Graduate Theses & Dissertations

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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
THE LIFE HISTORY STRATEGY, GROWTH, BODY CONDITION, AND DIET OF STOCKED AMERICAN EEL (Anguilla rostrata) IN THE UPPER ST. LAWRENCE RIVER AND LAKE ONTARIO
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:
Extraction and Characterization of Hyaluronic Acid and Collagen from Eggshell Membrane Waste
Connecting academia to industry is one important way to advance towards meeting the United Nations (UN) Sustainability Goals (SDGs).1 Sustainability can be applied to all industrial sectors with the SDGs being implemented by 2030.2 This research contributes to the SDGs by investigating a way to remediate an industrial waste stream in the egg-breaking industry. If adopted, this would reduce the amount of eggshell membrane (ESM) waste placed in landfill where it does not decompose properly. The work described in this thesis specifically targets extraction of collagen and hyaluronic acid (HA), two components of the ESM that are of commercial value in the cosmetic, pharmaceutical, and biomedical industries3,4 . Deliverables from this research include economically viable extraction methods, developed based on green chemistry approaches, that can be transferred from lab bench to industrial scale. The extraction development process was guided by the 12 Principles of Green Chemistry5,6,7 and the 12 Principles of Green Engineering.8 HA was most successfully extracted using a sodium acetate solution on ground ESM. Filtrate was collected, exhaustively dialyzed and lyophilized. High molecular weight HA was recovered. Fourier transform infrared attenuated total reflectance (FTIR-ATR) spectroscopy and proton nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy compared extracted material to reference HA identifying successful extraction. Collagen was extracted using acetic acid or pepsin enzyme digestion. Hydrophilic interaction liquid chromatography (HILIC) coupled with mass spectrometry (MS) compared amino acid composition of extracted materials to reference collagen material. FTIR-ATR spectra also supported successful extraction of collagen. This work identifies that HA and collagen can be conveniently extracted from ESM using an economical approach that can be implemented into egg-breaking facilities. This work highlights the benefits of connecting academia to industry to advance green chemical approaches while implementing sustainable practices into existing industry. Author Keywords: collagen, eggshell membrane waste, extraction, green chemistry, hyaluronic acid, sustainability
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
Keeping Circle
In the 1980’s, Hollow Water First Nation citizens created a healing movement to address community issues from an Indigenous perspective resulting in the development of the Community Holistic Circle Healing (CHCH) in 1989. The CHCH organization developed a Community (Restorative) Justice process as an alternative to a Western-based Justice approach to address issues such as domestic violence and sexual abuse. The CHCH organization addresses justice from a healing perspective (rather than the Western approach’s punitive/surveillance model) and includes the offender and offender’s family, the victim and the victim’s family, as well as the community to identify issues, develop plans, implement healing activities, and evaluate the outcome so that the root systemic issues affecting community can be addressed holistically. Hollow Water First Nation is much more engaged in addressing the roots of why the offence occurred and looks for Anishinaabek approaches to resolve community-defined issues. Western society tends to implement a symptomatic approach to violence deterrence through punishment rather than address issues through a healing process. My research looks at the complex history of the healing movement, the operation of the CHCH organization and the personal values that emerged from the healing movement, and Hollow Water’s next iteration of organization from the children of the people that began the healing movement. These people are now aged around mid-40’s and have seen their parents engage in a community justice movement, saw their parents develop their own way to address community issues through the emergence and operation of the CHCH organization, and now, themselves, have developed highly critical and creative skills around the workings of community development. I use Berger and Luckmann’s seminal 1966 book The Social Construction of Reality, Hallowell’s perspectives on the Anishinaabek culture in his anthropological research conducted in Beren’s River, Manitoba during the 1930’s, Max Weber’s The Theory of Social and Economic Organization (1915), interviews with the original activists, and my experiences living in Hollow Water for 4+ years (from 1997 to 2001) to give an account of the history of the healing movement and its consequent personal transformation of the people engaged in examining their thoughts, values and behavioural processes. I use the Learning Organization Theory, developed by Peter Senge (a management professor from Massachusetts Institute of Technology) in his 1990 book The Fifth Discipline, interviews of CHCH staff and other community organization staff members, as well as, Indigenous authors, such as, Leanne Betasamosake Simpson’s Dancing on Our Turtle’s Back (2011) and Michael Hart’s Seeking Mino-Pimatisiwin (2002) to provide an understanding of Indigenous concepts as they apply to the process of CHCH’s healing/learning operations. From these sources and interviews, I provide an account of Hollow Water’s Healing Movement which includes the decline of the CHCH organization from late 1990s to 2020. Given the current hyperpolitical environment in Canada, Hollow Water’s next generation of community member activists are perhaps about to reclaim power and establish empowered relationships as the Indigenous Renaissance unfolds. Author Keywords: Community Healing Movement Process, Hollow Water First Nation, Indigenous Axiology and Praxis, Learning Organization, Restorative Justice, Systems-Thinking
Wetland Offsetting
Wetland loss in southern Ontario, escalated by development, is putting pressure on planners as they struggle to meet development needs while maintaining a balance with regional natural heritage. Wetland offsetting, coupled with strategic environmental assessment and sustainable community planning, offers a potential solution. A combined approach of literature review, interviews, focus group, and case study with Central Lake Ontario Conservation Authority (CLOCA) allowed me to present experiences and perspectives on wetland offsetting, site selection methods, and ecosystem service priorities. The focus group looked at organizational interactions and decision-making processes during wetland offsetting. Research resulted in creation of the Strategic Wetland Offset Site Selection Score Card (SWOSSS Card). Five of CLOCA’s past offsetting projects were reviewed to see what worked and what did not. Findings determined that use of strategic wetland offset site selection tools have the potential to provide an efficient means to quantify offsetting risk ahead of restoration efforts. Author Keywords: compensation, landuse planning, offsetting, prioritization, restoration, wetlands
Finding Cowboy Joe
Canadian authored diverse LGBTQ2S children's picture books can help counter socialized aspects of heteronormativity and other forms of oppression. This thesis outlines the challenging process for identifying and locating Canadian authored diverse LGBTQ2S children's picture books, with suggestions provided for mitigating this process. Twenty-two books (list and summaries included) are collected and then analysed through three different lenses: Sipe’s Semiotically Framed Theory of Text-pictured Relationships; intersectionality; and Canadian Studies. Findings include: the significance of a micro press in offering representation for queer intersectionality, the shift from the portrayal of discrimination against queer parents to an attention to the policing of children’s gender identity and expression, and the embrace of the child on their own terms. In addition, a Canadian queer children’s book has been created by the researcher, developed through the process of writing of this thesis. Author Keywords: Canadian authors, Canadian identity, children’s picture books, countering heteronormativity, ethnic diversity, LGBTQ2S
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
(Re)encountering black bears
This thesis explores the perceptions of human-bear interactions in Ontario, suggesting that they have been shaped by narratives that have roots in colonial perceptions of nonhuman animals. Further, I seek to consider how these interactions could unfold differently if we rethought our relationships and responsibilities to these beings, in particular through an embrace of Indigenous-led conservation informed by ideas of animal welfare. The methods used for this research were first empirical, through qualitative data collection via interviews. Second, it was interpretive, through the observation of bear experiences and through the analysis of circulated and conceptual themes of bear information found in media articles. What emerged was an understanding that the mitigation efforts which are used when human-bear interactions occur are deeply influenced by political, social, and cultural factors that cannot be removed from these matters, asserting that a reconceptualization of current conservation frameworks needs to be considered. Author Keywords: Compassionate conservation, Human-bear interactions, Human-wildlife relations, Indigenous conservation, Narrative inquiry, Wildlife conservation

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Format: 2024/02/21