Graduate Theses & Dissertations


Effects of hydrologic seasonality on dissolved organic matter composition, export, and biodegradability in two contrasting streams
Environmental and seasonal processes are important watershed drivers controlling the amount, composition, and fate of dissolved organic matter (DOM) in aquatic ecosystems. We used ten months of water samples and eight months of bioassay incubations from two contrasting catchments (agriculture and natural, forested) to assess the effects of seasonal variability on the composition, export, and biodegradability of DOM. As expected, the DOM composition and exports were more allochthonous-like and autochthonous-like in the forest and agriculture streams, respectively. However, we found no relationship between DOM composition and biodegradability in our study, suggesting that broad environmental factors play a large part in determining bioavailability of DOM. We found that both differences between the catchments and seasonal variability in hydrology and water temperature cause shifts in DOM composition that can affect exports and potentially affect its susceptibility to microbial activity. More research is needed to fully understand the impact of land use and temporal variability on bioavailability and delivery to downstream ecosystems. Author Keywords: Bioavailable dissolved organic carbon, Biodegradability, Dissolved organic matter, Export, Seasonality, Streams
Combinatorial Collisions in Database Matching
Databases containing information such as location points, web searches and fi- nancial transactions are becoming the new normal as technology advances. Conse- quentially, searches and cross-referencing in big data are becoming a common prob- lem as computing and statistical analysis increasingly allow for the contents of such databases to be analyzed and dredged for data. Searches through big data are fre- quently done without a hypothesis formulated before hand, and as these databases grow and become more complex, the room for error also increases. Regardless of how these searches are framed, the data they collect may lead to false convictions. DNA databases may be of particular interest, since DNA is often viewed as significant evi- dence, however, such evidence is sometimes not interpreted in a proper manner in the court room. In this thesis, we present and validate a framework for investigating var- ious collisions within databases using Monte Carlo Simulations, with examples from DNA. We also discuss how DNA evidence may be wrongly portrayed in the court room, and the explanation behind this. We then outline the problem which may occur when numerous types of databases are searched for suspects, and framework to address these problems. Author Keywords: big data analysis, collisions, database searches, DNA databases, monte carlo simulation
Monitoring and fate of selected tire-derived organic contaminants
Road runoff is a vector for the transport of potentially toxic chemicals into receiving waters. In this study, selected tire-derived chemicals were monitored in surface waters of rivers adjacent to two high traffic highways in the Greater Toronto Area in Ontario, Canada. Composite samples were collected from the Don River and Highland Creek in the GTA during 5 hydrological events that occurred in the period between early October 2019 and late March 2020, as well as an event in August 2020. Grab samples were collected from these rivers during a period of low flow in August 2020, as well as during a storm event in July of 2020. Analysis was performed using ultra-high pressure liquid chromatography with high resolution mass spectrometric detection (UHPLC-HRMS). Hexamethoxymethylmelamine (HMMM), a cross-linker of tire material, was detected at elevated concentrations (> 1 µg/L) during rain events in the fall and winter of 2019-20 and during a period of rapid snow melt in early March of 2020. These samples were also analyzed for the tire additive, 6PPD, and its oxidation by-product, 6PPD-quinone, as well as 1,3-diphenylguanidine (DPG). In many samples collected from the Don River and Highland Creek during storm events, the estimated concentrations of 6PPD-quinone exceeded the reported LC50 of 0.8 µg/L for Coho salmon exposed to this compound. Temporal samples collected at 3-hour intervals throughout rain event the October 2020 showed that there was a delay of several hours after the start of the event before these compounds reached their peak concentrations. In addition, 26 candidate transformation products and precursor compounds of HMMM were monitored; 15 of these compounds were detected in surface waters in the GTA. The maximum total concentration of this class of methoxymethylmelamine compounds in surface water samples was estimated to be 18 µg/L. There is limited knowledge about the properties of HMMM, its precursor contaminants, and its transformation compounds, as well as their fate in the environment. COSMO-RS solvation theory was used to estimate the physico-chemical properties of HMMM and its derivatives. Using the estimated values for these properties (e.g., solubility, vapour pressure, log Kow) as inputs to the Equilibrium Criterion (EQC) fugacity-based multimedia model, the compounds were predicted to readily partition into aqueous media, with mobility in water increasing with the extent of loss of methoxymethyl groups from HMMM. Overall, this study contributes to the growing literature indicating that potentially toxic tire-wear compounds are transported via road runoff into urban surface waters. In addition, this study provides insight into the environmental behaviour of HMMM and its transformation products. Author Keywords: 6PPD-quinone, COSMOtherm, Fugacity, Hexamethoxymethylmelamine, Road runoff, Tire wear
Influence of geodemographic factors on electricity consumption and forecasting models
The residential sector is a major consumer of electricity, and its demand will rise by 65 percent by the end of 2050. The electricity consumption of a household is determined by various factors, e.g. house size, socio-economic status of the family, size of the family, etc. Previous studies have only identified a limited number of socio-economic and dwelling factors. In this thesis, we study the significance of 826 geodemographic factors on electricity consumption for 4917 homes in the City of London. Geodemographic factors cover a wide array of categories e.g. social, economic, dwelling, family structure, health, education, finance, occupation, and transport. Using Spearman correlation, we have identified 354 factors that are strongly correlated with electricity consumption. We also examine the impact of using geodemographic factors in designing forecasting models. In particular, we develop an encoder-decoder LSTM model which shows improved accuracy with geodemographic factors. We believe that our study will help energy companies design better energy management strategies. Author Keywords: Electricity forecasting, Encoder-decoder model, Geodemographic factors, Socio-economic factors
Assessing the Potential of Permaculture as an Adaptation Strategy Towards Climate Change in Central Ontario
This thesis uses three approaches to assess the potential of permaculture in Central Ontario. This was done using a vegetable field trial and modelling programs to determine the effectiveness of permaculture to decrease negative impacts of climate change based on projected climate values derived from regional circulation models. The first approach showed no statistical difference (P<0.05) of applying varied volumes and combinations of organic amendments on crop yields. The second approach indicated permaculture may be a sustainable production system with respect to soil erosion when compared to traditional agricultural practices. The third approach was inconclusive due to the lack of quantitative literature on permaculture management impacts on biomass yields, soil carbon or nutrient retention, which were missing from basic and scientific literature searches. The models used within this thesis include USLE, RUSLE2, AgriSuite, RothC and Holos. Author Keywords: Agriculture, Climate Change, Computer Modelling, Permaculture, Soil Erosion and Assessment
Comparison of Nature Activities
Research shows spending time in nature can result in many positive effects, including improving mood, connection to nature, and environmental concern. Certain activities may increase these positive effects of nature exposure. Citizen science (non-scientists collecting data to contribute to science) and environmental education (receiving information about the environment) are two potential ways to boost the positive effects of nature exposure. But little research has been done comparing citizen science with environmental education. To address this gap in knowledge, undergraduate participants were randomly assigned to spend five minutes outside daily, for two weeks, either simply observing nature, looking for birds, or looking for and recording bird sightings. Over time, all groups experienced improvements in mood, connection to nature, and environmental concern. However, connection to nature increased the most in people who simply observed nature. Unexpectedly, simply spending time in nature was the most effective intervention. Limitations and future directions are discussed. Author Keywords: Citizen Science, Emotional Well-Being, Environmental Concern, Environmental Education, Nature Exposure, Nature Relatedness
Characterizing the demographic history and prion protein gene variation to infer susceptibility to chronic wasting disease in a naïve population of white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus)
Assessments of the adaptive potential of natural populations are essential for understanding and predicting responses to environmental stressors like climate change and infectious disease. The range of stressors species face in a human-dominated landscape, often have contrasting effects. White-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus, deer) are expanding in the northern part of their range following decreasing winter severity and increasing forage availability, caused by climate change. Chronic wasting disease (CWD), a prion disease affecting cervids, is likewise expanding and represents a major threat to deer and other cervids We obtained tissue samples from free-ranging deer across their native range in Ontario, Canada which has yet to detect CWD in wild populations of cervids. High throughput sequencing was used to assess neutral genomic variation and variation in the gene responsible for the protein that misfolds into prions when deer contract CWD, known as the PRNP gene. Neutral variation revealed a high number of rare alleles and no population structure, consistent with an expanding population of deer. Functional genetic variation revealed that the frequencies of variants associated to CWD susceptibility and disease progression were evenly distributed across the landscape and the frequencies were consistent with deer populations not infected with CWD. These findings suggest that an observable shift in PRNP allele frequencies likely coincides with the start of a novel CWD epidemic. Sustained surveillance of genomic and genetic variation can be a useful tool for CWD-free regions where deer are managed for ecological and economic benefits. Author Keywords: Canadian wildlife, population genetics, prion, PRNP, RADseq, ungulate
Pathways to Innovation
Research and development activities conducted at universities and firms fuel economic growth and play a key role in the process of innovation. Specifically, prior research has investigated the widespread university-to-firm research development path and concluded that universities are better suited for early stage of research while firms are better positioned for later stages. This thesis aims to present a novel explanation for the pervasive university-to-firm research development path. The model developed uses game theory to visualize and analyze interactions between a firm and university under different strategies. The results reveal that as academic research signals knowledge it helps attract tuition paying students. Generating these tuition revenues is facilitated by university research discoveries, which, once published, a firm can build upon to make new innovative products. In an environment of weak intellectual property rights, moreover, the university-to-firm research development path enables firms to bypass the hefty costs that are involved in basic research activities. The model also provides a range of solution scenarios where a university and firm may find it viable to initiate a research line. Author Keywords: Game theory, Intellectual property rights, Nash equilibrium, Research and development, University to-firm research path
Biosynthesis and impact of cytokinins on growth of the oyster mushroom, Pleurotus ostreatus
The oyster mushroom, Pleurotus ostreatus, is one of the most widely cultivated edible basidiomycetes. It has gained increased attention for its economic, environmental, and medicinal properties. While a lot is known about cytokinins (CKs) and their actions at the molecular and cellular levels in plants, much less is known about the function of CKs in other kingdoms. Cytokinins, which have been detected in several fungal species, play a role in pathogenic attack against plants or during plant growth promotion by plant beneficial microbes; however, the role of CKs in fungal physiology, separate from plant associations remains largely unknown. This thesis focuses on the occurrence of fungal-derived CKs in P. ostreatus when grown in vitro as submerged or aerial mycelium. Cytokinin profiling by UHPLC-HRMS/MS revealed that P. ostreatus produces CKs and that the tRNA degradation pathway is the main source of these molecules. CK dynamics within fungal growth supported previous evidence, which suggested that tRNA degradation products have a role in the physiological development of fungi for which CKs act as fungal growth regulators. A second component of the thesis demonstrated that P. ostreatus responds to exogenous applications of aromatic and isoprenoid CKs and their effects were dependent on the dose and CK type. N6-Benzyladenine (BAP), Kinetin (KIN), N6-isopentenyladenine (iP), and trans-zeatin (tZ) bioassays revealed hormone-type responses (hormesis: biphasic response). At low doses, mycelium growth could be stimulated, whereas, at high doses only inhibitory effects were observed. This stimulation/inhibition was observed whether the measured response was an increase/decrease of aerial mycelium colony diameter, biomass accumulation or a change in mycelium morphology as compared to the controls. Results indicated there is potential to alter mycelium growth and development of P. ostreatus; thus, CKs may play the role of a “mycohormone” and may be specifically helpful for medicinal fungi by increasing growth and efficiency to produce many biologically active substances with valuable medical and environmental applications. Author Keywords: cytokinins, fungal-derived CKs, hormesis, mycelium, mycohormone, Pleurotus ostreatus
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
Exploring Characteristics of those Utilizing Different Modalities of Treatment for Substance Use Disorders
Substance use disorder (SUD) is a pervasive psychological disorder detrimentally impacting both individuals and society on a psychological, economic, and social level. The best protocol for treating SUD as well as what defines success in treatment is often debated in the research. However, researchers agree that different psychosocial factors can influence outcomes. The literature suggests that mood, dark personality traits (narcissism and psychopathy), social supports, and state of change may be associated with treatment for SUD. The current study explored whether these factors predicted the type of treatment (abstinence-based or harm reduction) individuals with SUD were in. The sample consisted of 37 participants in a 12-step abstinence-based program and 65 in a harm reduction program at a local hospital. Results indicated that those in abstinence-based groups reported significantly fewer symptoms of anxiety and depression, lower levels of narcissism and psychopathy, more social supports, and advanced stage of change in comparison to those attending a harm reduction program. In addition, depression, narcissism, and perceived social support were significant predictors of treatment group membership. These findings suggest that those involved in abstinence-based groups appear to experience overall more wellness than those in harm reduction. Although further research is needed to specify the relations among factors, this study is a step towards understanding the difference between people who utilize one program versus another. Author Keywords: Abstinence, Addiction, Harm Reduction, Personality, Treatment
Effects of Opioids on the Development and Reproductive Capacity of Japanese Medaka, Oryzias latipes
Opioid drugs are among the microcontaminants that are discharged with domestic wastewater into the aquatic environment with the potential to affect the development and reproductive capacity of aquatic organisms. To study the effects of exposure of fish to opioid drugs, Japanese medaka (Oryzias latipes) were exposed over a full life cycle to environmentally relevant (i.e. ng/L) concentrations of two opioids, codeine and fentanyl. Acute exposure of early life stage (ELS) of medaka to codeine resulted in slightly extended times to hatch, but no increase in embryo mortalities or reduced hatching success. Chronic exposure to codeine at a nominal concentration of 25,000 ng/L over a full life cycle interfered with growth, reducing the weight of the fish at maturity. Life cycle treatments with codeine at all test concentrations resulted in a significant reduction in the number of eggs produced in reproductive trials, as well as a reduction in the numbers of mature oocytes in adult females. High treatments with codeine also increased the percentage of immature sperm cells in adult males. Life cycle exposures to codeine also resulted in reduced whole-body concentrations of several hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal (HPG) axis hormones, including reduced levels of luteinizing hormone in male and female fish and a reduction in 11-ketotestosterone in males and 17β-estradiol in females. Fentanyl did not affect reproduction or HPG hormones at the exposure concentrations tested, but high fentanyl exposures increased the mortality rate among ELS’s of the F1 generation offspring from life cycle exposed adults. The results of this thesis contribute to the literature on the environmental impacts of microcontaminants of wastewater origin and, the potential for effects in fish exposed to opioids.Keywords: Opioids, microcontaminants, fentanyl, codeine, sexual development, reproduction. Author Keywords: codeine, fentanyl, microcontaminants, opioids, reproduction, sexual development


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