions when deer contract CWD, known as the PRNP gene. Neutral variation revealed a high number of rare alleles and no population structure, consistent with an expanding population of deer. Functional genetic variation revealed that the frequencies of variants associated to CWD susceptibility and disease progression were evenly distributed across the landscape and the frequencies were consistent with deer populations not infected with CWD. These findings suggest that an observable shift in PRNP allele frequencies likely coincides with the start of a novel CWD epidemic. Sustained surveillance of genomic and genetic variation can be a useful tool for CWD-free regions where deer are managed for ecological and economic benefits. Author Keywords: Canadian wildlife, population genetics, prion, PRNP, RADseq, ungulate
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


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