Graduate Theses & Dissertations


Island Syndrome and Stress Physiology of Mice in the Genus Peromyscus
Biological differences between island and mainland conspecifics have been well studied, but few studies have addressed differences in stress physiology. Stressors, such as predation and competition for resources, cause the release of glucocorticoids (GCs). Characteristics of island wildlife, called “island syndrome”, are attributed to low levels of predators and competitors. I tested the hypothesis that island syndrome includes differences in GC levels between island and mainland rodents using two approaches; first, using white-footed mice (Peromyscus leucopus) from a near-shore archipelago (Thousand Islands, Ontario) and the nearby mainland; second, using study-skins of deer mice (Peromyscus maniculatus) from two archipelagos offshore of Vancouver Island, British Columbia. White-footed mice in the near-shore archipelago did not show characteristics of island syndrome, or changes in GC levels (feces and hair); however deer mice from both archipelagos in British Columbia were heavier and had lower hair GCs for their size than Vancouver Island mice. Author Keywords: Glucocorticoids, Island rule, Island syndrome, Peromyscus, Stress physiology
Clonal structure and mating patterns in a natural population of Sagittaria latifolia
Increased plant size is expected to have negative consequences for mating by increasing pollen transfer among the same plant. However, recent theoretical studies have demonstrated that this may not be true for clonal plants. Instead, clonal expansion could enhance outcrossing opportunities without increasing selfing by reducing distances to potential mates. I investigated how the spatial structure of clones influences patterns of pollen dispersal, selfing rates and siring success in a natural population of Sagittaria latifolia. I found that pollen dispersal distances typically exceeded the spatial extent of clones and there was a positive association between clone size and the likelihood that clones were intermingled. Together, this resulted in a weak positive association between clone size and selfing rates, and a strong positive association between clone size and outcross siring success. This is the first empirical support for the theoretical expectation that any negative effects of selfing in large clones might be offset by increased siring success. Author Keywords: clonal growth, fitness gain curve, geitonogamy, plant mating, plant reproductive ecology, sex allocation theory
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
Fractionation of Mercury Isotopes in an Aqueous Environment
Fractionation of mercury isotopes in an aqueous environment: Chemical Oxidation Dimitri Stathopoulos The study of fractionation patterns for the stable isotopes of mercury is a growing field. The potential for stable isotopes to trace mercury through the environment from pollution sources to sinks make the subject interesting to geochemists and useful to a wider audience. The purpose of this study is to measure the fractionation of mercury as it is oxidized in an aqueous medium. Samples in this study are prepared by chemically oxidizing different proportions of elemental mercury using four different oxidants. The oxidized portion is then separated from the elemental portion and an analysis of the isotope ratios for both portions is performed using a multicollector inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometer MC-ICP/MS. These isotope ratios are measured against the preoxidation isotope ratio to determine what if any change has occurred. From the findings of this work, it is now known chemical oxidation causes both mass dependent and mass independent fractionation. Mass dependent fractionation causes an enrichment of the heavier isotopes in the oxidized portion while the opposite is true for the elemental portion. Mass independent fractionation occurred only in the odd isotopes and causes a depletion of odd isotopes in the oxidized portion and enrichment in the elemental portion. These trends were found to be true for all oxidants tested as the pattern of fractionation does not change with varying oxidants. Author Keywords: Isotope, Mass Dependent, Mass Independent, Mercury, Oxidation
Daphnia pulicaria responses to temperature and nutrients stress
Warming climates have had various consequences on terrestrial and aquatic food webs that are expected to persist. There is evidence suggesting that certain organisms are better equipped to handle changing climates compared to others. Therefore, the purpose of my thesis was to study the adaptability of Daphnia under temperature stress and nutrient limitation. First, to examine the effects of dietary phosphorus limitation and temperature on daphniid life-history and population growth, a series of experiments were conducted in the laboratory. In general, I found that Daphnia body growth rates and life-history traits to food carbon to phosphorus (C:P) ratios change with temperature. Next, I identified a protocol to limit the genomic DNA (gDNA) from ribonucleic acid (RNA) extractions. I found that using a modified phenol-chloroform extraction protocol was the most effective way to remove gDNA from extracted Daphnia RNA samples. Overall, results from this study show that temperature and food quality interactions are more complicated than previously thought. Furthermore, the RNA extraction protocol developed will be useful in future studies examining gene expression responses in Daphnia. Author Keywords: ecological stoichiometry, gene expression, life-history, nutrient limitation, RNA puritiy, temperature
My study was primarily focused on the comparison of life history traits between stocked American eel and their naturally recruited conspecifics in Lake Ontario and the upper St. Lawrence River (USLR/LO). I found that stocked eels experienced faster annual growth than their naturally recruited conspecifics and were comprised of a greater proportion of males. These findings indicate that the life history patterns of American eel may be genetically predisposed. Additionally, my study served to characterize the diets of stocked American eel and examine possible associations between eel and prey size. The eels consumed a number of macroinvertebrate prey orders as well as fishes and macrocrustaceans, with the latter prey items being more prevalent in the diets of larger eel specimens. A disparity in eel growth and body condition was observed between two primary stocking locations and were likely attributable to differences in available forage and habitat. Lastly, growth, body condition, and stocked eel diet were compared between lentic and lotic habitats. Eels from lotic streams experienced slower annual growth and had reduced body condition, and their diets were comprised of smaller prey items. The results of this study suggest that the current stocking methods employed in the USLR/LO are not suitable to restore the natural recruitment of individuals that will exhibit desired life history traits. Author Keywords:
Immunogenetic Responses of Raccoons and Skunks to the Raccoon Rabies Virus
Interactions between hosts and pathogens play a crucial role in their adaptation, evolution and persistence. These interactions have been extensively studied in model organisms, yet it is unclear how well they represent mechanisms of disease response in primary vectors in natural settings. The objective of my thesis was to investigate host-pathogen interactions in natural host populations exposed to raccoon rabies virus (RRV). RRV is endemic to North America, that causes acute encephalopathies in mammals and is commonly regarded as 100% lethal if untreated; however variable immune responses have been noted in natural reservoirs. In order to further understand variable immune responses to RRV, my thesis examined (i) potential immunogenetic associations to RRV using genes intimately associated with an immune response, (ii) the nature of immune responses triggered in the host after infection, and (iii) viral expression and genetic variation, to provide insight into factors that may influence RRV virulence. Immunogenetic variation of RRV vectors was assessed using major histocompatibility complex (MHC) DRB alleles. Associations were found between specific MHC alleles, RRV status, and viral lineages. Further, similarities at functionally relevant polymorphic sites in divergent RRV vector species, raccoons and skunks, suggested that both species recognize and bind a similar suite of peptides, highlighting the adaptive significance of MHC and contemporary selective pressures. To understand mechanisms of disease spread and pathogenesis, I screened for variation and expression of genes indicative of innate immune response and patterns of viral gene expression. RRV activated components of the innate immune system, with transcript levels correlated with the presence of RRV. These data indicate that timing of the immune response is crucial in pathogenesis. Expression patterns of viral genes suggest they are tightly controlled until reaching the central nervous system (CNS), where replication increases significantly. These results suggest previous molecular mechanisms for rabies host response derived from mouse models do not strictly apply to natural vector populations. Overall my research provides a better understanding of the immunological factors that contribute to the pathogenesis of RRV in a natural system. Author Keywords: immune response, major histocompatibility complex, rabies, raccoons, skunks, virus
Sensitivity of Forest Soils to Acidic Deposition Downwind of an Aluminum Smelter, Kitimat, B.C.
Maximum permitted SO2 emissions from an aluminum smelter in Kitimat, B.C., increased after modernization in 2015. An increase in acidic deposition can potentially acidify forest soils. Monitoring was conducted at two long-term soil monitoring plots at near (7 km) and far (41 km) sites downwind from the smelter. Change in soil properties was assessed between 2015 and 2018: for the near plot, there was significant decrease in pH and exchange acidity; far plot soils exhibited significant decrease of base cations and exchange acidity in the 0–5 cm layer only. The average total SO42- deposition at near and far plots were estimated to be between 8.2–12.1 and 6.7–7.4 kg/ha/yr, respectively. It was concluded no soil acidification was detected. Observed changes were attributed to measured differences in organic matter, likely influenced by sampling difficulty and measurement process discrepancies. Estimated SO42- deposition levels pose no risk to soil base cation depletion. Author Keywords: acid forest soils, acidic deposition, aluminum smelter, exchangeable base cations, long-term monitoring, minimum detectable change
Geochemistry and Toxicity of a Large Slag Pile and its Drainage Complex in Sudbury, Ontario
This study was designed to determine the geochemistry and potential toxicity of water draining a large slag pile in Sudbury, Ontario, which runs through a pond complex prior to entering Alice Lake. Slag leaching experiments confirmed slag is a source of sulphate, heavy metals (including Fe, Al, Ni, Co, Cu, Zn, Pb, Cr, Mn) and base cations (Ca, K, Mg, Na). Concentrations of most metals draining through slag in column experiments were similar to metal concentrations measured at the base of the slag pile, although base cations, S and pH were much higher, possibly because of water inputs interacting with the surrounding basic glaciolacustrine landscape. The increase in pH rapidly precipitates metals leading to high accumulation in the surface sediments. Away from the base of the pile, an increase in vegetation cover leads to an increase in DOC and nutrients and transport of metals with strong binding affinities (Cu). Total metal concentration in water and sediment exceed provincial water quality guidelines, particularly near the slag pile, however WHAM7 modeling indicated that the free metal ion concentration in water is very low. Nevertheless, toxicity experiments showed that water with greater concentrations of solutes collected close to the slag pile negatively impacts D. magna suggesting that water draining the slag pile can adversely impact biota in nearby drainage areas. Author Keywords: geochemistry, heavy metals, leaching, non-ferrous slag, precipitation, toxicity
Molecular Architectures for Improved Biomaterials Derived from Vegetable Oils – Application to Energy Storage and Lubricants
The replacement of petroleum with renewable feedstock for energy and materials has become a priority because of concerns over the environment and finite nature of petroleum. The structures of the available natural biomass feedstocks fall short in delivering key functionality required in materials such as lubricants and phase change energy storage materials (PCMs). The approach taken in this thesis was to combine select functional groups with vegetable oil derivatives to create novel PCMs and lubricantswhich deliver desired functionality. One series of diester PCMs were prepared with terephthalic acid and fatty alcohols to address known shortcomings of esters. The second class of PCMs are sulfones prepared from oxidation of fatty sulfides to improve thermal energy storage. Overall, the new PCMs presented narrow phase change temperature ranges, high transition temperature (between 67 to 110℃), high transition enthalpy (210 to 266J/g), minimal supercooling and congruent phase transitions unaffected by cooling rates. They also demonstrated higher thermal degradation stability with onset of degradation from 290 to 310℃. The series of lubricants studied consists of sulfide and sulfonyl functional groups attached to the unsaturation sites of oleyl oleate as pendant groups to improve the thermal and flow properties. The new lubricants present subzero crystallization temperatures, very low crystallization enthalpy and dynamic viscosity as high as 180mPas. Furthermore, they also presented high onset of degradation (up to 322℃) and oxidation (up to 298℃). The PCMs and lubricants of the present thesis demonstrate that select functional groups can be used with common structural elements of vegetable oil such as fatty acids, ester groups and unsaturation sites to make a variety of molecular structures capable of delivering desired properties Author Keywords: Crystal Structure, Lubricant, Phase Change Material, Renewable, Structure-Property Relationships, Vegetable Oil
Influence of Canopy Water Partitioning on the Isotopic Signature of Plant Water in a Mixed Northern Forest
This study seeks to clarify the way in which the differing canopy characteristics among tree species influence the partitioning of precipitation, and therefore the source of water available for plant water uptake, in the Plastic Lake catchment near Dorset, ON. Three dominant tree species were compared: red oak (Quercus rubra), eastern white pine (Pinus strobus), and eastern hemlock (Tsuga canadensis). Above-canopy precipitation, throughfall, stemflow, and soil water content were monitored weekly from June 2016 until October 2016 and the 18O and 2H isotopic signatures of each were analyzed. Plant water and bulk soil water samples were also collected from five trees of each species at five stages of the growing season to compare the isotopic signature of xylem water to that of their surrounding soils. Both plant water and bulk soil water displayed evidence of isotopic fractionation; however, plant water was more depleted in δ2H and δ18O than bulk soil water. Water interacting with the tree canopies as throughfall and stemflow did not display significant evidence of isotopic fractionation. This suggests that the vegetation could have accessed an isotopically distinct source of water stored within the soil or that an unknown isotopic fractionation process occurred throughout this study. Author Keywords:
Analysis and reactions of aqueous selenide and other reduced inorganic selenium compounds under anoxic conditions
Selenide is cited as a geochemically important selenium (Se) species, but it is unknown whether selenide is a stable aqueous ion in natural waters. The feasibility of using anoxic anion exchange chromatography (AEC) coupled to dynamic reaction cell-inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry to separate aqueous selenide was investigated with the goal of quantifying this anion to determine its importance in reducing waters. It was possible to qualitatively identify selenide using AEC, but much of the aqueous selenide oxidises to Se0 faster than the separation procedure could be completed. AEC analyses of solutions containing polyselenides produced peaks for unidentified Se compounds, which have been assigned tentative structures Se2O22-, Se2O32-, and Se2O62- based on close matches in retention time to stable S compounds. The results of this work show that aqueous selenide can be qualitatively observed in synthetic solutions using AEC, but it is unknown whether these conditions are relevant to natural waters. Author Keywords: anoxic speciation, polyselenides, selenide, selenium geochemistry, selenium speciation, selenoselenate


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