Graduate Theses & Dissertations


Calcium in the Muskoka River Watershed- Patterns, trends, the potential impact of forest harvesting and steps toward an ecosystem approach to mitigation
Decreasing lake calcium (Ca) concentration, in lakes located in base poor catchments of the Muskoka River Watershed (MRW) in south-central Ontario, is a well- established acid-rain driven legacy effect threatening the health and integrity of aquatic ecosystems that can be compounded by additional Ca removals through forest harvesting. The objectives of this thesis were to assess patterns and temporal trends in key water chemistry parameters for a set of lakes in forested catchments in the MRW in south- central Ontario, to predict the pre-industrial steady state lake Ca concentration and the potential impact of harvesting on lake Ca levels in lakes located in managed MRW Crown forests, and to assess potential effects of various mitigation strategies in Ca depleted managed forests. Mean lake Ca (mg L-1) in 104 lakes across the MRW have decreased by 30% since the 1980's with the rate of decrease slowing over time. Mean Lake SO4 (mg L-1), and Mg (mg L-1) concentration also decreased significantly with time (37% and 29%, respectively) again with a declining rate of decrease, while mean lake pH and DOC increased significantly between the 1980's and the 1990's (16% and 12%, respectively) but exhibited no significant pattern after that. Principal components and GIS spatial analyses of 75 lakes with data from 2011 or 2012 water seasons suggested that smaller lakes, at higher elevation in smaller catchments with higher runoff and minimally impacted by the influence of roads and agriculture are associated with lower Ca concentrations and thus are the lakes at risk of amplified Ca depletion from forest harvesting. Spatial analyses of harvested catchments indicated that, under the proposed 10 year land forest management cut volumes, 38% of 364 lakes in the MRW will fall below the critical 1 mg L-1 Ca threshold compared with 8% in the absence of future harvesting. With respect to potential mitigation measures, soil pH and foliar Ca were indicated by meta-analysis to be more responsive to lime addition studies while soil base saturation and tree growth appeared more responsive to wood-ash addition. Future research should address the spatial extent of lakes at risk and identify when critical levels will be reached under harvesting regimes. Further investigation into the use of Ca-addition as a tool for managing the cumulative effects of past, present and future stressors is recommended. Author Keywords: calcium, harvesting, lakes, lime, Muskoka River Watershed, wood-ash
Fate and Effects of Silver Nanoparticle Addition in a Lake Ecosystem
The potential release of nanoparticles into aquatic environments is raising global concerns. As antimicrobials, silver nanoparticles (AgNPs) are among the most prominent form in use. Despite this, their fate, long-term toxicity, and ecological relevance have yet to be investigated largely under natural settings with seasonality and environmental complexity. To better understand the environmental significance, we released AgNPs into Lake 222 at the Experimental Lakes Area over two years. AgNPs remained suspended in the water column and were detected throughout the lake and in the lower food web. Total Ag concentrations ranged from below 0.07 to 18.9 μg L-1 in lake water, and were highly dynamic seasonally both in the epilimnion and hypolimnion depending on the physical, chemical and biological conditions of the lake. Approximately 60% of the measured Ag mass in October was present in the sediment in 2014 and 50% in 2015 demonstrating relatively high sedimentation and removal from the water column. During winter months, Ag was largely absent in the water column under the ice. After ice melt and before summer stratification, Ag concentrations increased in the lake suggesting AgNPs may not be tightly bound to the sediment and are able re-enter the water column during spring mixing events. Despite temporal variation, total Ag was highly synchronous across spatial locations for both years, indicating rapid dispersal upon lake entry. When investigating AgNP sizes using spICPMS, size distributions were similar across spatial locations, with the 40-60 nm size class constituting approximately 60% of all particles identified. Large aggregates (>100 nm) and dissolved Ag were infrequently detected within the lake. Ag accumulated in the lower food web ranging from 0.27-16.82 μg Ag mg C-1 in the bacterioplankton and 0.17-6.45 μg Ag mg C-1 in algae (particulate fraction). Partial least squares models revealed the highest predictors of Ag accumulation were dissolved nutrients including DOC, TDN, TDP in bacterioplankton. Major predictors for particulate Ag included temperature, dissolved oxygen, and sampling date. The diversity of predictors among biological compartments emphasizes the importance of understanding the role of environmental complexity within the lower food web. Despite Ag accumulation we did not detect strong negative effects on the lake food web. An increase in particulate and bacterioplankton chlorophyll-a occurred after addition in contrast to reference lakes, which may indicate a hormetic response to low dose AgNP concentrations. Our findings provide the first whole-lake perspective regarding Ag fate and toxicity, suggesting small scale experiments may overestimate environmental responses. Author Keywords: Ecotoxicity, Fate, Lower food web, Silver Nanoparticles, Whole-lake addition
Caribou experience direct and indirect negative effects of harassment from biting flies, influencing behavior and activity on several spatial and temporal scales. I used systematic insect collection surveys during the summers of 2011 and 2012 to examine the spatial and temporal distributions of black flies (Simuliidae), mosquitoes (Culicidae), and deer flies and horse flies (Tabanidae) in a managed boreal forest in northern Ontario. Mosquitoes had a positive association with densely treed habitats, whereas black flies more often occurred in open areas, and tabanids had a strong presence in all habitat types. Habitats in proximity to large bodies of water had fewer biting flies than inland areas. Young stands supported higher abundances of tabanids despite vegetation community type. Next, I tested for seasonal effects of biting fly abundance on caribou activity by modelling the seasonal trend in abundance for each fly family for each year and compared this to an index of daily activity for 20 radio-collared female caribou in 2011 and 10 females in 2012. I modeled this index of caribou activity for each animal in each year and extracted the set of partial correlation coefficients from multiple regressions to test for effects of biting fly abundances on caribou activity. Caribou reduced their daily activity when tabanids were more numerous, and increased activity when mosquitoes were numerous. This divergent response may reflect a difference in the efficacy of moving to reduce harassment, owing to the stronger flight capabilities of tabanids. Author Keywords: Activity, Anthropogenic Disturbance, Behaviour, Insect harassment, Temporal distribution, Woodland Caribou
Home range use, habitat selection, and stress physiology of eastern whip-poor-wills (Antrostomus vociferus) at the northern edge of their range
The distribution of animals is rarely random and is affected by various environmental factors. We examined space-use patterns, habitat selection and stress responses of whip-poor-wills to mining exploration activity.To the best of my knowledge, fine scale patterns such as the habitat composition within known home ranges or territories of eastern whip-poor-wills have not been investigated. Using a population at the northern edge of the distribution in an area surrounding a mining exploration site, we tested whether variations in habitat and anthropogenic disturbances influence the stress physiology of individuals. We found no effect of increased mining activity on the stress physiology of birds but found a significant scale-dependent effect of habitat on their baseline and stress-induced corticosterone levels, and we suggest that these are the result of variations in habitat quality. The importance of other factors associated with those habitat differences (e.g., insect availability, predator abundance, and microhabitat features) warrants further research. Author Keywords: anthropogenic disturbances, Antrostomus vociferus, corticosterone, eastern whip-poor-will, habitat selection, radio-­telemetry
Hormonal Algae
Based on an endogenous hormone study, three cytokinin type phytohormones; benzyladenine (BA), trans-zeatin (tZ) and methylthiol trans-zeatin (MeSZ), as well as abscisic acid (ABA) were exogenously added at three concentrations (10-7, 10-6 and 10-5 M) to cultures of Chlorella vulgaris in an attempt to alter growth rate, total lipid and fatty acid yields and fatty acid profile. Growth stimulation was highest at 10-6 M for BA, MeSZ and ABA and 10-5 M for tZ. All treatments caused changes in total lipid and fatty acid content, with BA causing an increase to lipid content. The most significant change in the fatty acid profile was observed with the addition of MeSZ at 10-7 and 10-6 M causing increases of 204% and 457% in linolenic acid respectively above the control. These results are novel and potentially highly impactful, as MeSZ has never been added exogenously to algae and may be used to stimulate overproduction of linolenic acid for pharmaceutical or industrial purposes. Author Keywords: Abscisic Acid, Chlorella vulgaris, Cytokinin, Fatty acid, Linolenic Acid, Methylthiol trans-Zeatin
Cytokinins in nematodes
To investigate cytokinins (CKs) in nematodes, CK profiles of a free-living Caenorhabditis elegans and a plant parasitic Heterodera glycines (soybean cyst nematode, SCN) were determined at the egg and larval stages. SCN had higher total CK level than C. elegans; however, CKs in SCN were mostly inactive precursors, whereas C. elegans had more bioactive forms. This is the first study to show that methylthiols are present in nematodes and may affect plant infection. In infectious SCN larvae, methylthiol levels were much higher than in eggs or C. elegans larvae. Furthermore, The CK profiles of SCN-susceptible and resistant Glycine max cultivars at three developmental stages revealed that, regardless of the resistance level, SCN infection caused an increase in root CKs. One resistant cultivar, Pion 93Y05, showed significantly high levels of bioactive N6-isopentenyladenine (iP) in the non-infected roots which indicated a potential role of CKs in soybean resistance to SCN. Author Keywords: Cytokinins, HPLC-MS/MS, Nematode, SCN resistance, Soybean
Pathogen vs. Predator
Stressors are often an inescapable part of an organism’s life. While the effects of many stressors have been well studied individually, potential interactions between stressors exist that may result in greater than additive negative effects. Stressors may be linked by conflicting demands on energy budgets, interfering with important physiological pathways, or necessitating incompatible adaptive responses. Using Ranavirus (FV3) and larval dragonfly predators (Anax spp.) in a 2x2 factorial experiment on green frog (Lithobates clamitans) tadpoles, I investigate the interactions in behaviour, morphology, and metabolism when both stressors were applied in concert. I demonstrate that activity and feeding are reduced additively by both stressors, and tadpoles increase distance between conspecifics in FV3-exposed tanks, but only in the absence of predators. I also note decreases in mass, and a non-significant marginal increase in metabolic rate of tadpoles exposed to FV3. Interestingly, I provide evidence that FV3 can compromise morphometric responses through antagonistic interactions with perceived predation risk exposure, which may result in significantly elevated mortality even when either stressor is present in sub-lethal quantities. Thus, I conclude that sub-lethal exposure to stressors can nonetheless have substantial impacts on organisms and a more integrative approach to examining the impacts of stressors on individual physiology and fitness is necessary. Author Keywords: Behaviour, Interaction, Morphology, Predation Risk, Ranavirus, Tadpoles
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:
Phylogeography and Genetic Structuring of Moose (Alces alces) Populations in Ontario, Canada
Moose are an iconic species, known for their large size and impressive antlers. Eight subspecies are classified in circumpolar regions of the planet - four in North America. Two subspecies are similar in shape and size, the north-western moose (Alces alces andersoni) and the eastern moose (Alces alces americana). It was previously believed that these two subspecies meet in northern Ontario. Earlier genetic population studies used a small number of samples from Ontario, primarily in broad studies covering all of North America. A comprehensive genetic study of moose populations in Ontario has not previously been conducted. We examined the genetic diversity and population structure at 10 polymorphic loci using 776 samples from Ontario, as well as outgroups from representative populations – Manitoba/Cape Breton, representing A. a. andersoni, and New Brunswick/Nova Scotia, representing A. a. americana. Results indicated three genetic populations in the province, in north-western Ontario, north-eastern Ontario and south-central Ontario. RST values, compared against both FST and Jost’s D values for phylogenetic analyses, indicated no phylogenetic pattern which suggests no subspeciation present in the province. Population movement patterns in Ontario were studied. Gene flow was estimated using genetic and spatial data. Isolation by distance was only seen within the first distance class of 100 kilometres and then not seen again at further distances, indicating that moose display philopatry. There were very few migrants travelling across the province, with a greater number moving gradually north and west, towards better habitat and food sources. A forensic database in the form of an allele frequency table was created. Three loci showed very low levels of heterozygosity across all three populations. Probability of identity was calculated for the three populations and quantified. Samples with known geographic origins were run against the database to test for sensitivity, with identification of origin occurring at an accuracy level between 87 and 100%. Within Ontario, there are not two different subspecies, as previously believed, but two different populations of the same subspecies meeting in northern Ontario. The genetic data does not support previous research performed in Ontario. The sample sizes in our research also provide a more comprehensive view of the entire province not seen in any previous studies. The comprehensive research enabled the building of a reliable forensic database that can be used for both management and forensic purposes for the entire province. Author Keywords: Alces alces, Genetic Diversity, Moose, Ontario, Phylogeography, Subspecies
wind tunnel and field evaluation of the efficacy of various dust suppressants
A series of experiments was designed to assess the relative efficacy of various dust suppressants to suppress PM10 emissions from nepheline syenite tailings. The experiments were conducted in the Trent University Environmental Wind Tunnel, Peterborough, Ontario, and on the tailings ponds at the Unimin Ltd Nephton mine near Havelock, Ontario. Treated surfaces were subjected to particle-free airflow, abrasion with blown sand particles, particle-free airflow after physical disturbance, and were measured independently using a pin penetrometer. In the particle-free wind tunnel tests, three of the surfaces performed well, and PM10 emissions scaled inversely with crust strength. Light bombardment of each surface by saltating sand grains resulted in PM10 emission rates two orders of magnitude higher. All treated surfaces emitted significantly more PM10 after physical disturbance in both the laboratory and field research. The results suggest that the site conditions, inclusive of the potential for dust advection and resuspension, must be taken into account when considering the use of a commercial dust suppressant. Author Keywords: dust suppression, field testing, mine tailings, wind tunnel experiment
Time to adapt
To better understand species’ resilience to climate change and implement solutions, we must conserve environments that maintain standing adaptive genetic variation and the potential generation of new beneficial alleles. Coding trinucleotide repeats (cTNRs) providing high-pace adaptive capabilities via high rates of mutation are ideal targets for mitigating the decline of species at risk by characterizing adaptively significant populations. Ultimately, adaptive genetic information will inform the protection of biological diversity below the species level (i.e., “Evolutionarily Significant Units” or “ESUs”). This dissertation investigates cTNRs within candidate genes to determine their prevalence and influence under selection in North American mammals. First, I evaluated the potential for somatic mosaicism in Canada lynx (Lynx canadensis), and found that tissue-specific mosaicism does not confound cTNR genotyping success in lynx. Second, I assessed a selection of clock gene cTNRs across characterized mammals and found that these repeats are abundant and highly variable in length and purity. I also identified preliminary signatures of selection in 3 clock gene cTNRs in 3 pairs of congeneric North American mammal species, highlighting the importance of cTNRs for understanding the evolution and adaptation of wild populations. I further evaluated the influence of selection on the NR1D1 cTNR within Canada lynx sampled across Canada using environmental correlation, where I estimated the variation in NR1D1 cTNR alleles explained by environmental and spatial variables after removing the effects of neutral population structure. Although most variation was explained by neutral structure, environment and spatial patterns in eastern lynx populations significantly explained some of the variation in NR1D1 alleles. To examine the role of island populations in the generation and distribution of adaptive genetic variation, I used 14 neutral microsatellites and a dinucleotide repeat within a gene linked to mammalian body size, IGF-1, and found that both genetic drift and natural selection influence the observed genetic diversity of insular lynx. Finally, I estimated the divergence dates of peripheral lynx populations and made recommendations towards the conservation of Canada lynx; high levels of genetic differentiation coupled with post-glacial colonization histories and patterns of divergence at cTNR loci suggest at least 4 ESUs for Canada lynx across their range. Author Keywords: adaptation, Canada lynx, candidate genes, coding trinucleotide repeats, evolution, natural selection
Elemental Variation in Daphnia
Environmental variation can affect consumer trait expression and alter ecological and evolutionary dynamics in natural populations. However, although dietary nutrient content can vary by an order of magnitude in natural ecosystems, intra-specific differences in consumer responses to food quality have not been thoroughly investigated. Therefore, the purpose of my dissertation was to examine the influence of dietary nutrition and other environmental factors on consumer phenotypic variation using the freshwater cladoceran Daphnia. I conducted a series of complementary laboratory and field studies where I examined the effects of dietary phosphorus (P) content and additional biological/environmental variables (multi-elemental limitation, genetic variation, and temperature) on daphnid life-history, biochemistry, body elemental composition, and population growth. In general, phenotypic expression within a species varied significantly in response to all experimental variables, but the relative influence of each was highly context dependent. In my first chapter, I found that dietary P content and environmental calcium (Ca) concentrations both altered Daphnia body Ca:P ratios and growth rates of individuals and affected intrinsic rates of increase at the population level. However, food quality appeared to have a much larger effect on trait expression, and body Ca:P ratios were highly sensitive to other forms of dietary nutrient limitation. Next, I documented significant quantitative genetic variation and phenotypic plasticity in daphnid P content, growth, and P use efficiency of field collected animals grown across dietary P gradients. Trait expression was also influenced by genotype X diet interactions suggesting that consumer responses to dietary nutrient limitation can be heritable and may be adaptive in different nutrient environments. Finally, I found that temperature appeared to override food quality effects and decouple P metabolism in natural Daphnia populations, but total biomass production was affected by both dietary P content and temperature, depending on the nutrient content of the lake. Overall, my dissertation shows that consumer responses to nutrient limitation can vary significantly within a species and that changes in trait expression may be modified by other environmental variables. These results should be incorporated into existing stoichiometric models and used to investigate the eco-evolutionary consequences of consumer phenotypic variation in response to nutritional stress. Author Keywords: ecological stoichiometry, evolution, life-history, nutrient limitation, nutrient metabolism, zooplankton


Search Our Digital Collections


Enabled Filters

  • (-) = Environmental and Life Sciences

Filter Results


2003 - 2033
Specify date range: Show
Format: 2023/01/31