Graduate Theses & Dissertations


Using DNA Barcoding to Investigate the Diet and Food Supply of a Declining Aerial Insectivote, the Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica)
Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica) populations have declined in North America over the past 40 years and they are listed as Threatened in Ontario, Canada. Changes in the food supply have been hypothesized as a potential cause of this population decline. I used DNA barcoding to investigate the diet and food supply of Barn Swallows and to determine if the food supply affects their reproductive performance. In two breeding seasons, I monitored nests, collected fecal samples, and monitored prey availability by collecting insects from the habitat surrounding breeding sites using Malaise traps. I used DNA barcoding to identify insect specimens collected from the habitat and to identify prey items from Barn Swallow nestling fecal samples. I found that Barn Swallow nestlings were fed a very broad range of prey items but were fed larger prey items more frequently. Prey availability was not related to the timing of reproduction, the number of nests at a breeding site, or the reproductive output of individual nests. This study provides information on the diet composition of Barn Swallows in North America and suggests that food limitation during the breeding season may not be a major factor in their population decline. Author Keywords: aerial insectivore, diet, DNA barcoding, Hirundo rustica, metabarcoding, reproductive success
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
Using a real-world chopping task to study motor learning and memory
Typically task interference is studied using reaching adaptation tasks (visuomotor rotation and/or force-field learning). Participants in these experiments are already experts at the base task (point-to-point, planar reaching) and their ability to adapt reaching to the imposed perturbation is studied. The pattern of data induced by the perturbation is used to make inferences about the nature and neural correlates of our learning and memory for reaching perturbations, specifically, and motor performance in general. We wanted to see if it is possible to demonstrate this same interference pattern using a novel vegetable-chopping task, where we can easily recreate natural performance settings using a task for which we can easily identify non-experts. Participants performed a chopping task in which they are asked to chop a sweet potato into 5 mm-wide slices, matching the beat of a metronome (120 bpm). Following this initial learning, participants were exposed to an interference condition. Participants then performed trials of the original task again. Interference was inferred if the second performance of the original task was impaired, compared to initial performance. Experiment 1 involved novice choppers, and either the force or frequency of chops was manipulated. Only the altered frequency task produced interference effects. In Experiment 2, competent and expert choppers had to manage either a faster or slower frequency. We found evidence for interference in competents, but not experts. These results support the idea that the vulnerability to interference of motor memory changes with practice, and so any inferences made about memory structure must take into account not only expert performance, but every level of skill. Author Keywords: expertise, interference, motor learning, reaching adaptation
Using automated radio-telemetry to link food availability, reproductive success, and habitat use of Barn Swallows (Hirundo rustica erythrogaster)
Drivers of North American Barn Swallow population declines are not well understood, but foraging habitat loss is thought to be a contributing factor. Determining patterns of habitat use is challenging for swallows because they move rapidly but are too small to carry GPS tags. We showed that automated radio-telemetry could be used to track the movements of swallows with enough accuracy (median error 250 m) to monitor local habitat use. We then combined information on breeding Barn Swallows habitat use, land cover, aerial insect abundance, and fledging success to test for a link between foraging habitat quality and reproductive success. Foraging activity was concentrated within 600 m of nest sites and varied with land cover; however, responses to land cover were not consistent across birds. Aerial insects were most abundant near wetlands and least abundant near open water and over cropland. Consistent with a link between foraging habitat and reproductive success, nests in barns with more wetland and less open water within 1 km, and with less field area within 2 km occupied by row crops, on average fledged more young swallows. Author Keywords: aerial insectivores, automated telemetry, habitat use, land cover, movement, nest success
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
Utilizing Class-Specific Thresholds Discovered by Outlier Detection
We investigated if the performance of selected supervised machine-learning techniques could be improved by combining univariate outlier-detection techniques and machine-learning methods. We developed a framework to discover class-specific thresholds in class probability estimates using univariate outlier detection and proposed two novel techniques to utilize these class-specific thresholds. These proposed techniques were applied to various data sets and the results were evaluated. Our experimental results suggest that some of our techniques may improve recall in the base learner. Additional results suggest that one technique may produce higher accuracy and precision than AdaBoost.M1, while another may produce higher recall. Finally, our results suggest that we can achieve higher accuracy, precision, or recall when AdaBoost.M1 fails to produce higher metric values than the base learner. Author Keywords: AdaBoost, Boosting, Classification, Class-Specific Thresholds, Machine Learning, Outliers
Variation in the δ15N and δ13C composition of POM in the Lake Simcoe watershed
The purpose of this study was to quantify the variation of baseline carbon and nitrogen stable isotope signatures in the Lake Simcoe watershed and relate that variation to various physicochemical parameters. Particulate organic matter samples from 2009 and 2011 were used as representatives of baseline isotopic values. Temporal data from two offshore lake stations revealed that δ15N of POM was lowest mid-summer and highest after the fall turnover. POM δ13C was variable throughout the summer before declining after fall turnover. Spatial data from the lake and the tributaries revealed that POM stable isotope signatures were highly variable. Various physicochemical parameters indicative of phytoplankton biomass were significantly positively correlated with POM δ15N and significantly negatively correlated with POM δ13C. The correlations were mostly significant in the tributaries, not the lake. Moreover, many of the correlations involving δ15N of POM were driven by extreme values in Cook's Bay and its tributaries. In general, it's likely that different processes or combination of processes were affecting the δ15N and δ13C POM in the Lake Simcoe watershed as physicochemical parameters alone could not explain the variability. Measuring the δ15N of ammonium and nitrate, as well as the δ13C of DIC would help discern the dominant nitrogen and inorganic carbon cycling processes occurring in the Lake Simcoe watershed. Author Keywords: δ13C, δ15N, isotopic baseline, particulate organic matter, spatial variation, stable isotopes
Vulnerability and resilience
The Minority Stress Model proposes that LGBTQ+ people experience stressors unique to their identity that negatively impact their mental well-being. The model also outlines that, in the case of the LGBTQ+ community, two minority coping resources - social support and connection to the LGBTQ+ community – may act as potential minority stress buffers; however, research has been unable to determine if these are effective buffers. The current study used multiple regression and multilevel modelling to test the processes of the Minority Stress Model among 451 LGBTQ+ people over 25 timepoints during the COVID-19 pandemic. Although minority stressors and coping resources were associated with psychological distress in the expected directions, an interesting interaction between the two measures of minority stress was revealed and neither minority coping resource was found to buffer the association between minority stress and distress. In conclusion, the present study found partial support for the Minority Stress Model using longitudinal data but highlights the complex nature of these processes and how they are conceptualised in research. Author Keywords: identity concealment, LGBTQ+ community, mental health, minority coping, minority stress model, social support
Wastewater Impacts on Freshwater Mussels and Water Quality in a Tributary of the Lower Grand River in Southwestern Ontario, Canada
The main goal of this thesis was to assess the potential impacts of discharges of treated effluent from a small facultative sewage lagoon serving approximately 300 residents of the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation to freshwater mussel populations in Boston Creek, a small tributary of the lower Grand River. The current resident mussel populations inhabiting Boston Creek were assessed using semi-qualitative visual surveying methods. In addition to various population level observations, other possible point and non-point influences on water quality in Boston Creek were identified. Following this, Lasmigona costata mussels were deployed as biomonitoring organisms alongside passive samplers during the October 2017 lagoon discharge period. Time weighted average (TWA) concentrations of select Contaminants of Emerging Concern (CECs) and Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs) were estimated from levels of these compounds accumulated on passive samplers to understand the influence of wastewater on water quality in Boston Creek. Finally, mussel tissues were analyzed for various biomarkers of exposure to contaminants. Population surveys indicated that Boston Creek supports a plentiful and diverse community of freshwater mussels and may be a refuge for the Species of Special Concern, Villosa iris. Passive sampling revealed that most PAHs measured were present at concentrations below detection limits, while CECs were typically detected at relatively low concentrations (ng/L) directly downstream of the lagoon discharge. Biomarker responses detected in Lasmigona costata generally could not be attributed to exposure to the lagoon effluent but these data may indicate response to other point and non-point sources of pollution that could be affecting resident freshwater mussel populations in Boston Creek. The mussels surveyed in Boston Creek may be displaying community level effects of exposure to other sources of pollution in the area. The results of this thesis will help in establishing water quality guidelines in the lower Grand River watershed that will assist in the recovery strategy for freshwater mussel species at risk in Ontario. Author Keywords: Biomarkers, Biomonitoring, CECs, First Nations, Freshwater Mussels, SAR
What Happens in Childhood, Does Not Stay in Childhood
Researchers have found associations between attachment, childhood adversity, and posttraumatic stress symptoms; however, the underlying mechanisms between these variables remains unknown. The present study explored the moderating effects of childhood adversity on the relationship between adult attachment and posttraumatic stress symptoms in two samples. In total, 533 undergraduate students and 357 individuals recruited from online communities completed measures of childhood adversity, adult attachment, and posttraumatic stress symptoms. Hierarchical regression analyses were used to test the moderating effect on childhood adversity. One-way ANOVA post hoc analyses were run to assess mean differences of attachment and posttraumatic stress across five childhood adversity groups. The results suggested that attachment and childhood adversity do predict posttraumatic stress symptoms; however, there was no significant moderating effect of adversity found. The post hoc analyses revealed significant mean differences for secure attachment, avoidant attachment, and posttraumatic stress symptoms. The findings suggest that attachment and childhood adversity are significantly associated with posttraumatic stress symptoms. Author Keywords: adult attachment, childhood adversity, posttraumatic stress symptoms, trauma
What Nature is Best?
Connecting with nature benefits human and environmental health, however it is unclear whether certain types of nature influence people differently. Research has primarily focused on green spaces (vegetation-rich areas), but recent cross-sectional studies suggest that green spaces with blue space (natural water elements) may have additional well-being benefits. A quasi-experimental design compared the effects of green spaces with or without water on mood and environmental concern. Students (N = 193) were randomly assigned to walk along campus green (drumlin) or blue (river) spaces. Both walks improved students’ mood, especially for those who had a stronger preference for the area. Students in both conditions reported more sustainable behaviours when followed up one week and one month later, but decreased in nature contact and well-being. These findings highlight the challenges of promoting regular nature contact as a mood regulation strategy. Implications and future directions are discussed. Author Keywords: blue space, green space, nature connectedness, well-being
What’s the trouble with women? Fostering female engagement in substance abuse programming
Although Canada’s healthcare system is designed for everyone to access services regardless of the person’s gender, age, or income, there are significant barriers for individuals accessing substance abuse services that live in areas outside of urban centres (Adbool, et al., 2017; Hardill, 2011). Women are particularly stigmatized by the lack of anonymity in smaller communities and often avoid engaging in substance abuse programs (Ashley, Marsden, & Thomas, 2003). The aim of the current thesis was to explore RedPath, a grassroots initiative in Port Hope, Ontario, geared to engaging individuals and encourage them to participate in substance abuse programming. This initiative employs a member from the community, called an Activator, who is tasked with engaging their peers. A qualitative study was conducted to explore the role of a hired RedPath Activator in facilitating access of female community members with substance abuse issues to services in the Port Hope community. Her role in supporting women was a specific interest, as the selection of a female Activator was a strategy to support the engagement of women to the program. The data was analyzed using a thematic content analysis approach. The most significant of these themes were (1) barriers and challenges in the community and (2) building trust to facilitate engagement and maintain attendance in the program. Author Keywords: activator, community, mental health, substance abuse, woman, women


Search Our Digital Collections


Enabled Filters

  • (-) ≠ Burness
  • (-) = Master of Science
  • (-) ≠ Freeland

Filter Results


1973 - 2033
Specify date range: Show
Format: 2023/03/30