Graduate Theses & Dissertations

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Practicing and Rewarding Task-Relevant Motor Variability to Optimize Motor Performance
It is universally accepted that human motor performance is variable in both its timing and spatial qualities. However, it is unclear to what extent motor variability impedes performance when learning a new skill and to what extent it enables our ability to learn. The first experiment examined whether performance during a test task depended on whether participants practiced to constrain or vary the task-relevant parameter. Participants used their right hand to make simple point-to-point movements. Results demonstrated the importance of paying attention to test task demands to evaluate which form of practice is most beneficial. The second experiment examined whether levels of variability could be manipulated using a reward-based paradigm to enhance learning when adapting to a perturbation of a simple visually-guided reaching movement. A reward-based feedback task was designed to encourage exploration along the task-relevant dimension, specifically movement direction variability. Overall, I did not find any significant results. Author Keywords: Adaptation, Motor Control, Motor Learning, Reaching
Predicting Irregularities in Arrival Times for Toronto Transit Buses with LSTM Recurrent Neural Networks Using Vehicle Locations and Weather Data
Public transportation systems play important role in the quality of life of citizens in any metropolitan city. However, public transportation authorities face criticisms from commuters due to irregularities in bus arrival times. For example, transit bus users often complain when they miss the bus because it arrived too early or too late at the bus stop. Due to these irregularities, commuters may miss important appointments, wait for too long at the bus stop, or arrive late for work. This thesis seeks to predict the occurrence of irregularities in bus arrival times by developing machine learning models that use GPS locations of transit buses provided by the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) and hourly weather data. We found that in nearly 37% of the time, buses either arrive early or late by more than 5 minutes, suggesting room for improvement in the current strategies employed by transit authorities. We compared the performance of three machine learning models, for which our Long Short-Term Memory (LSTM) [13] model outperformed all other models in terms of accuracy. The error rate for LSTM model was the lowest among Artificial Neural Network (ANN) and support vector regression (SVR). The improved accuracy achieved by LSTM is due to its ability to adjust and update the weights of neurons while maintaining long-term dependencies when encountering new stream of data. Author Keywords: ANN, LSTM, Machine Learning
Predicting the Pursuit of Post-Secondary Education
Trait Emotional Intelligence (EI) includes competencies and dispositions related to identifying, understanding, using and managing emotions. Higher trait EI has been implicated in post-secondary success, and better career-related decision-making. However, there is no evidence for whether it predicts the pursuit of post-secondary education (PSE) in emerging adulthood. This study investigated the role of trait EI in PSE pursuit using a large, nationally-representative sample of Canadian young adults who participated in the National Longitudinal Survey for Children and Youth (NLSCY). Participants in this dataset reported on their PSE status at three biennial waves (age 20-21, 22-23, and 24-25), and completed a four-factor self-report scale for trait EI (Emotional Quotient Inventory: Mini) at ages 20-21 and 24-25. Higher trait EI subscale scores were significantly associated with greater likelihood of PSE participation both concurrently, and at 2- and 4-year follow-ups. Overall, these associations were larger for men than women. Trait EI scores also showed moderate levels of temporal stability over four years, including full configural and at least partial metric invariance between time points. This suggests that the measure stays conceptually consistent over the four years of emerging adulthood, and that trait EI is a relatively malleable attribute, susceptible to change with interventions during this age period. Author Keywords: Emerging Adulthood, Longitudinal, Post-Secondary Pursuit, Trait Emotional Intelligence
Predictive Digital Mapping of Soils in Kitimat, British Columbia
Soil is an essential natural resource that supports provisioning services such as agriculture, silviculture, and mining. However, there is limited knowledge on forest soil properties across Canada. Digital soil mapping may be used to fill these data gaps, as it can predict soil properties in areas with limited observations. The focus of this study was to develop predictive maps of select soil physicochemical properties for the Kitimat Valley, British Columbia, and apply these maps to assess the potential impacts of sulphur dioxide emissions from an aluminum smelter, on soil properties in the Valley. Exchangeable [Ex.] magnesium, organic matter, pH, coarse fragment, Ex. potassium, bulk density, Ex. calcium, Ex. acidity, and Ex. sodium were all mapped with acceptable confidence. Time to depletion of base cation pools showed that ~240 km2 of the study area had a depletion time of 50 years or less. However, sources of base cations such as atmospheric deposition and mineral weathering were not considered. Author Keywords: acidification, buffering capacity, Digital soil mapping, predictive mapping, regression kriging, soil properties
Prescription Drugs
Medication used to treat human illness is one of the greatest developments in human history. In Canada, prescription drugs have been developed and made available to treat a wide variety of illnesses, from infections to heart disease and so on. Records of prescription drug fulfillment at coarse Canadian geographic scales were obtained from Health Canada in order to track the use of these drugs by the Canadian population. The obtained prescription drug fulfillment records were in a variety of inconsistent formats, including a large selection of years for which only paper tabular records were available (hard copies). In this work, we organize, digitize, proof and synthesize the full available data set of prescription drug records, from paper to final database. Extensive quality control was performed on the data before use. This data was then analyzed for temporal and spatial changes in prescription drug use across Canada from 1990-2013. In addition, one of major research areas in environmental epidemiological studies is the study of population health risk associated with exposure to ambient air pollution. Prescription drugs can moderate public health risk, by reducing the drug user's physiological symptoms and preventing acute health effects (e.g., strokes, heart attacks, etc.). The cleaned prescription drug data was considered in the context of a common model to examine its influence on the association between air pollution exposure and various health outcomes. Since, prescription drug data were available only at the provincial level, a Bayesian hierarchical model was employed to include the prescription drugs as a covariate at regional level, which were then combined to estimate the association at national level. Although further investigations are required, the study results suggest that the prescription drugs influenced the air pollution related public health risk. Author Keywords: Data, Error checking, Population health, Prescriptions
Prey abundance and habitat during the breeding season for Piping Plovers in the Ontario Great Lakes region
Similar to other shorebird trends around the world, the Piping Plover population (Charadrius melodus circumcinctus) is projected to decline if concerted conservation efforts are relaxed. To date, there is insufficient understanding of the connection between habitat type, prey abundance, and chick behaviour of the Piping Plover breeding population in Ontario. The aim of my thesis was to gain knowledge about prey abundance at recent and historic breeding locations, understanding how habitat influences prey abundance and chick behaviour across the Piping Plover breeding range in Ontario’s Great Lakes. The objective of my first study was to understand prey abundance across the breeding region Great Lakes of Ontario from 2018-2019, including occupied and unoccupied sites, and to quantify variation among habitats and periods of reproduction. To evaluate resources, I sampled 17 locations to compare prey abundance using invertebrate traps (n= 3,507). Sampling took place over the reproductive periods of nest initiation, post-hatch, and fledging and in four habitat types of shoreline, wrack, berm, and back dune. Occupied breeding sites had higher prey abundances, and different assemblages of invertebrate prey than unoccupied sites. Additionally, breeding sites had higher prey abundance during nest initiation and supported higher amounts of prey in shoreline and wrack habitat. The objective of my second study was to understand how habitat types influence chick behaviour. To evaluate behaviour-habitat trends, instantaneous chick observations were recorded at the four nest sites from the post-hatch to fledging stages. In total there were 23 fledged chicks that we observed across the two years. Chicks in this study spent 60.9% of their time foraging, 11.9% of the time displaying alert behaviour, 21.4% of their time resting or being brooded, and 5.9% of their time preening. Chicks spent a large proportion of time foraging in the shoreline, resting in the back dune, and alert in berm habitat. The frequency of these alert, defensive behaviours differed among sites, with Sauble Beach chicks spending more time in defensive behaviours compared to other sites. I concluded that in both nesting and brood-rearing periods, habitat is selected non-randomly by adult and young Piping Plovers to maximize access to invertebrate prey for growth and survival. Access by chicks to the most productive habitats should be considered in local management decisions. Author Keywords: chick behaviour, endangered, Great Lakes Region, habitat, Piping Plovers, prey abundance
Problem Solving as a Path to Understanding Mathematics Representations
Little is actually known about how people cognitively process and integrate information when solving complex mathematical problems. In this thesis, eye-tracking was used to examine how people read and integrate information from mathematical symbols and complex formula, with eye fixations being used as a measure of their current focus of attention. Each participant in the studies was presented with a series of stimuli in the form of mathematical problems and their eyes were tracked as they worked through the problem mentally. From these examinations, we were able to demonstrate differences in both the comprehension and problem-solving, with the results suggesting that what information is selected, and how, is responsible for a large portion of success in solving such problems. We were also able to examine how different mathematical representations of the same mathematical object are attended to by students. Author Keywords: eye-tracking, mathematical notation, mathematical representations, problem identification, problem-solving, symbolism
Problem-Solving and Cognitive Flexibility in Older Adolescents and Young Adults
Ill-structured problems have changing components that solvers need to adapt their solutions to. Well-structured problems have strict, well-defined procedures, and solvers must know which procedures to apply and when. Research has suggested that these two types of problems utilize different problem-solving skills. The current study focused on the relation between ill-structured interpersonal problem solving, novel well-structured problem-solving, and cognitive flexibility in young adults and older adolescents. It was predicted that because of the changing components of ill-structured problems, cognitive flexibility would more strongly predict these compared to well-structured problems. The current study sample consisted of 73 undergraduates with an average age of 20.43 years. The results showed that cognitive flexibility is equally associated with ill-structured problem-solving and well-structured problem-solving. This suggests that cognitive flexibility may support the perspective coordination involved in solving ill-structured problems and that cognitive flexibility may support switching between search strategies when solving a novel well-structured problem. Author Keywords: adolescent, adult, cognitive flexibility, ill-structured problem-solving, novel problems, well-structured problem-solving
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:
Protecting Sources of Drinking Water for the M'Chigeeng First Nation, Manioulin Island, Ontario
The potential impacts of domestic wastewater (DWW) on the source of drinking water for the M’Chigeeng First Nation were monitored as part of the development of a Source Water Protection plan. During a period of continuous overflow of the Gaaming Wastewater Lagoon serving the community, the chemical tracers, caffeine and sucralose were tracked in West Bay with Passive Organic Chemical Integrative Samplers (POCIS). From the results, we speculated that DWI impacts could have been from three possible DWW sources. POCIS deployed above and below the thermocline indicated a higher mean sucralose concentration of 2.52 ± 1.83 ng/L in the hypolimnion of West Bay relative to mean epilimnetic sucralose concentrations of 0.56 ± 0.02 ng/L, suggesting possible wastewater percolation with an estimated time of travel of 61.5 days. Microbial loads of 200 CFU/100 ml E. coli from the lagoon overflow into Mill Creek decreased to 60 CFU/100 ml before entering West Bay. West Bay’s wastewater assimilative capacity met Provincial Water Quality Objectives in the epilimnion and hypolimnion except for dissolved oxygen in the hypolimnion at 4.16 ± 1.86 mg/L, which is a threat to the onset of hypoxia for fish (i.e. <5 mg/L). Assimilative capacity results support a Fall lagoon discharge. Author Keywords: caffeine, drinking water, Passive Organic Chemical Integrative Samplers (POCIS), sucralose, thermocline, wastewater
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
Psychometric Properties of a Scale Developed from a Three-Factor Model of Social Competency
While existing models of emotional intelligence (EI) generally recognize the importance of social competencies (SC), there is a tendency in the literature to narrow the focus to competencies that pertain to the self. Given the experiential and perceptual differences between self- vs. other-oriented emotional abilities, this is an important limitation of existing EI models and assessment tools. This thesis explores the psychometric properties of a multidimensional model for SC. Chapter 1 describes the evolution of work on SCs in modern psychology and describes the multidimensional model of SC under review. Chapter 2 replicates this model across a variety of samples and explores the model’s construct validity via basic personality and EI constructs. Chapter 3 further explores the predictive validity of the SC measure within a group of project managers and several success and wellness variables. Chapter 4 examines potential applications for the model and suggestions for further research. Author Keywords: emotional intelligence, project management, social competency, work readiness

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