Current and On-going Research at rare

Researcher Andrew MacDougall and students look over rare’s Blair Flats.     Photo courtesy of Peter Kelly.

At rare, we welcome researchers in a multitude of disciplines and are always looking for new and exciting research opportunities. We view rare as an opportunity to examine restoration and agricultural initiatives and to study the structure and functioning of a natural environment within an expanding urban area. Due to our goal of keeping over 900 acres intact and in perpetuity, we can uniquely offer stability to projects that extend over the long term. Individuals interested in conducting research at rare are encouraged to contact our Research Department to discuss their research ideas and needs. All researchers must file an Application to Conduct Research prior to initiating their project.

Below are the current and ongoing research projects taking place at rare. Click on any to be taken to the respective summary:

Indigenous land management practices: Gardening for future generations
Conestoga College, Indigenous Studies
Andrew Judge

Summary: Indigenous land practices involve the following seven steps for the development of a sustainable landscape: Step 1: Observation, planning, and community engagement; Step 2: Clearing the land, seed saving and initiating a design; Step 3: Planting, irrigating and fertilizing; Step 4: Maintenance; Step 5: Harvesting; Step 6: Preparing, preserving, and storing harvest and seed; and, Step 7: Sharing and trading. This project proposes to build an Indigenous Garden at rare that implements the above seven steps using traditional Indigenous foods and medicines for the purpose of determining the viability in these steps to collect and maintain seed for future generations. This space will foster a welcoming and inclusive environment where local community members can learn practical Indigenous land wisdom. The vision of this proposed garden is to promote Indigenous presence, Indigenous Knowledge exchange, community engagement, and cross-cultural relationship building at rare. By engaging community members in education surrounding Indigenous land-based practices new understanding of Indigenous people can be fostered

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Effects of dynamic hydrologic conditions on carbon and nutrient mobility in agricultural soils
University of Waterloo, Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences
Linden Fairbairn, PhD Candidate. Supervisor: Drs. Philippe Van Cappellen and Fereidoun Rezanezhad

Summary: Pollution of ground- and surface waters with nutrients from agricultural sources leads to eutrophication of water bodies and is a major stressor on Canada’s water resources. Eutrophication can harm aquatic ecosystem communities by causing excessive algae growth and hypoxic zones, which has implications for biodiversity and ecosystem services. Consequently, controlling the movement of nutrients from soil to water has become a major goal of conservation practices. To plan for effective nutrient management in the future, we need to develop a better understanding of the processes that control nutrient losses from soil, especially under future climate change as rainfall events become more intense. In this project, I will investigate nutrient mobility in agricultural soils at rare. Specifically, I will be looking at how dynamic hydrologic conditions in soil affect nutrient mobility and the microbial communities that influence nutrient processing, and how intensifying rainfall will impact these. The outcomes of this project will lead to more effective nutrient management strategies to protect aquatic ecosystems from the ramifications of nutrient pollution.

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Intraplant micrometeorology (Temperature regimes inside flowers and stems)
University of Guelph, School of Environmental Sciences & the Arthur Dobbs Institute
Dr. Peter Kevan

Summary: The internal temperatures within flowers and stem of herbaceous plants are not well studied.  Most of the information on temperatures within flowers and their ecological significance has been gathered in cool, Arctic and alpine environments.  Temperature regimes in the hollow stems of herbaceous plants seems to never to have been studied, yet probably 2/3 of temperate zone herbaceous plants have hollow stems.  Our project is to survey the incidence of hollow stems in Canadian plants and to assess how elevated temperatures that build up in them is achieved (microgreenhouse effects) and to measure the temperatures within flowers that can act as parabolic/spheric dishes, as simple discs, and as microgreenhouses as in air enclosing blossoms.  The measurements obtained will be related to growth and maturation rates, reproductive ecology of the plants, their phenologies, and habitats.

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The effects of agricultural nutrient deposition on the functioning and community structure of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi
University of Guelph, Department of Integrative Biology
Kevin MacColl, PhD Candidate. Supervisor: Dr. Hafiz Maherali

Summary: We are researching the effects of agricultural nutrient loading on the relationships between plants and symbiotic fungi. Arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) fungi form nutritional mutualisms with over 80% of terrestrial plant species. AM fungi colonize plant roots and exchange nutrients, particularly phosphorus, for photosynthetically-derived carbohydrates. Plants exclude the fungi from their roots in more fertile soils, resulting in a decline of AM fungi in terms of abundance, and species diversity. It has also been hypothesized that AM fungi adapt to elevated nutrients by colonizing plant roots more aggressively, and essentially becoming parasitic. In this study, we are collecting soil and plant samples from several farms around Southern Ontario to determine if nutrient enrichment has caused a decline in AM fungal abundance and diversity. Soils will also
be used to inoculate plants under growth room conditions to determine if the fungi have defected to parasitism. The rare Charitable Research Reserve will act as a reference site to study plants and fungi that are less affected by agriculture.

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Assessing the potential exposure of birds and mammals to raccoon roundworm in the environment
Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph, Department of Pathobiology
Shannon French, PhD Candidate. Supervisor: Dr. Claire Jardine

Summary: We are investigating the role of rodents in the ecology of Baylisascaris procyonis, the raccoon roundworm. In this study we aim to identify and quantify the species visiting established raccoon latrines through the use of motion-sensitive trail cameras directed at identified and accessible latrines. Images will be assessed for presented behaviours in addition to the number of species present.

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Collaborative activities in support of Mottled Duskywing and other butterfly SAR recovery
Natural Resource Solutions Inc.
Jessica Linton

Summary: In 2015 NRSI began a multi-year collaborative project to address key actions and knowledge gaps identified in the Draft Recovery Strategy for Mottled Duskywing. This proposal builds on previous projects by focusing on achieving the government-supported recovery goals for the species. The current project involves inventory work, research, and collaborative activities which support multi-species SAR butterfly recovery.

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Taxonomic and phylogenetic diversity of earthworm communities and their responses to land uses along a latitudinal gradient
University of Guelph, Department of Integrative Biology
Marie-Eugénie Maggia, PhD Candidate. Supervisor: Dr. Dirk Steinke

Summary: This study is an assessment and comparison of species richness and impact of agricultural practices of earthworm communities in three different regions (south of Ontario, south of France, and French Guyana). I will estimate the sensitivity of earthworm communities to land use changes and study the historical and ecological factors that condition the structuring (assembling rules) of earthworm communities.

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Impacts of multiple stressors on fish populations and health in the Grand River watershed using environmental DNA and RNA measurements
University of Waterloo, Department of  Biology
Heather Ikert, PhD Candidate. Supervisor: Drs. Paul Craig & Barb Katzenback

Summary: With an ever-growing human population, increasing stress is placed on the aquatic environment, impacting biodiversity. Stressors such as wastewater, agricultural and urban runoff, and the introduction of invasive species, all affect natural communities. To study the impact of these stressors in combination continues to be a keystone in ensuring that we limit our global ecological footprint. One aspect of monitoring the effects of our actions on the environment is detection/identification of fish populations to ensure that all native species are at a sustainable level, and no invasive species are present. Historically, the only way to measure this was via sampling and identification, which is time-consuming, costly, and disruptive to the environment. In the last decade, an alternative technique has been developed where DNA in the water column, environmental DNA (eDNA), is used to identify the presence or absence of certain species. Furthermore, environmental RNA (eRNA), could be used to identify fish heath or stress levels. Therefore, using non-invasive measures of eDNA and eRNA will allow for measurement of changes in fish populations and health in response in multiple stressors in the Grand River watershed.

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Trait selection on O. nigricornis using a novel predator species
University of Toronto, Mississauga, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
Erik Etzler, M.Sc Candidate. Supervisor: Dr. Darryl Gwynne

Summary: Sexual ornaments often result in increased risk of being caught by predators. Increased mortality can lead to evolution of those traits to optimize survival and sexual reproduction. Previous work has tended to focus on the effects of a single predator, so my project aims to look at how multiple predators interact to affect the evolution of sexual ornaments in a prey species. The prey species is O. nigricornis, a species of tree cricket, and the predators are I. mexicana, a predatory wasp, and S. neglecta, and parasitoid fly. These species were chosen as both predators leave their prey relatively intact, allowing for direct comparisons between crickets that are being targeted and survivors.

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Citizen science, design and new media: An anthropological investigation
University of Waterloo, Department of Anthropology
Mallory Moscovitch, MA Candidate. Supervisor: Dr. Götz Hoeppe

Summary: The rapid growth of new media in recent years has greatly influenced how data is collected by citizen scientists. It is clear that new media are expanding into a wide range of data collection practices, yet the ways in which the underlying designs of new media impact citizen scientists and the data they collect are not clear. I seek to orient new media users along with the media they exploit as central to my analysis. By studying a group of citizen scientist birders as they interact with new media in the data collection process, I seek to gain deeper insights into the communicative nature of new media and the designs that underpin them. In turn, I hope to shed light on future digital designs and new media used at rare and the wider citizen science community.

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Community gardens and ecosystem services in the rare Charitable Research Reserve
University of Waterloo, School of Planning
Jeremy Pittman

Summary: This project will engage gardeners using rare’s community gardening plots to document and quantify the garden’s impact to local food security, environmental awareness, and ecosystem services. Community gardens can play an important role in (1) providing access to locally produced foods, (2) ensuring a cost-effective source of healthy produce, and (3) contributing to the health and wellbeing of urban residents. The specific role of rare’s community gardens in providing these benefits will be determined by surveying community gardeners. The survey will provide quantitative and in-depth information on the impact of the gardens, which will help communicate their benefits to the public.

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Assessment of habitat use and ecology of native bee communities in a fragmented ecosystem
University of Guelph, School of Environmental Sciences
Janean Sharkey, M.Sc Candidate. Supervisor: Dr. Nigel Raine

Summary: With increasing concern about population declines and range reductions, it is important to research the current state of bee fauna in Canada. I am interested in how restoration and land management influence the structure of wild bee communities. I will assess bee community composition and characterize vegetation in remnant and restored tallgrass prairie and naturalized meadow habitat in southern Ontario. Only 1% of the original tallgrass prairie communities remain in Canada. My research will also investigate the movement and habitat use of bumble bee species on a landscape scale using innovative radio-tracking and molecular techniques. I aim to track the movement of queen bumble bees during selection of overwintering and nest sites and examine factors that limit population success. Little is known about bumble bee queen movement, habitat use and specific life history requirements and how these factors may differ between species. Linking patterns of movement with landscape use and structure will facilitate improved habitat management strategies to support and enhance pollinator populations. Research outcomes will have implications for restoration ecology, land management, pollinator conservation and best management practices.

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Does biodiversity facilitate terrestrial nutrient retention and ecosystem multifunctionality?
University of Guelph, Department of Integrative Biology
Ellen Esch, PhD Candidate. Supervisor: Dr. Andrew MacDougall

Summary: Biodiversity-ecosystem function relationships are widely observed in nature. These relationships are largely attributed to niche complementarity effects or selection effects of diverse plant species. If plant species have differential preferences in time or space for nutrient uptake, the complementarity hypothesis holds that resources will be used more efficiently and completely, thereby allowing for greater ecosystem-level functionality. In contrast, the selection effect purports that capturing the direct contributions from inherently high functioning species become increasingly probable as the richness of a species assemblage increases. Despite the widespread acceptance that biodiversity promotes ecosystem function, the most abundant ecosystem on the planet – agricultural landscapes – largely overlook biodiversity as a potential mechanism through which ecosystem function could be enhanced. Here, we propose a test of diversity-function relationships to ask if increasing species richness provides an opportunity to maintain target productivity levels while best conserving, and in exceptional instances restoring, total ecosystem functionality within an agricultural context.

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Urban adaptation: The interplay between stress physiology and personality in eastern grey squirrels (Sciurus carolinensis)
University of Guelph, Department of Integrative Biology
Winnie (Hui Ling) Yang, M.Sc Candidate. Supervisor: Dr. Amy Newman

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Effect of the neonicotinoid pesticide clothianidin on monarch butterfly development and behaviour
University of Guelph, Department of Integrative Biology
Alana Wilcox, PhD Candidate. Supervisor: Drs. Ryan Norris and Amy Newman

Summary: During the spring and early summer, monarch butterflies (Danaus plexippus) lay eggs on milkweed (Asclepias spp.), which, by the third generation of monarchs in late fall, results in individuals having a unique migratory physiology (i.e., long, thing wings]). These monarch butterflies then undergo a nearly 4000 km migration from Southern Canada to the Oyamel fir forests in Mexico where they will overwinter for 9 months before beginning a multigenerational migration northward. Unfortunately, this migratory phenomenon is at risk due to various threats including exposure to agricultural chemicals. Neonicotinoid pesticides are known to affect the mobility, reproductive output and survival of insects, with studies focusing on honeybees and bumblebees. Unfortunately, little is known about the effects on monarch butterflies. This project aims to assess the effect of the neonicotinoid pesticide clothianidin on monarch reproductive output, development, and migration capacity. Monarchs will be reared on milkweed grown in soil treated with the pesticide, during which we will monitor development. Once adults, monarchs will be mated to assess reproductive output (e.g., the number of eggs produced). Monarchs reared in fall will be tested using a flight simulator to gauge whether they naturally orient SW, as expected during migration.

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The effect of habitat structure on arthropod predators and parasitoids
University of Guelph, Department of Integrative Biology
Bernal Arce, M.Sc Candidate. Supervisor: Dr. Andrew MacDougall

Summary: Insect populations worldwide are declining and agricultural activity is partly to blame. Agriculture involves simplifying the landscape in both structure and composition, disrupting natural food chains in unexpected ways. One major consequence is the decline of insect predators and parasitoids because structure shapes their hunting strategies and determines their success. If native insects could be encouraged to predate herbivores in neighbouring agroecosystems, food production could be done with lower pesticide use therefore reducing its ecological impact and possibly creating new habitat in currently unproductive lands. Experimental farm plots with different configurations of habitat structure will be established at rare and sampled for insects and arthropods. The arthropod abundance and identity at each plot and surrounding areas will be recorded and analysed to test which habitat structure configurations are preferred by native predators and parasitoids. The aim of this study is to gain a deeper understanding between beneficial predator arthropods and simplied farm landscapes so that new solutions may be developed in the future.

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Winter soil processes in transition
University of Waterloo, Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences
Dr. Fereidoun Rezanezhad, Principal Investigator

Summary: In an uncertain future climate, both the quantity and quality of water supplied by headwater wetland source areas in cold regions are expected to change significantly. However, our knowledge of how climate change will impact the biogeochemical functioning and hydrochemistry of these source areas remains limited. We propose to elucidate the role of winter soil processes on the export of carbon (C) and nutrients (N, P, S, Fe) to the river network under changing climate conditions. The project builds on the hypothesis that spring pulses of dissolved organic and inorganic C and nutrients by these headwaters reflect the cumulative effects of microbial and geochemical processing of redox sensitive elements during the non-growing season. The project will advance the predictive understanding of C and nutrient cycling in soils of headwater source areas under seasonal snow and ice cover. The project specifically aims to improve our conceptual and quantitative understanding of changes in C and nutrient stocks, speciation and fluxes driven by variations in snow cover and freeze-thaw cycles. Overall, the proposed project will enhance our ability to evaluate the impact of different potential climatic scenarios on C and nutrient export and speciation along the aquatic continuum.

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Why do avian colour patterms differ in sympatry?
Queen’s University, Biology Department
Haley Kenyon, PhD Candidate. Supervisor: Dr. Paul Martin

Summary: Colour pattern differences appear to play an important role in allowing closely related species of birds to live together, but we don’t yet know exactly what this role is. One relatively unexplored hypothesis for why colour pattern divergence might be favoured when closely related species live together focuses on the role that species recognition plays in costly aggressive interactions; if species share similar signals, then intraspecific aggression may be misdirected towards members of other species. I will test this hypothesis that selection against interspecific aggression drives colour pattern divergence in birds by presenting Northern Cardinals (Cardinalis cardinalis) with models painted to look like their close relatives which have varying degrees of colour pattern similarity (i.e., Vermilion Cardinals, C. phoeniceus are very similar to Northern Cardinals, while Pyrrhuloxia, C. sinuatus, are much more dull).

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Terrestrial Arthropod Monitoring Program- Mixedwood Plains
University of Guelph, Centre for Biodiversity Genomics (CBG)
Jeremy deWaard

Summary: Despite their importance, arthropods only represent a minor component in most biodiversity assessments because of the difficulty in their identification to a species level through morphological study. Our project will overcome this barrier by coupling high-throughput sequencing platforms with the capacity of DNA barcoding to discriminate species. This approach will allow us to document patterns of species distribution and diversity at scales and in settings where this was previously impossible. Arthropods will be collected using Malaise traps across over 50 sites in southern Ontario and Quebec, including the rare Charitable Research Reserve. This project will contribute to the international Terrestrial Arthropod Monitoring Program which aims to detail arthropod diversity across ecoregions in ten nations. Particularly, this project will provide data for the Mixedwood Plains ecoregion in Canada. This study is also an extension of previous surveys using the same collecting method and sampling sites in order to assess long-term trends in arthropod biodiversity.

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Understanding the decline of native bumble bee (Bombus spp.) pollinators in Canada using citizen science data
York University, Faculty of Environmental Studies
Victoria MacPhail, PhD Candidate. Supervisor: Dr. Sheila Colla

Summary: Pollinators are very important ecologically and economically but some are in decline.  Habitat loss, pesticide use and climate change may have contributed to the declines, but many hypotheses have not been tested for rare species in Canada due to lack of data.  BumbleBeeWatch.org (BBW) is a program where volunteers upload bumble bee photos to a website and work through an identification key to determine a species name, which experts verify.  Although many records have been submitted, this data has not been analyzed or compared to that collected by experts.  By using a database of expert-confirmed observations, data from BBW, and targeted field surveys, I will attempt to answer questions including: 1. Does BBW show increased distribution and abundance of bumble bees as compared to expert data? 2. Is habitat loss and/or land use changes driving the decline of bumble bees in Canada?  3. How can BBW data allow for increased conservation status assessments and effect conservation actions?  4. What is the diversity of bumble bees at high quality habitats like the rare property?  My work will fill knowledge gaps, improve conservation status assessments, recommend recovery actions and influence policy for actions related to bumble bees.

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Reducing noise pollution through ecosystem restoration
University of Waterloo, School of Environment, Resources, and Sustainability
Jonas Hamberg, PhD Candidate. Supervisor: Dr. Stephen Murphy

Summary: Noise is an increasingly important pollutant in the developed world, causing stress, high blood-pressure and lowered quality of life in humans and reducing habitat and diversity of wildlife. Natural areas are often relatively quiet because of the sound-dampening properties of vegetation and distance from human development. Fragmentation and disturbance of natural areas make it more difficult to find relative quiet, both for humans and for animals that communicate and avoid threats by sound. While noise-reduction and attenuation are considered ecosystem services, there is very little research quantifying the ability of restored ecosystems to reduce noise. This research will look at how restored tallgrass prairie and forest can be used to reduce and attenuate noise. Environmental noise will both be measured passively over time, and by playing back recorded noise at set frequencies and decibel level, measuring its reduction over a distance using a decibel meter. Noise pollution reduction is an important ecosystem service that can be added to the arguments for ecosystem restoration. It may also inform what type of restoration, conservation and enhancements are needed near sources of noise, for both human and animal wellbeing.

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The significance of synanthropic stress physiology for sylvatic disease dynamics in Sciurus carolinensis
University of Guelph, Department of Integrative Biology
Mason Stothart, M.Sc. Candidate. Supervisor: Dr. Amy Newman

Summary: One of the primary mechanisms hypothesized to facilitate the invasion of nascent niches created by urbanization is synanthropic modification of a species’ stress response. In vertebrates, stress physiology plays an important role in regulating everything from homeostasis and immunity, to ‘fight or flight’ behavioural responses. The closer human-association implicit in synurban adaptive modification of an organism’s stress response, would not only increase incidences of human-wildlife conflict, but also zoonotic disease risk. Further exacerbating this risk is the connection between stress and immune physiology, since changes in the former could compromise the latter, thereby increasing pathogen prevalence on the urban environment. While the importance of understanding these processes is emphasized in the literature, little is known about synurban stress physiology, and even less about its interaction with disease transmission. Using a combination of field, lab, and citizen science techniques, I propose to characterize longitudinal synanthropic patterns in stress/immune physiology, and disease ecology in urban and exurban populations of eastern grey squirrels (Sciurus carolinensis).

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Management of giant hogweed using chemical and manual control options with a focus on seed viability after regeneration
University of Guelph, Department of Plant Agriculture
Meghan Grgruic, M.Sc. Candidate. Supervisor: Dr. François Tardif

Summary: As a human facilitated introduced species, giant hogweed poses a threat to habitat diversity and ecosystem health. As an invasive species, giant hogweed is thought to reduce diversity among native plant communities where its colonies have established. This is especially true when monocultures become established within populations due to the high quantity of seeds produced per plant. Its large leaf area has the potential to shade smaller plants, as well as increase riverbank erosion when the senescence of vegetation creates bare ground in the fall and winter. This erosion can have a number of consequences, including the threat to fish and other organisms, from both changes to their habitat and possible addition of chemical substrates. With these negative influences giant hogweed has on communities it’s invaded, safe and effective management is important. Giant hogweed’s proximity to water makes control without chemicals necessary but challenging due to its persistence and regenerative abilities. This research will investigate different manual control treatments and how they affect the ability hogweed has to produce viable seed through regeneration.

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From field to forest: monitoring the distribution of the invasive fruit fly pest, D. suzukii, in a non-agricultural setting
Wilfrid Laurier University, Department of Biology
Yvonne Young, M.Sc. Candidate. Supervisor: Dr. Tristan Long

Summary:  Drosophila suzukii, commonly referred to as the spotted-wing drosophila, is an invasive vinegar fly of Asian origin that attacks ripening or ripe, sound fruit.  Clearly a significant pest to the soft-fruit industry, it is possible this species may also significantly utilize naturalized plants of wild North America.  In fact,  in Ontario, berries of Rhamnus cathartica (buckthorn) have been confirmed to be infested by this species.  The impact this species has upon natural ecosystems, however, remains far from known.  Here, I propose a research project that will provide a baseline understanding of how D. suzukii is distributed among old forest interiors, forest edges and flood plains using traps and collections of fruit.  Additionally, previously non-identified host plant species attacked by this insect will be catalogued.  Understanding how D. suzukii distributes itself among different landscapes and which plant species are attacked will be an important first step in designing better management strategies (e.g. knowing where to focus efforts for best impact) and will provide direction for future studies looking at ecosystem changes brought about by this invasive species (e.g. knowing which habitat types D. suzukii is attacking).

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Community assessment of invasive earthworms in restored Southern Ontario tallgrass prairie
University of Waterloo, School of Environment, Resources, and Sustainability
Heather Cray, Ph.D. Candidate. Supervisor: Dr. Stephen Murphy

Summary: Since only 1-3% of tallgrass prairie habitat remains in North America, dedicated citizens, scientists, and government officials are working to restore prairie in southern Ontario. Most of these restorations are done by either hand-broadcasting or drilling-in seeds on ex-agricultural land. While there is increasing evidence that invasive earthworms are important ecosystem engineers, surprisingly little is known about their effect on invaded habitat. Despite knowing that exotic earthworms are spreading across Ontario and that they both eat and bury seeds, key information about the presence, community structure, and population density of these seed predators is lacking. This project will address this knowledge gap at rare by assessing the earthworm population in the restored tallgrass prairie at the rare Charitable Research Reserve. The results of this work will inform future prairie restoration by adding another piece to the complex food web of establishing habitats and will deepen our understanding of factors related to earthworm invasion.

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Spatio-temporal and population-level variation in avian immune-genes and parasite communities
Western University, Department of Biology
Leanne Grieves, Ph.D. Candidate. Supervisor: Dr. Beth MacDougall-Shackleton

Summary: Blood-borne parasites are found on nearly every continent and infect approximately 70% of bird species worldwide. Given their ability to infect multiple species and the anticipated range expansions of parasites associated with climate change, understanding host-parasite interactions is increasingly important. The major histocompatibility complex (MHC) is a diverse gene family that plays a crucial role in the immune response to pathogens. MHC genotypes may affect the ability of populations to persevere under changing parasite pressures. I will study three song sparrow populations in Ontario, including sparrows at the rare Charitable Research Reserve. Using next-generation sequencing, microscopy, and song analysis software, I will explore whether 1) MHC genotypes are correlated with parasites, 2) different breeding populations show differences in parasite load (intensity of infection) and diversity (number of lineages), 3) parasite communities differ throughout the breeding season, and 4) increased parasite load decreases song performance. Understanding population differences in how birds cope with parasitic infections and the correlations between infection and fitness may inform future management decisions in songbirds.

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Assessing the consequences of gene flow between cultivated apples (Malus x domestica) and their wild relatives
University of Guelph, Department of Integrative Biology
Paul Kron, Research Associate. Supervisor: Dr. Brian Husband

Summary: Closely related species can sometimes reproduce to produce hybrid organisms. Two such species are the domestic apple and the wild crabapple. Paul is studying the complex genetic interactions between these two species. This involves several components. What is the genetic variability within the wild crabapple? What is the fate of hybrids in the natural environment; i.e. do they survive and reproduce? Over 25 saplings from each of five genetically different apple strains were grown from seeds collected on rare property (three crabapple variants plus two hybrids with the domestic apple) and planted in the alvar complex. The fate of these individuals is being monitored over a ten-year period. The genetic variation of pollen and seed from mature trees of both species will also be determined. This will provide insight into the nature of the reproductive pathways that occur among these two species that lead to the production of fruits and seed. This research will provide important information on the potential impacts of introducing genetically-modified organisms (organisms intentionally modified by humans) into the landscape.

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Long-term restoration of tallgrass prairie
University of Guelph, Department of Integrative Biology
Dr. Andrew MacDougall

Summary: Tallgrass prairie formerly occupied 80,000 to 100,000 hectares in southwestern Ontario but less than 5% of that remains. Andrew plans to convert an agricultural field on rare property (most recently used to grow soybeans) into a native tallgrass prairie. There are several main goals of this research. The first is to determine the factors that ensure success in prairie restoration especially the ability of tallgrass prairies to resist invasion from non-target species; particularly exotic agronomic grasses. The second objective is to determine the factors that influence the pattern of distribution of plant species in a tallgrass prairie; i.e. are these factors environmental or non-environmental? The third objective is to restore a tallgrass prairie research site that will eventually look like a tallgrass prairie rather than a checkerboard pattern of research plots that will require constant maintenance. This sampling design will help address the research questions but will also restore the function of this ecosystem for creatures such as birds, insects and small mammals. The research project consists of a five-year building phase followed by a longer-term monitoring and manipulation phase.

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Influence of riparian and hyporheic zones on stream hydrology and nutrient biogeochemistry
University of Waterloo, Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences
Philippe Van Cappellen

Summary:Traditionally, management of water resources has focused on surface water bodies (streams, lakes, reservoirs, wetlands, etc.) or on groundwater as if they were separate entities. As the use of land and water resources intensifies, the hydraulic connection between surface water and groundwater has become recognized as a crucial element in water management. This research will monitor the spatial distributions of nutrient elements (C, N, P, Si, K and S) and key biogeochemical redox indicators (in particular, iron) in the riparian and hyphoreic zones of a small, groundwater-fed stream on the rare Charitable Research Reserve over the course of one year. The spatio-temporal patterns will be used to unravel the key biogeochemical transformations affecting nutrient speciation and fluxes within the riparian and hyporheic filter zones, and establish their response to seasonal variations in stream hydrology, soil temperature and biological activity.

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A constructive approach to maintaining nesting habitat for Barn Swallows in Ontario 
Bird Studies Canada
Kristyn Richardson

Summary: Barn swallows nest almost exclusively on human-made structures such as barns, sheds, bridges and culverts and are the most widely distributed of all swallows. As such, many people would be shocked to learn that the Ontario populations has declined by 66% since 1970. Despite how frequently humans overlap with these swallows (part of a group of birds collectively called aerial insectivores because of their habit of eating flying insects while flying high in the air) we know relatively little about them. While the causes of these declines are unknown, here in Ontario educations in the amount of available nesting habitat as well as human-caused disturbance are two potential reasons. The results of the artificial nesting structure project on the rare property, as well as the complimentary social cues research, will be used to determine what breeding habitat characteristics are most important for Barn Swallows in Ontario and inform Best Management Practices for the conservation of this species.

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Distribution and function of soil Thaumarchaeota
University of Waterloo, Department of Biology,
Xinda Lu, Ph.D. Candidate. Supervisor: Dr. Josh Neufeld

Summary: Nitrogen is a key element controlling terrestrial productivity. Nitrification, mediated by microorganisms, converts reduced (ammonia) to oxidized (nitrite and nitrate) forms of nitrogen. Nitrification has profound influences on the environment, for example, by contributing greenhouse gasses (nitrous oxide) and leaching fertilizer nitrogen (nitrate). Although nitrification has been studied for over a century, it is only recently that ammonia-oxidizing archaea (AOA) were discovered in addition to their counterparts, ammonia-oxidizing bacteria (AOB), which were formerly regarded as the sole contributors to nitrification. Since their discovery, questions regarding the ecology, physiology, and metabolism of AOA are still not well answered. This project will combine molecular methods, microcosm incubations, and bioinformatics to study the biogeography and activity of soil AOA in an effort to better understand AOA distributions and function. As main part of this project, soil samples will be collected at rare Charitable Research Reserve, and microcosm incubation will be set up under different conditions (temperature and substrate form). Short-term and long-term soil incubation aim at elucidating the influence of temperature and different forms of nitrogen (organic/inorganic) on AOA activity, adding more evidence to the niche seperation of soil AOA.

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rare Charitable Research Reserve
1679 Blair Road
Cambridge, ON N3H 4R8
(519) 650-9336
Charitable Registration:
#8776 15914 RR0001