Graduate Theses & Dissertations

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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
Acidification of lakes in northern Saskatchewan
The emission of acid precursors by large point sources in Western Canada (such as the Athabasca Oil Sands Region) has prompted studies into the possible impact to downwind aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems. Sensitivity of catchments to acidic deposition was estimated for the total lake population of northern Saskatchewan (n=89,947) using regression kriging. Under the Steady State Water Chemistry model, a range of 12-15% of the total catchment population was predicted to be in exceedance of critical loads under 2006 deposition levels and 6% of catchments were estimated to be very sensitive (pH below 6 and acid neutralizing capacity, alkalinity, calcium below 50 eqL-1). Temporal changes in soil and water chemistry estimated for 18 Alberta and Saskatchewan catchments using the Very Simple Dynamic and PROFILE models showed that changes in soil base saturation and lake acid neutralizing capacity between 1850 and 2100 were slight, declining 0.8% and 0.9% by 2012, respectively. Author Keywords: acidification, critical loads, exceedance, PROFILE, regression kriging, VSD
Hydroclimatic and spatial controls on stream nutrient export from forested catchments
Winter nutrient export from forested catchments is extremely variable from year-to-year and across the landscape of south-central Ontario. Understanding the controls on this variability is critical, as what happens during the winter sets up the timing and nature of the spring snowmelt, the major period of export for water and nutrients from seasonally snow-covered forests. Furthermore, winter processes are especially vulnerable to changes in climate, particularly to shifts in precipitation from snow to rain as air temperatures rise. The objective of this thesis was to assess climatic and topographic controls on variability in stream nutrient export from a series of forested catchments in south-central Ontario. The impacts of climate on the timing and magnitude of winter stream nutrient export, with particular focus on the impact of winter rain-on-snow (ROS) events was investigated through a) analysis of long-term hydrological, chemical and meteorological records and b) high frequency chemical and isotopic measurements of stream and snow samples over two winters. The relationship between topography and variability in stream chemistry among catchments was investigated through a) a series of field and laboratory incubations to measure rates and discern controls on nitrogen mineralization and nitrification and b) analysis of high resolution spatial data to assess relationships between topographic metrics and seasonal stream chemistry. Warmer winters with more ROS events were shown to shift the bulk of nitrate (NO3-N) export earlier in the winter at the expense of spring export; this pattern was not observed in other nutrients [i.e. dissolved organic carbon (DOC), total phosphorus (TP), sulphate (SO4), calcium (Ca)]. Hydrograph separation revealed the majority of ROS flow came from baseflow, but the NO3-N concentrations in rainfall and melting snow were so high that the majority of NO3-N export was due to these two sources. Other nutrient concentrations did not show such a great separation between sources, and thus event export of these nutrients was not as great. Proportionally, catchments with varying topography responded similarly to ROS events, but the absolute magnitude of export varied substantially, due to differences in baseflow NO3-N concentrations. Field and laboratory incubations revealed differences in rates of net NO3-N production between wetland soils and upland soils, suggesting that topographic differences amongst catchments may be responsible for differences in baseflow NO3-N. Spatial analysis of digital elevation models revealed strong relationships between wetland coverage and DOC and dissolved organic nitrogen (DON) concentrations in all seasons, but relationships between topography and NO3-N were often improved by considering only the area within 50 or 100m of the stream channel. This suggests nutrient cycling processes occurring near the stream channel may exert a stronger control over NO3-N stream outflow chemistry. Overall, topography and climate exert strong controls over spatial and temporal variability in stream chemistry at forested catchments; it is important to consider the interaction of these two factors when predicting the effects of future changes in climate or deposition. Author Keywords: biogeochemistry, forest, nitrate, south-central Ontario, stream chemistry, winter
Biology and Management of Stratiotes Aloides in the Trent River, Ontario
Invasive aquatic plants can create negative ecological, economic and social impacts when they displace local vegetation, interfere with shipping and navigation and inhibit water-based recreational activities. In 2008, the first North American occurrence of the invasive plant Stratiotes aloides (Water soldier) was identified in the Trent River, Ontario. This research measured offset photosynthesis and turion germination to determine the light compensation point (5.2-5.4m) and maximum depth of colonization (4-6m) for S. aloides propagules using in situ incubations and controlled growth experiments. The effects of spring and fall chemical (Diquat) and physical (hand raking) treatments on S. aloides biomass, local macrophyte recovery and community dynamics in the Trent River were also measured. The target of a 75% minimum reduction in S. aloides biomass was not attained using any of the treatment methods and no perceivable recovery of the local plant community was observed. Significant S. aloides regrowth was recorded for both treatment methods regardless of application timing. Author Keywords: herbicide, invasive species, macrophyte, photosynthesis, propagule
Using Fluorescent Carbon Dots for Biosensing Applications of Amino Acids
Amino acids make up proteins, which are the building blocks of life. A balance of amino acids is needed to maintain a healthy state. Tyrosine (Tyr) is synthesized from the metabolism of phenylalanine, which is an essential amino acid, meaning it can only be obtained from the diet. It is related to many metabolic and neurodegenerative diseases. Tyr can undergo post-translational modifications such as phosphorylation and nitration, which are implicated in cancer and nitrative stress, respectively. Although there are many methods to detect Tyr and its analogues, phosphotyrosine (pTyr) and nitrotyrosine (nTyr), these methods are time-consuming, involve expensive instruments and involve tedious process. This research proposes a new type of nanomaterials, carbon dots (CDs), to detect these amnio acids. Data indicate that CDs can be used to detect nTyr with a limit of detection of 34 μM in the linear range of 20 - 105 μM. The amenability of CD-nTyr assay was also tested in various biological matrices and biological molecules and was shown to be sensitive to nTyr. Nitration of Tyr was carried out in the presence of sodium nitrite and hydrogen peroxide catalyzed by either Cu(II) or Fe(III) to mimic biological reactions and CDs were tested as both inhibitors and indicators of Tyr nitration. Although CDs did not inhibit the nitration reaction of Tyr, they did not serve as indicators of Tyr nitration due to the quenching of CDs by the nitrating agents. This shows the importance of using CDs to detect nTyr and further use it for biological applications to detect diseased states. Author Keywords: amino acids, carbon dots, nanomaterials, sensor, spectroscopy, tyrosine
cis-Cytokinins from the tRNA-degradation pathway impact the phenotype and metabolome of Arabidopsis thaliana
Cis-isomers of the cytokinin plant hormone family are thought to have low activity or impact on plant growth and development. Mutants with independent silencing of the pathway leading to cis-CK (cis-cytokinin) were investigated at the phenotype and metabolite levels. Phenotypic deviations were noted in trichome development, fresh weight, rosette diameter, number of non-rosette leaves, shoot height, delayed flowering, flower number, and carotenoids. Exploratory metabolomic analysis detected a number of metabolite features that have been associated with CK, auxin, and ABA (abscisic acid) activity. Evidence from both phenotype and metabolomic analysis support the hypothesis that cis-CK production is biologically important for plant growth and development. Author Keywords: arabidopsis, cytokinin, IPT, metabolmics
Bank Swallow (Riparia riparia) Breeding in Aggregate Pits and Natural Habitats
I examined Bank Swallow (Riparia riparia) colony persistence and occupancy, in lakeshore, river and man-made aggregate pit habitat. Habitat persistence was highest on the lakeshore and lowest in aggregate pits, likely due to annual removal and relocation of aggregate resources. Bank Swallow colonies in aggregate pit sites were more likely to persist if a colony was larger or if burrows were located higher on the nesting face. I also compared nest productivity and health factors of Bank Swallows in lakeshore and aggregate pit habitats. While clutch size was the same in both habitat types, the number of fledglings from successfully hatched nests was significantly higher in aggregate pit sites than from lakeshore sites. Mass of fledgling Bank Swallows did not differ significantly between habitat types, however mass of adults from aggregate pits decreased significantly over the nesting season. Parasite loads on fledgling Bank Swallows were significantly lower in aggregate pits than in lakeshore sites. According to these indicators, aggregate pits appear to provide equivalent or higher quality habitat for Bank Swallows than the natural lakeshore sites, making them adequate and potentially key for this species’ recovery. Aggregate pit operators can manage for swallows by (1) creating longer, taller faces to attract birds and decrease predation, and (2) supplementing their habitat with water sources to encourage food availability. Author Keywords: Aerial insectivore, aggregate pits, Bank Swallow, colony persistence, ectoparasites, substitute habitat
regional comparison of the structure and function of benthic macroinvertebrate communities within Precambrian Shield and St. Lawrence lowland lakes in south-central Ontario
Benthic macroinvertebrtes (BMI) are functionally important in aquatic ecosystems; as such, knowledge of their community structure and function is critical for understanding these systems. BMI were sampled from ten lakes in each of two regions of south-central Ontario to investigate which chemical and physical variables could be shaping their community structure and function. Ten Precambrian Shield lakes in the Muskoka-Haliburton region, and ten St Lawrence lowland lakes in the Kawartha lakes region were sampled. These lakes are geologically and chemically distinct, creating natural chemical and physical gradients within and between both regions. Community function was assessed using stable isotope analysis to elucidate carbon transfer dynamics (δ13C) and food web interactions (δ15N). It was predicted that the BMI from Shield lakes would have a δ13C signature indicative of allochthonous carbon subsidies, whereas the lowland lake BMI signatures would reflect autochthonous production. Additionally, it was predicted that the food web length (measured in δ15N units) would be different in Shield and lowland lakes. Both of these predictions were supported; however, the data indicate that δ13C signatures are more likely influenced by catchment geology (represented by bicarbonate concentration) than the extent of allochthony. The best predictor of food web length was found to be region. To assess BMI community structure, taxonomic richness, %EPT (% Ephemeroptera, Plecoptera, Trichoptera; a water quality index), and distribution of functional feeding groups were examined. Based on chemistry it was expected that the Shield lakes would be more speciose, and of greater water quality (relatively lower nutrient levels). These predictions were rejected; since there were no significant regional differences in taxonomic richness or biologically inferred water quality (%EPT). However, sediment size was found to best explain the variability in both metrics, with greater richness and %EPT found at sites with medium and small substrates than those with large substrates. Significant regional differences were found in the distribution of functional feeding groups. Most notably, there were significantly greater proportions of scrapers and shredders in the lowland and Shield lakes, respectively. Based on the feeding mechanisms of these invertebrates it can be inferred that allochthonous subsidies are likely of greater importance to Shield lake BMI communities than those of the lowland lakes; supporting the carbon transfer prediction. These findings provide insight about the structure and function of BMI communities from two dominant lake types in Ontario, and could be useful when determining how future chemical and physical changes will impact these communities. Author Keywords: benthic macroinvertebrates, community function, community structure, Precambrian Shield, stable isotopes, St. Lawrence lowlands
CO2 dynamics of tundra ponds in the low-Arctic Northwest Territories, Canada
Extensive research has gone into measuring changes to the carbon storage capacity of Arctic terrestrial environments as well as large water bodies in order to determine a carbon budget for many regions across the Arctic. Inland Arctic waters such as small lakes and ponds are often excluded from these carbon budgets, however a handful of studies have demonstrated that they can often be significant sources of carbon to the atmosphere. This study investigated the CO2 cycling of tundra ponds in the Daring Lake area, Northwest Territories, Canada (64°52'N, 111°35'W), to determine the role ponds have in the local carbon cycle. Floating chambers, nondispersive infrared (NDIR) sensors and headspace samples were used to estimate carbon fluxes from four selected local ponds. Multiple environmental, chemical and meteorological parameters were also monitored for the duration of the study, which took place during the snow free season of 2013. Average CO2 emissions for the two-month growing season ranged from approximately -0.0035 g CO2-C m-2 d-1 to 0.12 g CO2-C m-2 d-1. The losses of CO2 from the water bodies in the Daring Lake area were approximately 2-7% of the CO2 uptake over vegetated terrestrial tundra during the same two-month period. Results from this study indicated that the production of CO2 in tundra ponds was positively influenced by both increases in air temperature, and the delivery of carbon from their catchments. The relationship found between temperature and carbon emissions suggests that warming Arctic temperatures have the potential to increase carbon emissions from ponds in the future. The findings in this study did not include ebullition gas emissions nor plant mediated transport, therefore these findings are likely underestimates of the total carbon emissions from water bodies in the Daring Lake area. This study emphasizes the need for more research on inland waters in order to improve our understanding of the total impact these waters may have on the Arctic's atmospheric CO2 concentrations now and in the future. Author Keywords: Arctic, Arctic Ponds, Carbon dioxide, Carbon Fluxes, Climate Change, NDIR sensor
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
Assessing the population genetic structure of the endangered Cucumber tree (Magnolia acuminata) in southwestern Ontario using nuclear and chloroplast genetic markers.
Magnolia acuminata (Cucumber tree) is the only native Magnolia in Canada, where it is both federally and provincially listed as endangered.Magnolia acuminata in Canada can be found inhabiting pockets of Carolinian forest within Norfolk and Niagara regions of southwestern Ontario. Using a combination of nuclear and chloroplast markers, this study assessed the genetic diversity and differentiation of M. acuminata in Canada, compared to samples from the core distribution of this species across the United States. Analyses revealed evidence of barriers to dispersal and gene flow among Ontario populations, although genetic diversity remains high and is in fact comparable to levels of diversity estimated across the much broader range of M. acuminata in the USA. When examining temporal differences in genetic diversity, our study found that seedlings were far fewer than mature trees in Ontario, and in one site in particular, diversity was lower in seedlings than that of the adult trees. This study raises concern regarding the future viability of M. acuminata in Ontario, and conservation managers should factor in the need to maintain genetic diversity in young trees for the long-term sustainability of M. acuminata in Ontario. Author Keywords: conservation genetics, cpDNA, forest fragmentation, Magnolia acuminata, microsatellites, population genetic structure

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