Graduate Theses & Dissertations

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Landscape fitness
Variation in habitat quality and disturbance levels can strongly influence a species’ distribution, leading to spatial variation in population density and influencing population dynamics. It is therefore critical to understand how density can lead to variability in demographic responses for effective conservation and recovery of species. My dissertation illustrates how density and spatial familial networks can be integrated together to gain a better understanding of the influence of density on population dynamics of boreal caribou. First, I created an analytical framework to assess results from empirical studies to inform spatially-explicit capture-recapture sampling design, using both simulated and empirical data from noninvasive genetic sampling of several boreal caribou populations in Alberta, Canada, which varied in range size and estimated population density. Analysis of the empirical data indicated that reduced sampling intensity had a greater impact on density estimates in smaller ranges, and the best sampling designs did not differ with estimated population density but differed between large and small population ranges. Secondly, I used parent-offspring relationships to construct familial networks of boreal caribou in Saskatchewan, Canada to inform recovery efforts. Using network measures, I assessed the contribution of individual caribou to the population with several centrality measures and then determined which measures were best suited to inform on the population demographic structure. I found substantial differences in the centrality of individuals in different local areas, highlighting the importance of analyzing familial networks at different spatial scales. The network revealed that boreal caribou in Saskatchewan form a complex, interconnected familial network. These results identified individuals presenting different fitness levels, short- and long-distance dispersing ability across the range, and can be used in support of population monitoring and recovery efforts. Finally, I used a spatial capture-recapture analytical framework with covariates to estimate spatial density of boreal woodland caribou across the Saskatchewan Boreal Plains, and then reconstructed parent-offspring relationships to create a familial network of caribou and determined whether spatial density influenced sex-specific network centrality, dispersal distance, individual reproductive success, and the pregnancy status of females. I show that caribou densitygreatly varied across the landscape and was primarily affected by landscape composition and fragmentation, and density had sex-specific influences on dispersal distance, reproductive success, and network centrality. The high density areas reflected good-quality caribou habitat, and the decreased dispersal rates and female reproductive output suggest that these remnant patches of habitat may be influencing demographic responses of caribou. Author Keywords: boreal caribou, density, familial networks, population dynamics, rangifer tarandus caribou, spatial capture-recapture
Using genomic and phenotypic data to explore the evolution and ecology of the North American mountain goat
Evaluating the impact of climate change is arguably one of the main goals of conservation biology, which can be addressed in part by studying the demographic history of species in the region of interest. In North America, landscape and species composition during the most recent Pleistocene epoch was primarily influenced by glaciation cycles. Glacial advance and retreat caused species ranges to shift as well, leaving signatures of past population bottlenecks in the genetic code of most species. Genomic tools have shown to be important tools for understanding these demographic events to enhance conservation biology measures in several species. In my thesis I first reviewed the state of ungulate genomics, with a focus on how such data sets can be used in understand demography, adaptation, and inform conservation and management. Importantly, the review introduces key analyses like the pairwise sequentially Markovian coalescent and features like variation in antlers and horns and selection pressures that are used throughout subsequent chapters. Using the North American mountain goat as a model species, I then explored the genomic and phenotypic variation in this alpine specialist mammal. Starting with the generation of the first genome assembly for the mountain goat, I identified genes unique to the mountain goat and modeled demographic history going back millions of years using a pairwise sequentially Markovian coalescent approach. Species’ effective population size generally paralleled climatic trends over the past one hundred thousand years and severely declined to under a thousand individuals during the last glacial maximum. Given the biological importance of horns in mountain goats and the recent scientific interest in genetic basis of headgear, I analyzed over 23,000 horn records from goats harvested in British Columbia, Alaska and Northwest Territories from 1980 to 2017. Overall, variation in horn size over space and time was low; goats harvested further North had shorter horn lengths and smaller horn circumferences in one year old and 4 years and older age classes and 4 years and older age class, respectively. Proximity of roads, which was used as an indicator of artificial selection, had a small effect on horn size, with larger horns being harvested closer to major roads. Finally, I used two range-wide genomic data sets sequenced with a whole genome re-sequencing and reduced representation approaches to provide estimates of genetic diversity, contemporary effective population sizes and population structure. These insights can help inform management and will potentially make an impact in preserving the mountain goat. Author Keywords: genome assembly, horn size, Oreamnos americanus, population demography, reduced representation sequencing, whole genome resequencing
Effects of Intensive Agriculture on Stream Nutrient Export in East-Central Ontario, Canada
Recent agricultural land use change in east-central Ontario, including the expansion of intensive agriculture (corn and soybean crops) and tile drainage (TD) infrastructure, may alter the fluxes of both phosphorus (P) and nitrogen (N) to the Lower Great Lakes. Through intensive monitoring of several sub-watersheds that encompassed a range of row crop and TD extents, this study examined differences in stream N and P concentrations both seasonally and during variable flow conditions, to better understand land use/land cover (LULC) relationships with nutrient export. There was no clear relationship between total P (TP; concentration or export) and agricultural LULC, and instead, TP delivery was highly sensitive to flow events, and TP concentrations (especially particulate P; PP) were significantly higher during event flow compared with baseflow. In contrast, the dissolved fraction of P (total dissolved P; TDP) and dissolved nitrogen as nitrate (NO3-N) were not sensitive to flow, but were instead positively related to row crop agriculture, and associations between NO3-N concentrations/export and tile-drained row crop area were particularly strong (concentration r2 = 0.93; export r2 = 0.88). Regression relationships showed that with every 10% increase in row crop area in watersheds, NO3-N and TDP flow-weighted concentrations increased by 0.34 mg/L and 1.5 µg/L, respectively. As well, the same 10% increase in row crop agriculture translated to an increase of NO3-N export of as much as 130 kg/km2. Geospatial records of TD are incomplete in east-central Ontario, which presents challenges for evaluating the contribution of TD to nutrient export. Understanding the response of nutrients to changes in agriculture and agricultural practices is an integral part of watershed management as rapid changes in both urban and agricultural LULC continue to put pressure on water quality in the Lower Great Lakes. Author Keywords: East-Central Ontario, Nutrient Export, Row crops, Streams, Tile Drainage, Water Quality
Calming Chaos in the Classroom
Physical activity and classroom design changes are beneficial means to reduce stress, and enhance well-being. Results across some studies however, are mixed. Shanker Self-Reg™ supports the use of physical equipment and design as a means of managing arousal and tension levels. Previous research lacks rich description of educators’ understanding of equipment and design, Self-Reg, and how this understanding affects the way it is implemented. In the current study, educators’ understanding of Self-Reg, how this understanding influenced educators’ approach to the school environment, and if one workshop was enough to inspire individuals to adopt a Self-Reg approach were explored using thematic analysis. Participants included educators from schools with beginner and intermediate-level experience in Self-Reg. The analysis produced eight themes and 8 sub-themes. Participants’ knowledge of Self-Reg influenced their approach to their environments. Although one workshop may have inspired interest in the framework, it was not enough to shift educators’ current practice. Author Keywords: Arousal, Classroom, Self-Reg, Self-regulation, Stress, Teachers
Finding Community
This thesis explores the history of the Indigenous child welfare system in Manitoba and the effects of the Millennium Scoop on children in care. My research question is: what was the experience of children in care in Manitoba from 1990 to 2015? A related question is: how do survivors find healing? The thesis begins with a discussion of the history of acts, policies, and practices that began with the Indigenous child welfare system during the running of Residential schools. Then the acts, reviews, and policies that have shaped the child welfare system in Manitoba are discussed more thoroughly. The focus of the thesis is on the stories of Phoenix Sinclair, Tina Fontaine, and Natasha Reimer. I share their stories and provide an analysis of how the child welfare system has affected their lives. The negative effects of being a child in care are numerous. Being a child in care leaves behind grief, loss of identity, and loss of security. The systemic issues of the child welfare system include inadequate funding, overloaded case workers, staff burnout, and a lack of transparency. These overarching failures translate into the failure of children in care: details are overlooked, wrong decisions are made, and children are left to fend for themselves. Or they fall into the cracks and do not receive adequate care. This then translates into the deaths of children in care, or they are left to navigate life on their own and forced to create their circle of supports. Despite all the complications and negative impacts, some children can succeed while in care. Natasha’s story is a perfect example of such resilience. Author Keywords: child welfare, indigenous studies, millennium scoop, sixties scoop
Combining Line Transect Sampling and Photographic-Identification Surveys to Investigate the Abundance and Distribution of Cetaceans
Line transect sampling and photographic-identification (photo-ID) are common survey techniques for estimating the abundance and distribution of cetaceans. Combining these approaches in the field (‘combined LTPI’ surveys) and using data from both components has the potential for generating comprehensive ecological knowledge that can be far more valuable than when these techniques and their data are used independently. In this thesis, I evaluated the results and conclusions from these two methods, used singly and in tandem, by investigating the population dynamics of two humpback dolphin (Sousa chinensis spp.) populations: the large and widely distributed Chinese white dolphin (S. c. chinensis) of the Pearl River estuary (PRE), and the small and geographically isolated subspecies of Taiwanese white dolphin (S. c. taiwanensis) in the eastern Taiwan Strait. Data from combined LTPI surveys in Hong Kong waters, at the eastern edge of the PRE, revealed a shift in space use with individuals spending less time in these waters than at the start of surveys. Data from combined LTPI surveys in Taiwan provided further support for a subspecies restricted to the central western waters, and identified a commonly used area at the northern part of their limited range. These two case studies demonstrated an overall efficacy of combined LTPI surveys in ecological studies of cetaceans. However, a multi-criteria analysis revealed that combined LTPI surveys with a line transect focus (e.g., Hong Kong) performed better than a LTPI survey with a photo-ID focus (e.g., Taiwan) when considering ecological aspects of the study populations, labour and data requirements, and ecological output. Even so, the photo-ID focus of Taiwan’s monitoring program led to better assessments of individual space use patterns, likely helped by the Taiwanese white dolphin population’s smaller size and intensive photographic effort. In both cases, the ecological output of combined LTPI surveys could be improved by expanding the study area or extending the field season or frequency of surveys. Overall, I showed that by following a set of general guidelines, different iterations of the combined LTPI approach (i.e., photo-ID focus or LT focus) can serve as powerful tools for uncovering multi-dimensional ecological information on cetaceans. Author Keywords: abundance, cetacean, distribution, line transect sampling, multi-criteria analysis, Photo-ID
Biodiversity patterns along a forest time series in a remediated industrial landscape
Sudbury, Ontario is an epicenter of research on industrially degraded landscapes. Regreening efforts over the past 40 years have changed the landscape, leading to an increase in forest cover in the “barrens”, that once covered more than 100,000 ha. This study characterized changes in plant and insect composition using a space for time approach in the pine plantations. A total of 25 treated sites were sampled and soil characteristics, understory plants and insect communities were assessed. All sites were contaminated with copper and nickel, but the metals had little influence on biodiversity. Vegetation diversity metrics were more strongly correlated with the pH of the organic soil horizons, while the insect community shows little response to site characteristics, and rather vegetation cover. Plant composition changes are similar to those in pine stands undergoing natural recovery and as liming effects fade there may be a decline in insect community richness. Author Keywords: Biodiversity, Heavy Metals, Mining, Remediation
Assessing and Mitigation the Impacts of Mining-induced Flooding on Arctic-nesting Birds
Mining and resource development are growing industries in the Arctic, resulting in increased conflict with wildlife. Best practices for mitigation require an understanding of the potential ecological effects. One such effect concerns the flooding of terrestrial bird habitat from dewatering of lakes during mining pit development. I first assessed the efficacy of bird deterrents to mitigate impacts of mining-induced flooding on arctic-nesting birds at a gold mine in Nunavut. I used a Before-After Control Impact (BACI) design to determine changes in male territory densities, between year and treatment types (Control, High and Low Deterrent Intensity). Additionally, I assessed whether deterrents impacted daily survival rates of two passerine species, and the incubation behaviour of female Lapland Longspur. Finally, I quantified nest losses during the breeding season due to direct flooding of the tundra nesting habitat caused by mining operations. Deterrents did not affect male territory densities and neither deterrent treatment nor year affected the daily survival rate of nesting passerines. Female Lapland Longspurs exposed to deterrents exhibited more incubation off-bouts than control females. I documented six flooded nests. Deterrents used in this study appear to be ineffective in mitigating nesting in potential zones of impact. Incidental take accounted for about 1.2% of all nests found in the 0.48 km2 Whale Tail Lake study area. Author Keywords: arctic-nesting birds, audio deterrents, incidental take, mining and resource development, nest incubation, visual deterrents
Endocannabinoid Treatment for the Behavioural and Histopathological Alterations of Epilepsy
Epilepsy is associated with a variety of cognitive, emotional, and pain-related symptoms, such as impaired memory and learning, increased risk of anxiety and depression, and increased pain sensitivity. Unfortunately, these symptoms are generally untreated with typical pharmacological interventions, which tend to target seizure activity (i.e., ictogenesis) and not the subsequent histopathological and behavioural alterations resulting from epilepsy (i.e., epileptogenesis). Evidence has demonstrated that targeting the endocannabinoid system can alleviate seizure symptoms as well as cognitive, emotional, and pain-related impairments independent of epilepsy. However, research examining the use of endocannabinoid-based treatment for these behavioural symptoms when they are associated with epilepsy is sparse. In the following thesis, two animal models of epilepsy, several behavioural assessments, and immunohistochemical techniques are utilized to assess the effectiveness of endocannabinoid-based treatment for epilepsy’s interictal symptoms. The findings expand our knowledge and offer encouraging evidence for the usefulness of endocannabinoid-based treatment as an epileptogenesis-targeting pharmacological intervention. Author Keywords: animal models, endocannabinoid system, histopathological alterations, interictal symptoms, temporal lobe epilepsy, treatment
Unbridled Potential
Recently, equine assisted learning (EAL) has emerged as a novel approach to building resiliency competencies in at-risk youth. This mixed-methods study presents evaluation results for an 8-week community-based EAL program with 83 young women (age 13-18 years) with a history of interpersonal trauma. Analyses examined changes in self-reported mental health symptoms (posttraumatic, depression) and resiliency factors (sense of mastery, sense of relatedness, emotion regulation) from pre- to post-test and at 1-month and 6-month follow-ups. Changes in outcomes were also correlated with intervention processes (attendance, session ratings) to see if program experiences were associated with differential outcomes. Results showed that EAL has potential in improving resiliency outcomes, at least for those participants who derived greater satisfaction and value from the sessions. Many improvements were sustained over the long term. Participants’ qualitative feedback provided insight into their subjective experiences and highlighted the unique role that horses played in the EAL process. Author Keywords: Emotion Regulation, Equine Assisted Learning, Experiential Learning, Resilience, Sense of Mastery, Sense of Relatedness
Capital Ratios and Liquidity Creation
Using quarterly data from the six largest Canadian banks, we investigate the relationship between regulatory capital ratio and on-balance sheet liquidity created in the Canadian economy by “Big Six”. We find a significant positive relationship between Tier 1 capital ratio and on-balance sheet liquidity creation for Canadian big six banks, implying that large banks in Canada favor risks and rely on capital to fund illiquid assets. In contrast, for smaller banks, the relationship is significantly negative. Our results are robust to dynamic panel regression using 2-Step GMM, two exogenous shocks - COVID-19 crisis and the Global Financial Crisis (2007-2009), mergers & acquisitions activities in the banking industry, and core deposits financing. The COVID-19 pandemic and core deposits adversely impact the Tier 1 capital ratio’s relationship with on-balance-sheet liquidity creation, while the global financial crisis (2007-2009) effect on the association is insignificant. Author Keywords: Big Six, COVID -19, Deposits, Liquidity Creation, Tier 1 Capital Ratio,
Immunotherapies Targeting the Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis-Associated Protein TDP-43
Transactive response (TAR) DNA-binding protein of 43 kDa (TDP-43) pathology, including fibrillar aggregates and mutations, develops in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and is characterized by hyperphosphorylation and aggregation patterns, a mechanism largely understudied. In addition, ALS remains without a cure. Herein, in vitro aggregation of phosphorylated TDP-43 was explored, and the anti-TDP-43 antibodies tested for their inhibitor efficacies. Additionally, in vitro phosphorylation of TDP-43 by protein kinases was conducted to identify which protein kinases catalyze phosphorylation. The aggregation of phosphorylated and unphosphorylated full-length TDP-43 protein (pS410) was monitored by transmission electron microscopy (TEM), turbidity absorbance, and thioflavin (ThT) fluorescence spectroscopy. The protein aggregates were largely insoluble, ThT-positive and characterized with heterogeneous morphologies. Antibodies specific to epitopes within the RNA-recognition motifs and the C-terminal domains reduced the formation of β-sheets and insoluble aggregates, with outcomes highly dependent on the type of antibodies, indicating dual functionality. The only protein kinase able to phosphorylate TDP-43 at S410 was MARK4, indicating its role in the onset of PTMs in the protein. Thus, targeting TDP-43 epitopes for inhibition of aggregation and in vitro phosphorylation represent viable biochemical assays for screening protein kinase inhibitors as potential drugs against ALS. Author Keywords: aggregation, ALS, antibody-based inhibition, phosphorylation, protein kinase, TDP-43

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1973 - 2033
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Format: 2023/09/30