Graduate Theses & Dissertations


Thinking Ahead
The present thesis entails a qualitative investigation of the unique notion to transition media change from the current paper-based system to the potential use of information technology innovation for communication between health care providers and employers during return to work. Stakeholder perspectives on relevant communication phenomena were gathered from workers, employers, and health care providers with experience in return to work. Methods for analysis involved critical realist grounded theory, as well as the use of a prototype innovation, named the Return to Work Expert App, as a platform for participant evaluation and discourse. The study’s findings provided comprehensive and in-depth understanding of return to work communication, beyond its empirical regularities. The generative mechanisms of common communication problems that were discovered included situated reasoning, media as information (“the medium is the message”), epistemological disjuncture, egoism-altruism-collectivism quandary, and perspective taking. A novel theoretical framework based on ecological psychology was also advanced to offer a coherent and systematic understanding of the situated nature of health care providers’ reasoning and information development. Media change via the Return to Work Expert App was argued to be limited in handling and resolving many of the communication problems that can occur. However, the app had perceptible value and benefits to prospective users that suggested a distinct advantage over current paper-based practices. Opportunities for further development and research exist to address relevant challenges, most notable of all being the need to address the app’s burden of proof. For the interested reader, this thesis advances research and knowledge of provider-employer communication to a state that is truly fitting of the importance acknowledged of it in the field of return to work. Author Keywords: critical realism, ecological psychology, media change, return to work, stakeholder communication, technological acceptance
Thinking High When Feeling Shy
Social anxiety often co-occurs with substance use disorders – various psychological variables, contextual factors, and implicit cognitions may help explain their relationship. This thesis examined whether social anxiety and psychological variables (jointly and independently) helped predict substance use and related problems. It also explored whether social anxiety group membership helped predict implicit cannabis-sedation associations and substance use desirability. A sample of undergraduate student volunteers (N = 65) completed a computer task, questionnaires with anxiety-provoking vignettes, and online questionnaires. Results indicate that fear of negative evaluation and anxiety sensitivity are important predictors of alcohol and cannabis (respectively) use and problems. Social anxiety group was related to increased cannabis desirability in performance contexts. No significant implicit cannabis-sedation associations were identified. Our findings highlight the importance of certain variables in social anxiety and substance use relationships, and considering contextual factors when assessing substance desirability. It also provides preliminary evidence of a novel implicit cannabis-sedation measure. Author Keywords: Coping, Emotion, Implicit Cognition, Social Anxiety, Substance Use
Time Series Algorithms in Machine Learning - A Graph Approach to Multivariate Forecasting
Forecasting future values of time series has long been a field with many and varied applications, from climate and weather forecasting to stock prediction and economic planning to the control of industrial processes. Many of these problems involve not only a single time series but many simultaneous series which may influence each other. This thesis provides methods based on machine learning of handling such problems. We first consider single time series with both single and multiple features. We review the algorithms and unique challenges involved in applying machine learning to time series. Many machine learning algorithms when used for regression are designed to produce a single output value for each timestamp of interest with no measure of confidence; however, evaluating the uncertainty of the predictions is an important component for practical forecasting. We therefore discuss methods of constructing uncertainty estimates in the form of prediction intervals for each prediction. Stability over long time horizons is also a concern for these algorithms as recursion is a common method used to generate predictions over long time intervals. To address this, we present methods of maintaining stability in the forecast even over large time horizons. These methods are applied to an electricity forecasting problem where we demonstrate the effectiveness for support vector machines, neural networks and gradient boosted trees. We next consider spatiotemporal problems, which consist of multiple interlinked time series, each of which may contain multiple features. We represent these problems using graphs, allowing us to learn relationships using graph neural networks. Existing methods of doing this generally make use of separate time and spatial (graph) layers, or simply replace operations in temporal layers with graph operations. We show that these approaches have difficulty learning relationships that contain time lags of several time steps. To address this, we propose a new layer inspired by the long-short term memory (LSTM) recurrent neural network which adds a distinct memory state dedicated to learning graph relationships while keeping the original memory state. This allows the model to consider temporally distant events at other nodes without affecting its ability to model long-term relationships at a single node. We show that this model is capable of learning the long-term patterns that existing models struggle with. We then apply this model to a number of real-world bike-share and traffic datasets where we observe improved performance when compared to other models with similar numbers of parameters. Author Keywords: forecasting, graph neural network, LSTM, machine learning, neural network, time series
Time-dependent effects of predation risk on stressor reactivity and growth in developing larval anurans (Lithobates pipiens)
The predator vs. prey dynamic is an omnipresent factor in ecological systems that may drive changes in life history patterns in prey animals through behavioural, morphological, and physiological changes. Predation risk can have profound effects on the life history events of an animal, and is influenced by the neuroendocrine stress response. Activation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal/interrenal axis, and the induction of stress hormones (e.g., corticosterone (CORT)) have been shown to mediate the onset of inducible anti-predator defensive traits including increased tail-depth, and reduced activity. The predator-prey relationship between dragonfly nymphs and tadpoles can be a powerful model system for understanding mechanisms that facilitate changes in the stress response in accordance with altered severity of risk. It has been well demonstrated early in tadpole ontogeny that increased corticosterone (CORT) levels, observed within three weeks of predator exposure, are correlated with increased tail depth morphology. However, the reactivity of the stress response in relation to the growth modulation in developing prey has yet to be fully explored. Accordingly, this thesis assessed the stress and growth response processes in tadpoles that were continuously exposed to perceived predation risk later in ontogeny. Continuous exposure of prey to predation risk for three weeks significantly increased CORT levels, and tail depth. However, tadpoles exposed to six weeks of predation risk acclimated to the presence of the predator, which was observed as a significant reduction of stressor-induced CORT levels. In addition, although increased tail depth has been attributed to predator defense, predator-naïve tadpoles began to display similar tail depth morphology as treated tadpoles at the six week time point. Thus, this thesis suggests that the stress response in lower vertebrate systems (e.g., tadpoles) may operate in a similarly complex manner to that observed in higher vertebrates (e.g., rats), for which severity of risk associated with the stressor aids in defining activity of the stress response. Moreover, the lack of morphological difference between treatments among tadpoles exposed later in ontogeny suggests that the mechanisms for inducing defenses are normal morphological traits in the development of the animal. This thesis paves the way for future research to elucidate the relationship between the neuroendocrine stress response and hormonal pathways involved in growth modulation in the presence of environmental pressures. Author Keywords: Acclimation, Corticosterone, Growth Modulation, Predation Risk, R. pipiens, Tadpole
To Sext or Not to Sext
The risks and benefits of sexting within an intimate relationship were explored. The present study focused on sexual gratification, relationship benefits, and sexual communication as benefits and risky sexual behaviour, unethical forwarding, and infidelity as risks. A cross-sectional online survey of both undergraduate students and a community sample was used. Results indicated that sexual gratification, relationship benefits (sexual and relationship satisfaction, relationship quality, and commitment), and sexual communication are related to sexting. It appears that risky sexual behaviour is not associated with sexting, instead those who sext frequently engage in more safer sex behaviours than those who sext infrequently. Unethical forwarding does not appear to happen very often in the context of intimate relationships. Lastly, the current research indicates that some participants are sexting secondary partners, and many consider sexting secondary partners infidelity. These results show that there are both risks and benefits of sexting, which can be used to develop sext education and therapeutic programs. Author Keywords: infidelity, relationship benefits, Sexting, sexual behaviour, sexual communication, sexual gratification
Tool-use and near-tool effects
After active tool-use visual stimuli near a tool are processed more quickly and accurately than those farther away from a tool. Can these near-tool effects be modulated by training demands? To investigate this we asked the participants to complete a tool training task followed by a cross-modal interference task. During the training task the participants performed quick and accurate pointing movements to reach a strict or moderate criterion. The results indicated that the strict group made faster movements than the moderate group. During the cross-modal interference task visual distractors were presented along handheld tools in conjunction with vibrotactile stimuli on the hand. No significant compatibility effects were found for visual distractors near the hand or tool tip, and no consistent group differences were found. Our findings demonstrate the importance of using a novel tool during training, and that virtual stimuli may not be effective to elicit near-tool effects. Author Keywords: bimodal neurons, cross-modal interference, near-tool effects, tool training, training demands
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
Tracking Mercury and Mercury Stable Isotopes Throughout the Wabigoon/English River System
In the Wabigoon/English River system, mercury concentrations downstream from Dryden, ON, where there was a former chlor-alkali plant, remain elevated in sediments and biota. Understanding the current extent and severity of mercury contamination downstream from the former chlor-alkali plant is of great interest in furthering the clean-up of mercury within the traditional territory of Asubpeeschoseewagong Netum (Grassy Narrows) First Nation. The objective of this study was to evaluate the current level and extent of mercury contamination within sediments, crayfish, Hexagenia mayflies, yellow perch, spottail shiner and walleye in the Wabigoon/English River system. An additional objective was to use mercury stable isotope analysis to distinguish between legacy mercury from the former chlor-alkali plant and mercury from geogenic sources. Mercury contamination within surface sediments and biota at locations as far as 178 kms downstream of the historical source of mercury contamination are elevated relative to the reference lake, Wabigoon Lake. Isotope ratios in young of the year fish and sediments collected from within the system were distinct from fish from the reference lake, Wabigoon Lake, indicating that anthropogenic mercury contamination is distinguishable from geogenic mercury. Author Keywords:
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
Unbridled Potential
Recently, equine assisted learning (EAL) has emerged as a novel approach to building resiliency competencies in at-risk youth. This mixed-methods study presents evaluation results for an 8-week community-based EAL program with 83 young women (age 13-18 years) with a history of interpersonal trauma. Analyses examined changes in self-reported mental health symptoms (posttraumatic, depression) and resiliency factors (sense of mastery, sense of relatedness, emotion regulation) from pre- to post-test and at 1-month and 6-month follow-ups. Changes in outcomes were also correlated with intervention processes (attendance, session ratings) to see if program experiences were associated with differential outcomes. Results showed that EAL has potential in improving resiliency outcomes, at least for those participants who derived greater satisfaction and value from the sessions. Many improvements were sustained over the long term. Participants’ qualitative feedback provided insight into their subjective experiences and highlighted the unique role that horses played in the EAL process. Author Keywords: Emotion Regulation, Equine Assisted Learning, Experiential Learning, Resilience, Sense of Mastery, Sense of Relatedness
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:


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Format: 2024/02/26