Graduate Theses & Dissertations


Assessing basin storage
Water storage is a fundamental component of drainage basins, controlling the synchronization between precipitation input and streamflow output. The ability of a drainage basin to store water and regulate streamflow may mediate sensitivity to climate and land cover change. There is currently no agreement on the best way to quantify basin storage. This study compares results of a combined hydrometric and isotopic approach for characterizing inter-basin differences in storage across the Oak Ridges Moraine (ORM) in southern Ontario. The ratio of the standard deviation of the stable isotope signature of streamflow relative to that of precipitation has been shown to be inversely proportional to mean water transit times, with smaller ratios indicating longer water transit times and implying greater storage. Stable isotope standard deviation ratios were inversely related to baseflow index values. Basins demonstrating longer transit times were associated with hydrological characteristics that promote infiltration and recharge of storage. Author Keywords: baseflow, basin storage, climate change, mean transit time, Oak Ridges Moraine, stable isotopes
Temperature effects on the routine metabolic rates of brook trout (Salvelinus fontinalis) eggs, alevin and fry
Early developmental stages of cold-adapted ectotherms such as brook trout (Salvelinus fontinalis) are at risk of mortality with increasing water temperatures because of their sensitivity to changes in their environment. I studied the mass and routine metabolic rate (RMR) of wild-origin brook trout eggs, alevin and young fry reared at normal (5°C) and elevated (9°C) temperatures for the duration of the study or at mismatched temperatures. This setup determined if preconditioning acclimation for one temperature benefits or hinders the organism later in life. Three levels of biological organization (ancestry, population, family) were studied using Akaike’s Information Criterion (AIC) to identify models that best accounted for variation in the data. Family, mass and temperature were most important in predicting body mass and mass-adjusted RMR, although population and ancestral-level differences were also detected at some life stages. Strong variation in body mass and mass-adjusted RMR among families may indicate adaptive potential within brook trout populations to respond to increases in water temperature with climate change. Author Keywords: Acclimation, AIC, Brook trout (Salvelinus fontinalis), Environmental matching, Routine metabolic rate, Temperature
effects of particulate matter on the fate and toxicity of silver nanoparticles
As an emerging contaminant, the antimicrobial agent silver nanoparticles (AgNPs) have been receiving considerable attention to determine their potential effects to aquatic ecosystems. However, estimates of aquatic consumer survivorship and other toxicological endpoints vary considerably among experiments, largely due to the environment in which the test takes place. Throughout this thesis I aim to understand which natural environmental variables impact toxicity to the common aquatic consumer Daphnia. I focus on the effects of particulate matter as it may play a role in animal nutrition as well as interact with AgNPs. I explore particulate matter’s effect on survival in the complex matrices including other natural variables that could impact toxicity. I conduct a series of complimentary field and laboratory studies to understand how particles impact AgNP toxicity and how those interactions vary within whole lake ecosystems. Using laboratory studies, I establish that algal particles mitigate the toxic effects of AgNPs on Daphnia survival through removing Ag from the water column and that phosphorus increases this effect. Using wild Daphnia and lake water, I demonstrate the ability of particulate matter to mitigate toxicity in complex natural settings. It was also one of the major predictors of AgNP toxicity to Daphnia along with dissolved organic carbon and daphnid seasonal health. Finally, using a whole lake AgNP addition experiment, I demonstrate that particles and AgNPs interact variably in the lake. Silver from AgNPs binds to particles and is removed to the sediments through the actions of settling particles without impacting the dynamics of living communities. Overall, I am able to demonstrate that the natural components of lake ecosystems, especially particulate matter, are able to mitigate the effects of AgNPs in lake ecosystems to a point where they likely will be never pose a threat to the survivorship of aquatic consumers such as Daphnia. Author Keywords: Daphnia, ecotoxicity, particulate matter, Silver nanoparticles, whole lake experiment
Assessing the environmental correlates of a lethal amphibian pathogen, Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, in Ontario wetlands
Many emerging infectious diseases are caused by pathogens that possess free-living life stages, in which they interact with the environment directly rather than through the mediation of a host. These diseases represent major impediments to wildlife conservation; however, the dynamics of their interaction with the environment are poorly studied, often due to the difficulty of detecting these microscopic pathogens in environmental samples. One of these pathogens is Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd), a fungus that has been linked to declines in many amphibian species. In this thesis I use an emerging technique, environmental DNA detection (eDNA), to detect and quantify Bd in the water of southern Ontario (Canada) wetlands and examine its correlation with a variety of aspects of water quality, surrounding habitat, and seasonal timing. My purpose was to inform not only on potential environment-pathogen dynamics for Bd in northern environments, but to provide insight into the use of eDNA as a disease surveillance tool. I found that not only was there high geographic variation in Bd detection and intensity, but also high temporal variation within the same site on time scales as low as two weeks. While Bd prevalence was not strongly correlated with any of the variables tested, intensity showed strong correlation with canopy cover, with greater canopy cover over a waterbody correlating to lower Bd intensity. My results present several promising avenues for further examination of Bd in northern ecosystems, and indicate that, while caution is warranted in its implementation, eDNA may become an important tool in amphibian pathogen surveillance. Author Keywords: amphibian disease, Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, disease monitoring, environment-pathogen dynamics, environmental DNA, wildlife disease
Using environmental DNA (eDNA) metabarcoding to assess aquatic plant communities
Environmental DNA (eDNA) metabarcoding targets sequences with interspecific variation that can be amplified using universal primers allowing simultaneous detection of multiple species from environmental samples. I developed novel primers for three barcodes commonly used to identify plant species, and compared amplification success for aquatic plant DNA against pre-existing primers. Control eDNA samples of 45 plant species showed that species-level identification was highest for novel matK and preexisting ITS2 primers (42% each); remaining primers each identified between 24% and 33% of species. Novel matK, rbcL, and pre-existing ITS2 primers combined identified 88% of aquatic species. The novel matK primers identified the largest number of species from eDNA collected from the Black River, Ontario; 21 aquatic plant species were identified using all primers. This study showed that eDNA metabarcoding allows for simultaneous detection of aquatic plants including invasive species and species-at-risk, thereby providing a biodiversity assessment tool with a variety of applications. Author Keywords: aquatic plants, biodiversity, bioinformatics, environmental DNA (eDNA), high-throughput sequencing, metabarcoding
Comparative phylogeography in conservation biology
Phylogeographic histories of taxa around the Great Lakes region in North America are relevant to a range of ongoing issues including conservation management and biological invasions. In this thesis I investigated the comparative phylogeographic histories of plant species with disjunct distributions and plant species with continuous distributions around the Great Lakes region; this is a very dynamic geographic area with relatively recent colonisation histories that have been influenced by a range of factors including postglacial landscape modifications, and more recently, human-mediated dispersion. I first characterized four species that have disjunct populations in the Great Lakes region: (Bartonia paniculata subsp. paniculata, Empetrum nigrum, Sporobolus heterolepis, and Carex richardsonii). Through comparisons of core and disjunct populations, I found that a range of historical processes have resulted in two broad scenarios: in the first scenario, genetically distinct disjunct and core populations diverged prior to the last glacial cycle, and in the second scenario more recent vicariant events have resulted in genetically similar core and disjunct populations. The former scenario has important implications for conservation management. I then characterized the Typha species complex (T. latifolia, T. angustifolia, T. x glauca), which collectively represent species with continuous distributions. Recent microevolutionary processes, including hybridization, introgression, and intercontinental dispersal, obscure the phylogeographic patterns and complicate the evolutionary history of Typha spp. around the Great Lakes region, and have resulted in the growing dominance of non-native lineages. A broader geographical comparison of Typha spp. lineages from around the world identified repeated cryptic dispersal and long-distant movement as important phylogeographic influences. This research has demonstrated that comparisons of regional and global evolutionary histories can provide insight into historical and contemporary processes useful for management decisions in conservation biology and invasive species. Author Keywords: chloroplast DNA, conservation genetics, disjunct populations, invasive species, phylogeography, postglacial recolonisation
Detectability and its role in understanding upland sandpiper (Bartramia longicauda) occurence in the fragmented landscape of southern Ontario
Upland Sandpipers (Bartramia longicauda), like many grassland birds, are undergoing population decline in parts of their range. Habitat fragmentation and change have been hypothesized as potential causes of decline. I used citizen-science occurrence data from Wildlife Preservation Canada’s Adopt-A-Shrike Loggerhead Shrike (Lanius ludovicianus) program in conjunction with validation surveys, using similar point-count methods, to examine detectability and determine if landscape level habitat features could predict occupancy of Upland Sandpipers in Southern Ontario. In a single season detectability study, I used Wildlife Preservation Canada’s survey protocol to determine detectability in sites that were known to be occupied. Detectability was low, with six surveys necessary to ensure detection using a duration of at least 18 minutes early in the breeding season. The proportion of open habitat did not affect detection on the landscape. Using a larger spatial and temporal scale, with five years of citizen-science data, I showed that Annual Crop Inventory data could not effectively predict Upland Sandpiper occupancy. Model uncertainty could be attributed to survey protocol and life history traits of the Upland Sandpiper, suggesting that appropriate survey methods be derived a priori for maximizing the potential of citizen-science data for robust analyses. Author Keywords: Bartramia longicauda, citizen-science, detection, landscape, occupancy, Ontario
Characterization of a Zn(II)2Cys6 transcription factor in Ustilago maydis and its role in pathogenesis
Ustilago maydis (D.C.) Corda is a biotrophic pathogen that secretes effectors to establish and maintain a relationship with its host, Zea mays. In this pathosystem, the molecular function of effectors is well-studied, but the regulation of effector gene expression remains largely unknown. This study characterized Zfp1, a putative U. maydis Zn(II)2Cys6 transcription factor, as a modulator of effector gene expression. The amino acid sequence of Zfp1 indicated the presence of a GAL4-like zinc binuclear cluster as well as a fungal specific transcription factor domain. Nuclear localization was confirmed by tagging Zfp1 with enhanced green fluorescent protein. Deletion of zfp1 resulted in attenuated hyphal growth, reduced infection frequency, an arrest in pathogenic development, and decreased anthocyanin production. This phenotype can be attributed to the altered transcript levels of genes encoding predicted and confirmed U. maydis effectors in the zfp1 deletion strain during pathogenic growth. Complementation of zfp1 deletion strain with tin2, an effector involved in anthocyanin induction, suggested this effector is downstream of Zfp1 and its expression is influenced by this transcription factor during in planta growth. When wild-type zfp1 was ectopically inserted in the zfp1 deletion strain, pathogenesis and virulence were partially restored. This, coupled with zfp1 over-expression strains having a similar phenotype as the deletion strains, suggested Zfp1 may interact with other proteins for full function. These findings show that Zfp1, in conjunction with one or more binding partners, contributes to U. maydis pathogenesis, virulence, and anthocyanin production through the regulation of effector gene expression. Author Keywords: effector, pathogenesis, transcription factor, Ustilago maydis, Zea mays, zinc finger
effects of Dissolved Organic Matter (DOM) sources on Pb2+, Zn2+ and Cd2+ binding
Metal binding to dissolved organic matter (DOM) determines metal speciation and strongly influences potential toxicity. The understanding of this process, however, is challenged by DOM source variation, which is not always considered by most existing metal speciation models. Source determines the molecular structure of DOM, including metal binding functional groups. This study has experimentally showed that the allochthonous-dominant DOM (i.e. more aromatic and humic) consistently has higher level of Pb binding than the autochthonous-dominant DOM (i.e. more aliphatic and proteinaceous) by more than two orders of magnitude. This source-discrimination, however, is less noticeable for Zn and Cd, although variation still exceeds a factor of four for both metals. The results indicate that metal binding is source-dependent, but the dependency is metal-specific. Accordingly, metal speciation models, such as the Windermere Humic Aqueous Model (WHAM), needs to consider DOM source variations. The WHAM input of active fraction of DOM participating in metal binding (f) is sensitive to DOM source. The commonly-used f = 0.65 substantially overestimated the Pb and Zn binding to autochthonous-dominant DOM, indicating f needs to be adjusted specifically. The optimal f value (fopt) linearly correlates with optical indexes, showing a potential to estimate fopt using simple absorbance and/or fluorescence measurements. Other DOM properties not optically-characterized may be also important to determine fopt, such as thiol, which shows strong affinity to most toxic metals and whose concentrations are appreciably high in natural waters (< 0.1 to 400 nmol L-1). Other analytical techniques rather than Cathodic Stripping Voltammetry (CSV) are required to accurately quantify thiol concentration for DOM with concentration > 1 mg L-1. To better explain the DOM-source effects, the conditional affinity spectrum (CAS) was calculated using a Fully Optimized ContinUous Spectrum (FOCUS) method. This method not only provides satisfactory goodness-of-fit, but also unique CAS solution. The allochthonous-dominant DOM consistently shows higher Pb affinity than autochthonous-dominant DOM. This source-discrimination is not clearly observed for Zn and Cd. Neither the variability of affinity nor capacity can be fully explained by the variability of individual DOM properties, indicating multiple properties may involve simultaneously. Together, the results help improve WHAM prediction of metal speciation, and consequently, benefit geochemical modelling of metal speciation, such as Biotic Ligand Model for predicting metal toxicity. Author Keywords: Dissolved organic matter, Metal binding, Source, Windermere Humic Aqueous Model
third wheel
Population cycles are regular fluctuations in population densities, however, in recent years many cycles have begun to disappear. With Canada lynx this dampening has also been seen with decreasing latitude corresponding to an increase in prey diversity. My study investigates the role of alternate prey on the stability of the lynx-hare cycle by first comparing the functional responses of two sympatric but ecologically distinct predators on a primary and alternate prey. I then populated a three species predator-prey model to investigate the role of alternate prey on population stability. My results showed that alternate prey can promote stability, though they are unlikely to “stop the cycle”. Furthermore, stability offered by alternate prey is contingent on its ability to increase intraspecific competition. My study highlights that population cycles are not governed by a single factor and that future research needs to be cognizant of interactions between alternate prey and intraspecific competition. Author Keywords: alternate prey, Canis latrans, functional response, Lepus americanus, Lynx canadensis, Tamiasciurus hudsonicus
Effects of Silver Nanoparticles on Lower Trophic Levels in Aquatic Ecosystems
Due to their effective antibacterial and antifungal properties, silver nanoparticles (AgNPs) have quickly become the most commonly used nanomaterial, with applications in industry, medicine and consumer products. This increased use of AgNPs over the past decade will inevitably result in an elevated release of nanoparticles into the environment, highlighting the importance of assessing the environmental impacts of these nanomaterials on aquatic ecosystems. Although numerous laboratory studies have already reported on the negative effects of AgNPs to freshwater organisms, only a handful of studies have investigated the impacts of environmentally relevant levels of AgNPs on whole communities under natural conditions. This thesis examines the effects of chronic AgNP exposure on natural freshwater littoral microcrustacean, benthic macroinvertebrate and pelagic zooplankton communities. To assess the responses of these communities to AgNPs, I focused on a solely field-based approach, combining a six-week mesocosm study with a three-year whole lake experiment at the IISD – Experimental Lakes Area (Ontario, Canada). Our mesocosm study tested the effects of AgNP concentration (low, medium and high dose), surface coating (citrate- and polyvinylpyrrolidone [PVP]-coated AgNPs), and type of exposure (chronic and pulsed addition) on benthic macroinvertebrates in fine and stony sediments. Relative abundances of metal-tolerant Chironomidae in fine sediments were highest in high dose PVP-AgNP treatments; however, no negative effects of AgNP exposure were seen on biodiversity metrics or overall community structure throughout the study. I observed similar results within the whole lake study that incorporated a long-term addition of low levels of AgNPs to an experimental lake. Mixed-effects models and multivariate methods revealed a decline in all species of the littoral microcrustacean family Chydoridae in the final year of the study within our experimental lake, suggesting that this taxon may be sensitive to AgNP exposure; however, these effects were fairly subtle and were not reflected in the overall composition of littoral communities. No other negative effects of AgNPs were observed on the pelagic zooplankton or benthic macroinvertebrate communities. My results demonstrate that environmentally relevant levels of AgNPs have little impact on natural freshwater microcrustacean and benthic macroinvertebrate communities. Instead, biodiversity metrics and community structure are primarily influenced by seasonal dynamics and nutrient concentrations across both lakes. This thesis highlights the importance of incorporating environmental conditions and the natural variability of communities when examining the potential risks posed by the release of AgNPs into the environment, as simplistic laboratory bioassays may not provide an adequate assessment of the long-term impacts of AgNPs on freshwater systems. Author Keywords: Benthic macroinvertebrates, IISD - Experimental Lakes Area, Littoral microcrustaceans, Silver nanoparticles, Whole lake experiment, Zooplankton
Models of partitioning, uptake, and toxicity of neutral organic chemicals in fish
Models of partitioning, uptake, and toxicity of neutral organic chemicals in fish Alena Kathryn Davidson Celsie A novel dynamic fugacity model is developed that simulates the uptake of chemicals in fish by respiration as applies in aquatic toxicity tests. A physiologically based toxicokinetic model was developed which calculates the time-course of chemical distribution in four tissue compartments in fish, including metabolic biotransformation in the liver. Toxic endpoints are defined by fugacity reaching a 50% mortality value. The model is tested against empirical data for the uptake of pentachloroethane in rainbow trout and from naphthalene and trichlorobenzene in fathead minnows. The model was able to predict bioconcentration and toxicity within a factor of 2 of empirical data. The sensitivity to partition coefficients of computed whole-body concentration was also investigated. In addition to this model development three methods for predicting partition coefficients were evaluated: lipid-fraction, COSMOtherm estimation, and using Abraham parameters. The lipid fraction method produced accurate tissue-water partitioning values consistently for all tissues tested and is recommended for estimating these values. Results also suggest that quantum chemical methods hold promise for predicting the aquatic toxicity of chemicals based only on molecular structure. Author Keywords: COSMOtherm, fish model, fugacity, Partition coefficient, tissue-water, toxicokinetics


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