Past Research at rare

Spring wildflowers. Photo courtesy of Stefan Weber.

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.

Below are the past research projects that have taken place at rare. Multi-year projects are listed under the year they were completed at rare.

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DNA-based approach for identification and detection of aquatic Ontario species at risk: Hill’s and Ogden’s Pondweeds (Potamogeton hillii and Potamogeton ogdenii)
University of Guelph, Biodiversity Institute of Ontario, Canadian Center for DNA Barcoding
Maria Kuzmina, Research Associate

Summary: The experiment will include selection of the DNA marker(s) which will have the best discriminatory power for all species of pondweeds reported from Ontario. The markers should have length of approximately 100-350 base pairs to be suitable for NGS experiment (eDNA detection of the desired species). It will require work on designing specific primers and testing them using Sanger sequencing. The specific primers for ITS2 will be designed using existing reference library for this marker available on BOLD. The next phase of the experiment will include one multiplex NGS run of 3 samples of water and available library on the tested markers, from the monitored plot at the rare Charitable Research Reserve, where Potamogeton crispus and Stuckenia pectinata were recorded. The purpose of this pilot experiment is to prove that eDNA detection works with the tested markers in the presence of known species of pondweeds, and at the same time to test specificity of the markers.

SenseLabs Program Evaluation
Wilfrid Laurier University, Psychology Department
Ellis Furman, M.Sc Candidate, Supervisor: Dr. Ciann Wilson

Summary: The SenseLabs are successful, innovative programs that have been employed in Lethbridge, Alberta, and Sudbury, Ontario through Musagetes’ international arts programming. Through a collaborative partnership between Musagetes, rare Charitable Research Reserve, and Wilfrid Laurier University, the SenseLabs are being brought to the tri-cities for a third iteration of the program.This unique project is intended to bring diverse members of the community together to understand people’s relationships to the land and the environment through artistic expression. Twelve participants that transcend communities, cultural backgrounds, and generations, artistic experiences will congregate to participate in eleven arts-based sessions facilitated by two skilled community artists and facilitators, Angela Loft and Gabriella Caruso. A researcher from Wilfrid Laurier University will also partake in the project as well as conduct a participatory program evaluation of the SenseLabs.

Characterizing the effects of water quality and wetland plant species on the structure and function of microbial rhizosphere communities
Wilfrid Laurier University, Department of Biology
Lindsey Clairmont, Ph.D. Candidate. Supervisor: Dr. Robin Slawson

Summary: To further our understanding of how plant-bacteria community dynamics influence effective contaminant removal from wastewater I will be examining the effects of varying water quality on the structure and function of the bacterial rhizosphere community on roots of Phalaris arundinacea. I will also be examining how the composition of microorganisms within the rhizosphere of several wetland plants differ and how these differences translate into the ability of these communities to remove contaminants from water using a combination of field and mesocosm based approaches.

DNA barcode-based biodiversity assessment of arthropods in the rare Charitable Research Reserve
University of Guelph, Centre for Biodiversity Genomics (CBG)
Dr. Paul Hebert

Summary: Arthropods make up the vast majority of terrestrial ecosystem inhabitants therefore it is critical to assess their responses to anthropogenic disturbance. The inclusion of arthropods in terrestrial assessments however, has faced three substantial barriers: ineffective sampling due to complex terrestrial environments, poor knowledge of species distributions and prevalence, and unreliable tools for species identification. Fortunately, the latter barrier has been circumvented with the use of DNA barcoding, a method that utilizes the sequence variation in a standardized gene fragment to rapidly sort and objectively differentiate species. The first barrier will be tackled through comprehensive sampling methods, including various collecting techniques over multiple timeframes. The combination of these methods will allow for the development of more complete species data and ultimately move towards the establishment of a time- and cost-efficient approach for repeatable terrestrial environmental assessments. Furthermore, these efforts will be combined with the rare Bioblitz event (an intense biological survey by expert taxonomists to record all living species within an area) to establish a comprehensive species inventory and corresponding DNA barcodes for the reserve.

Queensnake presence in relation to prey and habitat dynamics in the Grand River
Natural Resources Solutions Inc., rare, Ontario Nature, Nature Conservancy of Canada, Huron Stewardship Council, University of Toronto, Scarborough

Summary: This collaborative project will address the current lack of knowledge regarding the distribution, habitat and prey selection of the Grand River Queensnake (Regina septemvittata) population through targeted surveys. This work is being funded by the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources (OMNR) Species at Risk Stewardship Fund and OLTAP. The information gathered as a result of this study will be invaluable for the protection and recovery of Queensnakes both within the Grand River as well as throughout Ontario.

The evolution of leaf endopolyploidy and its functional consequences in flowering plants
University of Guelph, Department of Integrative Biology
James Seery, Research Assistant. Supervisor: Dr. Brian Husband

Summary: Endopolyploidy is a form of somatic genome duplication that increased cell size, and can create a ploidy mosaic in plant tissues. However, the functional significance of endopolyploid tissues and the relative occurrence of leaf endopolyploidy in angiosperm species are unknown. To determine whether leaf endopolyploidy is common in plants, I will survey the local flora to quantify its occurrence and magnitude, and use a molecular phylogeny to both reconstruct its evolution and infer transition rates. To examine the functional consequence of endopolyploidy magnitude, I will test whether it co-varies with specific leaf area, a correlate of growth rate, and leaf water content, a correlate of water storage capability.

Collaborative activities in support of Mottled Duskywing recovery
Natural Resource Solutions Inc.
Jessica Linton

Summary: The project, funded through the Species at Risk Stewardship Fund (SARSF), involved a collaborative approach between Conservation Halton, NRSI, Dr. Gard Otis (University of Guelph) and MNRF to address key knowledge gaps identified in the Draft Recovery Strategy for Mottled Duskywings (and Endangered species in Ontario).

Monitoring of Bobolink (Dolichonyx oryzivorus) ecology and agricultural practices
Wilfred Laurier University, Department of Geography and Environmental Studies
Dr. Robert J. Milne

Summary: Bobolink (Dolichonyx oryzivorus) and other related grassland bird species have been declining in southern Ontario, especially during the past decade when it has been estimated the Bobolink populations have declined by 33% (McCracken et al., 2013). Consequently, Bobolink, along with the Eastern Meadowlark (Sturnella magna) was designated as a threatened species in Ontario in 2010.  This decline can be linked to a number of factors including habitat loss and shifts in agricultural systems and practices such as cropping, harvesting, and field configuration. This proposal is presented in response to a request by rare to develop a joint research project with Wilfrid Laurier University at the Southfield research plot that currently is breeding habitat for Bobolink. The intent of this project is to improve knowledge of agricultural practices and grassland species ecology and management during the breeding and staging seasons with the goal to enhance the sustainability of these types of agroecosystems.

Assessment and prediction of the restoration of a former agricultural field
McMaster University, Department of Biology
James Marcaccio, Ph.D. Candidate. Supervisor: Dr. Patricia Chow-Fraser

Summary: Satellite imagery and orthophoto-imagery are both common forms of digital data used to produce maps for ecological research. The advantage of the former is that the data can be updated frequently (2-4 weeks), while the advantage of the latter is that they are high resolution; however, neither are fully suitable for mapping landscape features for ecological studies. Using an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), we will be able to provide both high-resolution and seasonally-relevant imagery (taken multiple times during a season) for the reclaimed agricultural land north of Blair road that is owned by rare. With the infrared camera, we will also be able to characterize the chlorophyll response (i.e. plant health) as well as the pattern of soil moisture in the field. We will combine this information with a 3-dimensional topographical model (generated by remote sensing) to forecast how the ecosystem will be returned to its former state. The high-quality data we derive from the senseFly eBee UAV will allow present and future researchers at rare to gain a better understanding of the spatial relationship among different habitat classes in the changing landscape.

Quantifying relationships between water quality and mycorrhizal associations in wetland vegetation
Wilfrid Laurier University, Department of Biology,
Daniel Marshall, M.Sc. Candidate. Supervisor: Dr. Kevin Stevens

Summary: This project is part of a larger collaborative effort between Dr. Kevin Stevens’ wetland ecology laboratory and Dr. Slawson’s microbial ecology laboratory. Their research program is focused on the interactions between the plant, fungal and microbial communities in the rhizosphere and how they are affected by contrasting water quality, particularly comparing areas receiving municipal, agricultural or industrial effluent to areas less severely impacted by anthropogenic activities. Specifically, this project will focus on the characterization and quantification of the plant communities and their interactions with associated root endophytes. This will aid in determining the effects of water quality on mycorrhizal fungi colonization of wetland plant root systems, important plant symbionts in wetland and terrestrial habitats.

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A genetic link between foraging tactic and dispersal
University of Toronto, Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology
Allan Edelsparre, Ph.D. Candidate. Supervisor: Dr. Marla Sokolowski

Summary: The overall goal we are working towards understanding is whether dispersal patterns observed in natural animal populations can arise from genes that are known to influence differences in foraging behaviour. A common phenomenon in dispersal biology, particularly in studies involving invasive species, is that the successful spread of a given species is dependent on the individuals at the forefront of invasion (Llewelyn et al. 2010, Philips et al. 2010). Advances in behavioural ecology demonstrate that dispersal tendencies can be associated with behavioural strategies that individuals employ during foraging, predator escape responses or mate searching (Fraser et al. 2001, Réal et al. 2007, Edelsparre et al. 2013). Consequently, a candidate approach to understanding the genetic mechanisms underlying dispersal is to investigate the relationship between dispersal and behaviours where the genetic and physiological mechanisms are already well understood. We are testing whether a gene influencing foraging strategies in fruit flies is a potential mechanism underlying variation in

Unreduced gamete production in Brassicaceae species
University of Guelph, Integrative Biology Department
Paul Kron and Julia Kreiner

Summary: The transition to polyploidy is important in plant species’ evolution, but some aspects of polyploidization remain poorly understood. Polyploids are believed to arise primarily through unreduced gamete production, but little data about the rates of occurrence and triggers (genetic and environmental) for unreduced gamete production in natural populations are available. Using relatively new methodology (flow cytometric DNA content measurement of pollen nuclei) we propose to measure unreduced male gamete production rates in natural populations of species in the Brassicaceae, as well as variation in these values within and between populations. We will then relate these measures to aspects of the environment and to the phenotypes of the species.

Agaricomycetes of Ontario Tall Grass Prairie
Western University, Department of Biology
Christopher Hay, M.Sc candidate. Supervisor: Dr. Greg Thorn

Summary: This project will examine Agaricomycete fungi (a taxonomic group which includes most typical mushrooms) found in a variety of Tall Grass Prairies throughout southern Ontario. Mushrooms will be collected from each site throughout the field season and previously-collected soil cores will undergo DNA molecular analysis (next generation sequencing). Objectives are to characterize Agaricomycetes of Ontario Tall Grass Prairies, examine factors that may influence composition (geography, soil, plants, and tillage history), and compare results of different survey methods: aboveground mushroom collecting and belowground soil molecular analysis.

Spatial epidemiology of co-infecting amphibian emerging infectious diseases
Laurentian University, Department of Biology, Genetics and Ecology of Amphibians Research Group
Kirsten McMillan, Ph.D. Candidate. Supervisor: Dr. David Lesbarrères

Summary: We are facing a global population decline of amphibian taxa. It is critical that we confront this issue as amphibian declines may be an early indicator of the impending loss of freshwater aquatic ecosystem services. As these declines occur in both human-disturbed and seemingly pristine habitats, this matter has been acknowledged as a global conservation priority. Disease is among the top suspected causes of amphibian population decline. Ranavirus and the Chytrid fungus are the primary pathogens associated with mortalities. Both pathogens spread rapidly within aquatic environments. One of the challenges regarding the study of disease dynamics is to understand the pattern of spread. Most model-based projections fail to account for environmental variation. Yet, as the environment determines the distribution of hosts and parasite vectors, it is probable that this variation will be instrumental in determining disease risk. By comparing environmental differences between populations exhibiting different infection characteristics, we can start to disentangle the mechanisms allowing for disease spread. I hope to investigate this important epidemiological issue while bridging a gap between landscape ecology and conservation management.

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Metacommunity dynamics and community assembly of restored tallgrass prairie
University of Guelph, Department of Integrative Biology
Eric Harvey, Ph.D. candidate. Supervisor: Dr. Andrew MacDougall

Summary: Tallgrass prairie remnants are usually isolated and small in size and therefore prone to invasive species. The successful restoration of tallgrass prairies will ultimately depend on constructing remnant areas that are self-sustaining and capable of resisting invasion and support reproductively viable populations of native grasses, forbs and trees with minimal management.  Dr. Andrew MacDougall and his research team are interested in examining the factors that determine whether assembled prairie communities persist or instead revert to a community of agronomic species. They will be reconstructing a patchwork of tallgrass ‘islands’ of various sizes and shapes to try to determine the factors that lead to tallgrass prairie stability.  Over 10 years, they will monitor attributes including plant establishment success, invasion resistance, reproductive performance, small mammal residency, insect diversity, biomass production and the accumulation of soil organic matter.

Disturbance effects on arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi in tallgrass prairies and native forests
University of Western Ontario, Department of Biology
Sarah Allan & Nimalka Weerasuriya, M.Sc candidates. Supervisor: Dr. R Greg Thorn

Summary: Changes in the diversity and abundance of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF) in soils have functional impacts on the above-ground plant communities. AMF are symbiotic fungi that are associated with many herbaceous plants in tallgrass prairies and native forests. These fungi provide host plants with limiting nutrients in exchange for phtosynthates, establishing an underground network to connect and support different herbaceous species. Sarah is looking at the impacts of agricultural disturbance on AMF in natural and restored tallgrass prairie remnants in Southern Ontario. Nimalka is looking at changes in AMF abundance and diversity in response to buckthorn (Rhamnus cathartica) invasion in native forest communities. Both studies hope to determine whether disturbances (physical or chemical) affect the species composition of AM fungi in two different habitats, and how these changes may impact successional dynamics and invasion susceptibility of these vulnerable ecosystems.

Relative importance of invader traits and propagule pressure to predicting invader establishment under various scenarios of tallgrass prairie susceptability to invasion
University of Guelph, Department of Integrative Biology
Michael Rogers, M.Sc candidate. Supervisor: Dr. Andrew MacDougall

Summary: Assessing the resistance of restored tallgrass prairie to plant invasion is a critical long-term management question, which targets several interacting possibilities: (i) that the dense standing cover of restored prairie should be able to resist the penetraiton of invaders, (ii) that applied management known to be critical for maintianing prairie diversity (e.g., mowing, burning) could inadvertantly open ‘windows’ for invasion that would otherwise be closed, and (iii) that certain invader life history strategies (e.g., woody plants) may be capable of invading undisturbed restored prairie, and thus could be explicitly targeted for removals. At both high and low native plant diversity levels within the Blair Flats, different treatments (mowing, fertilizer, combination, and control) will be employed to analyse invasion by ten plant species. Smaller subplots will be used to test small-mammal influence on invasion.

Tallgrass prairie community responses to drought severity and phenology, enhanced soil N, and insect herbivores
University of Guelph, Department of Integrative Biology
Morgan Randall, M.Sc candidate. Supervisor: Dr. Andrew MacDougall

Summary: Anthropogenically driven increases in drought and nitrogen (N) deposition are two of the major threats to biodiversity of terrestrial ecosystems, given that both processes radically reconfigure the availability of limiting resources and disrupt species interactions. These factors are likely to interact (e.g., water availability influences N uptake by plants, N affects water uptake in plants through its influence on photosynthesis) but the vast majority of ecological studies have not examined these linkages. This uncertainty is especially applicable for plant-insect interactions, since alterations to water and N availability are likely to cause a suite of physiological changes to plant tissue quality, thus influencing palatability for herbivores. This experiment will manipulate the severity and timing of drought under two different soil N regimes within a tallgrass prairie ecosystem, to test the combined effects of drought and N deposition on plant tissue quality, and how these changes affect plant-herbivore interactions. This research will shed light on how plant communities are affected by two major aspects of global environmental change. Further, my research will provide generalizable predictions for impacts of insect herbivores in tallgrass prairies, which are our province’s most endangered terrestrial ecosystem and a diversity hotspot for both plants and insects.

Sexual selection in an explosive breeding anuran
University of Toronto, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
Olivera Joksimovic, M.Sc. candidate. Supervisor: Dr. Locke Rowe

Summary: Much of theory suggests that explosive breeders experience little sexual selection. These predictions of low opportunity for sexual selection in explosive breeders stem from assumptions that operational sex ratios (OSR) are not heavily male-biased, and consequently that there is low variation in male mating success. Theory predicts that both variance in mating success and the OSR can act as measures of opportunity of sexual selection and intensity. Some of these assumptions, however, contrast with empirical evidence, which have shown both highly male biased sex ratios and sexual shape dimorphism in explosive breeding anurans. These deviations from assumptions in theory intuitively suggest that the opportunity for sexual selection may not be weak in explosive breeders, and that the intensity of sexual selection may rather be stronger than previously assumed. I propose to test this theory by measuring sexual selection on a number of morphological traits in the explosive breeding anuran, R. sylvatica.

Developing a benthic biomonitoring program for the Grand River Watershed
Western University
Dr. Adam G. Yates

Summary: This project is aimed at identifying least-disturbed conditions in the Grand River Watershed to act as a baseline against which future stream conditions can be assessed. Stream sites across the Grand River Watershed are being sampled for benthic invertebrates and the communities at this site will be analyzed. Based on these findings an aquatic assessment tool will be generated based on the reference conditions approach. This tool will improve the ability of agencies to manage the health of aquatic systems in the Grand River using evidence-based policies.


Towards resistance: Investigating invasion impedance
University of Waterloo, Department of Environment and Resource Studies
Gwyneth Govers, M.Sc. candidate. Supervisor: Dr. Stephen Murphy

Summary: Garlic mustard is an incredibly invasive weed capable of taking over forest understories by suppressing the growth of native plants. It does this by giving off chemicals which kill the mutualistic soil fungi that these plants require to uptake adequate nutrients. It has been hypothesized that the spring ephemeral Bloodroot possesses a mechanism to discourage the spread of Garlic Mustard, though it is not currently understood how it operates. One goal of this study is to determine if Bloodroot’s defense chemicals suppress the germination of Garlic Mustard’s seeds, and if so at what concentrations? If Bloodroot is able to suppress seed growth, its growth in forest understories may protect other species from being lost to invasion. Additionally, since Bloodroot is spread through ant-seed dispersal, it is important to determine if this relationship has been hindered by the effects of garlic mustard’s invasion. Ultimately, the aim of this project is to identify and quantify factors which may be integral to the formation of a management plan for Garlic Mustard using Bloodroot plants to buffer the soil’s resistance to invasion. As Bloodroot is native to most of the invaded range, this would considerably reduce the risks associated with other biological control methods, such as the introduction of herbivorous insects, and reduce herbicide use.

The role of stewardship groups in the Grand River Watershed
University of Waterloo, Department of Geography/Environmental Management
Janette Kingsbury, M.Sc. candidate. Supervisors: Dr. Bruce Mitchell and Dr. Derek Armitage

Summary: This research takes a case study approach, using rare as an example of a stewardship group in the Grand River watershed. The role that rare plays in providing environmental stewardship, and the variety of partnerships and collaborations that are involved in the various activities, are being examined using observations, interviews, and surveys of volunteers, staff, and community members. Additionally, this works examines the organizational structure at rare and looks at how the stewardship activities may be contributing to changes in policy, governance and decision-making.


Characterizing the recovery of fish populations and communities after their collapse in an urbanized region downstream a wastewater treatment plant in the Grand River, Ontario
University of Waterloo, Department of Biology
Keegan Hicks, Ph.D. candidate. Supervisor: Dr. Mark Servos

Summary: The effects of wastewater treatment plant effluent on fish in the Grand River Watershed has been observed at multiple levels of biological organization, from effects at the level of the individuals, effects on fish populations, and effects at the community level. Fish communities monitored qualitatively in November 2012 on the Grand River from Blair Landing downstream to past the confluence of the Speed River revealed the complete absence of fish in this section of the river (approximately 3km). Evidence suggests that this is the influence for the water quality in this reach of the Grand River since fish were only found at this confluence along the river bank where the Speed River enters, and not the opposite end, which is only influenced by the Grand River. The main objective of this study is to assess the recovery of fish populations and communities downstream the Kitchener WWTP in the disturbed reach from Blair down past the confluence of the Speed River, adjacent to rare property.


Microbial biogeography of the rare Charitable Research Reserve
University of Waterloo, Department of Biology
Brent Seuradge, M.Sc. candidate. Supervisor: Dr. Josh Neufeld

Summary: Microorganisms represent a ubiquitous component of the biosphere, directly influencing Earth’s natural systems. With the advent of cultivation-independent next-generation sequencing technology, revealing novel microorganisms within soils remains an attainable goal for microbial ecologists. Discovery of novel organisms and characterizing their functional contributions will provide insight into the nature of biogeochemical cycles in soil systems. This notion represents a key motivation for further understanding these complex environments and how microorganisms shape large-scale processes. This research aims to investigate and synthesize trends in microbial biogeography with an emphasis on the “rare biosphere” by investigating samples taken from across different land-use types and physicochemical conditions at the rare Charitable Research Reserve. Specifically, we aim to generate a “microbial map” of the rare site, exploring land-use influences, depth-dependent changes, and novel microbial taxa. This research will contribute to microbial ecological theory by exploring microbial community succession after agricultural influences as well as by identifying potential microbial markers of anthropogenic activity.


Determining the timespan and ecological conditions necessary for afforested environments to support older-growth understorey communities
Ontario Aggregate Resources Corporation and the University of Waterloo Centre for Ecosystem Resilience and Adaptation
Dr. Paul Richardson

Summary: Landscapes are often restored through the implement of tree planting programs.  There is often little monitoring of the success of these plantation sites over time.  Paul is interested in predicting the timeline over which tree plantations come to resemble older-growth forests and understand how different management decisions help set this timeline. Possible influences that Paul will examine include managed stand-thinning, soil amendments, removal of competing plants, the identities and traits of the species planted and the historical usage of the sites for aggregate extraction or farming. Paul will be looking at many sites in Southern Ontario but at rare he will be studying plantations on the Thompson Tract.  Within this site Paul will be measuring canopy size & structure, tree cover, basal area and snag frequency. Soil composition will also be determined. Sampling quadrats will be established in the forest understorey and plant species cover, presence and absence will be recorded.


Characterizing flow, sediment and pollutant movement in ephemeral streams
University of Guelph, Department of Geography
Rashaad Bhamjee, Ph.D. Candidate. Supervisor: Dr. John Lindsay

Summary: The research being undertaken will look to characterize the movement of water, sediment and other agricultural pollutants in ephemeral streams in a context of water quality protection. Rashaad will measure the stream network expansion and contraction in relation to precipitation inputs and other watershed characteristics, describe the timing of flow events and how they relate to sediment and pollutant transport, and derive a set of best management practices to reduce the impact of ephemeral headwater streams on source water quality.

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Spatial and temporal foraging behaviour of small mammals and their impacts on the plants community of a restored tallgrass prairie: an annual cycle
University of Guelph, Department of Integrative Biology
Stefan Schneider, M.Sc. Candidate. Supervisor: Dr. Andrew MacDougall

Summary: The North American tallgrass prairie has suffered drastic declines due to widespread conversion to agricultural land in the 1800s. Remnant and restored tallgrass prairies persist in isolated areas, often within an agricultural matrix of cropland. Broad-scale disturbances that maintained prairie diversity, especially fire and grazing by native herbivores, no longer occur. Finer-scale disturbances persist through impacts of small mammals. Stefan’s research will occur over an annual cycle on the Blair Flats prairie at rare. His work will describe the composition and species diversity of small mammals at this site and investigate the cumulative diet of these species both spatially and temporally, especially whether they preferentially target native prairie species and whether the presence of non-native oldfield species influence their dietary choices.

Development of spatio-temporally explicit pollination connectance webs along a successional gradient
University of Guelph, Canadian Pollinator Initiative
Dr. Tom Woodcock

Summary: Tom is interested in quantifying the services that pollinators (i.e. bees, flies, butterflies) provide to our ecosystems. Pollinators are essential to the functioning of all terrestrial ecosystems. He will do this by establishing ‘connectance webs’ for his three field sites at rare; all former farm fields that are now regenerating naturally.  Connectance webs are similar to food webs in that they depict a series of plant and animal interactions of varying strengths.  To build the connectance webs, a grid of plots has been set up at the three sites and data will be collected over the summer to assemble a large data set on pollinator-plant interactions.  This data will be collected in numerous ways to determine variables such as flowering plant diversity, blossom counts, flower maturation rates, pollinator diversity, types of pollinator-plant interactions and the pollen loads of the pollinators. The coincidence of flowering plants and pollinators in space and time will be critical for the construction of the pollination connectance webs.


Ecological restoration of meadows in an urban environment
University of Waterloo, Department of Environment and Resource Studies
Martin Kastner, M.Sc. Candidate. Supervisor: Dr. Stephen Murphy

Summary: Meadows are often transitional habitats but are important habitats for many species of wildflowers, birds and pollinating insects which is a compelling argument towards their maintenance, protection and restoration. Martin is looking at how best to restore meadows by examining the impacts of restoring the underlying soils. He will accomplish this through the use of several restoration techniques at our Springbank Farm site. Forty-eight two x two metre plots will be established in an old field (eight plots in each four restoration techniques and two control sites). These four soil restoration techniques are: nitrogen correction, soil aeration, a combination of aeration and nitrogen correction and planting the meadow seed mix in association with nitrogen-fixing legumes.  A selection of five native meadow species will be planted in each plot. The control plots will involve planting with no soil treatment as well as a series of plots with no planting and no soil treatment. Changes in plant diversity and richness and soil properties will be monitored over time in all plots.


Female-based predation and its impact on sexually dimorphic behaviour and morphology
University of Toronto at Mississauga, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
Kyla Ercit, M.Sc. Candidate. Supervisor: Dr. Darryl Gwynne

Summary: Tree cricket males sing to attract females by rubbing together specialized structures on their wings. The predatory wasp Isodontia mexicana hunts crickets, paralyzes them with a sting, and carries them back to their nest as live food for their offspring.  While one might suspect the singing male crickets would attract predators such as the predatory wasp, in actual fact, females are preferentially predated by them.  Kyla is interested in how this female-biased predation affects the evolution of cricket behaviour and morphology, and how sexual selection among crickets differs in populations exposed to both low and high predation. To this end, Kyla has installed artificial wasp boxes in two locations at rare. She will examine and measure cricket prey brought to the nests as well as sample crickets in the surviving population by capturing them using hand-nets. Wasps will be marked using commercial bee-tags and recaptured at the trap nests. She will also collect data on copulating pairs of tree crickets.


Neurobiological investigations of olfaction in salamanders
University of Guelph, Department of Integrative Biology
Dr. Frederic Laberge

Summary: Salamanders are particularly interesting from the viewpoint of neurobiology because their brains are relatively simple compared to other vertebrates, while at the same time displaying a basic pattern of organization comparable to the situation in mammals. This research seeks to find ways to produce chemosensory cues that are relevant to salamander behaviour in order to manipulate them in future physiological investigations in the laboratory. These investigations will target the mechanisms of sensory processing and the neural substrate of decision making. Other aspects that influence behavioural responses, such as learning, motivation, risk assessment, or features of the environment will also be studied as they must all impinge on the centres that are responsible for the final decision of which behaviour to perform at what time. Another aspect of this research aims to elucidate the role of the vomeronasal organ in vertebrates. This accessory olfactory organ still eludes proper explanation.

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Explaining male mate choice in Odonata
Carleton University, Department of Biology
Jennette Fox, M.Sc. Candidate. Supervisor: Dr. Thomas Sherratt

Summary: Jennette is interested in the mating preferences of wild damselflies (Odonata), more specifically do males have specific mate choices, are there subsets of males that have different mating behaviour, are there reasons for some male unresponsiveness and are there differences in the condition of females chosen? Observations will be made in the field near ponds as well as in the laboratory. The response of males to the offer of ten different potential mate morphologies will be recorded as successful or unsuccessful tandems or non-sexual behaviour such as aggression, touching, flight response or non-responsive behaviour. Male properties such as sperm load, protein, fat and glycogen content will also be measured. Body size and egg load will be measured in females to determine if males are able to choose females with better reproductive capacity.

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Genetic diversity of Ontario ferns
University of Guelph, Department of Integrative Biology
Jillian Bainard, Thomas Henry and Dr. Steven Newmaster

Summary: These researchers are heading an research initiative known as the “Ontario Fern Diversity” project which began in 2010.  The goal of this project is to understand the genetic diversity of ferns since less than 1% of the ferns on earth have DNA barcodes or estimates of genome size and nothing is known about fern endopolyploidy (an increase in the number of chromosome sets in a cell caused by replication without cell division).  The researchers will collect several fronds from particular fern species on rare property including Maidenhair Spleenwort, Rock Polypody, Fragile Fern and Smooth Cliff Brake. They will conduct DNA barcoding, measure genome size and make estimates of endopolyploidy. The data will help provide a clearer picture of fern species taxonomy in Ontario.


Floral interactions and the role of pollination-niche traits in the assembly of spring ephemeral communities
University of Guelph, Department of Integrative Biology
Stefan Weber, M.Sc. Candidate. Supervisor: Dr. Christina Caruso

Summary: Stefan is interested in the nature of spring wildflower communities and more specifically he has hypothesized that the assembly of these communities is controlled by pollinators (i.e. bees. flies, butterflies etc.). His main objective is to interpret the ecological and evolutionary origins of observed niche-trait patterns within the plant communities. He established 13 transects in the cliffs and alvars areas. Within each transect he measured a number of parameters including co-occurrence (how plant communities vary in space) and floral traits such as colour, size and the orientation of flowers.  He also used an instrument that allowed him to look at flowers through an insect’s eyes.  He is also looking at the genetic similarity between the flowers in his sampled communities. He hopes to be able to determine if spring wildflower communities are organized by their competition for pollinators which is may be influenced by traits of the flowers themselves.  The information he gathers could be important for planning future restoration efforts of these wildflower communities.


Characterizing the role of rove beetles (Staphylinidae) in complementing coccinellid predation of soybean aphids
University of Guelph, Department of Environmental Biology
Adam Brunke, M.Sc. Candidate. Supervisors: Dr. Rebecca Hallett and Dr. Steve Marshall

Summary: Soybean aphids are a significant pest in the agricultural sector but spend a significant amount of nocturnal time on buckthorn; an invasive shrub found in most woodlots and agricultural hedgerows in southern Ontario. The predators of soybean aphids on buckthorn are unknown. Adam is studying a group of insects known as rove beetles who are only active at night and have been the focus of several aphid management studies in Europe where they have been found to be natural predators of cereal aphids. His goal is to identify the rove beetle species present in habitats at rare, compare their daily activity to the daily activity cycle of soybean aphids and determine the habitats with the highest densities of both groups of organisms. He will also compare the lengths of their activity periods and the timing of their first arrival on the sites as well as compare the relatively protected rare sites with other sites off the property.  This research could eventually lead to an alternate method of pest control that will allow farmers to reduce the volume of insecticides on their crops while maintaining crop yields.

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Evaluation of bud, flower, and seed infection of Butternut (Juglans cinerea) by the butternut canker pathogen Sirococcus clavigignentijuglandacearum and the role of infected seed in disease dispersal
University of Guelph, Department of Environmental Biology
Dr. Kirk D. Broders and Dr. Greg J. Boland

Summary: Butternut has been listed as an endangered species in both Canada and the United States, largely as a result of mortality from infection by the butternut canker pathogen Sirococcus clavigignenti-juglandacearum (SCJ). The Butternut recovery plan has focused on finding potentially resistant or tolerant trees, collecting seed, and then distributing this seed for planting them around the province to re-establish butternut. However, it is unknown as to whether these seed harbor SCJ, and if dispersal of the seed is a means of disseminating the pathogen. The objective of Kirk and Greg’s research is to determine the point at which seed may become infected starting with the leaf buds and following the progression through flowering and finally the development of the seed. This research will address the following important aspects for improvement of butternut recovery; i) at what point in seed development does SCJ initially infect the host, ii) the frequency of infection at the different developmental stages, and different canopy heights iii) and the potential of seed dispersal of the pathogen.


Monitoring stream network extent in agricultural headwater streams
University of Guelph, Department of Geography
Rashaad Bhamjee, M.Sc. Candidate. Supervisor: Dr. John Lindsay

Summary: Running water is one of the most important contributing factors to shaping the terrestrial environment. Running water can be broken down into two main categories: 1) overland flow; the general flow of surface water down the slope of a land surface, and 2) streamflow; the channelized movement of flow. Streamflow pattern is fairly stationary on a large-scale over short periods of time but on a small scale, streamflow networks can be very dynamic. Rashaad is interested in determining how stream networks expand and contract on a fine-scale which has been difficult to measure in the field until now. To this end, he has developed a network of small sensors that can be placed in small channels that will record the date and timing of the onset of flow. This will be the first fine-scale spatial and temporal study of ephemeral streamflow in Southern Ontario. His research will determine how stream networks behave under various conditions and this behaviour will allow for an assessment of the potential for the movement and fate of pollutants from agricultural fields.


Monitoring butterfly abundance and diversity along an urban gradient in the Region of Waterloo, Ontario: using butterflies as biodiversity indicators in a changing landscape
University of Waterloo, Department of Environment and Resource Studies
Jessica Grealey, M.Sc. Candidate. Supervisor: Dr. Steve Murphy

Summary: It is expected that dramatic changes in land-use have a noticeable impact on butterfly abundance and diversity. The goal of Jessica’s research is to provide detailed base-line data on current butterfly abundance and diversity in the Region of Waterloo with a comparative analysis of changes in species composition along an urban gradient. The information collected will provide valuable information on the health of the ecosystems within the Region and allow for the prediction of how different land-use activities are potentially affecting butterfly diversity. It has the potential to identify centers of diversity, rare species, and/or unique communities or habitats within the Region which can help to guide conservation and land-use planning. Additionally, information collected during this study may provide important insights into Regional Policy Planning and assess the effectiveness of designating environmentally sensitive areas to protect species diversity.


Monitoring pollinators: examining the efficacy of Citizen Science observations
University of Waterloo, Department of Environment and Resource Studies
Researcher: Heather Andrachuk. M.Sc. Candidate. Supervisor: Dr. Steve Murphy

Summary: Canadian ‘citizen science’ programs like FrogWatch, PlantWatch and PollinatorWatch allow non-scientists to record data on natural phenomena using a simplified sampling protocol that is easy to understand but is hoped will provide meaningful data on these phenomena from across the country. Unfortunately, the accuracy of the data collected from citizen science programs is unknown. Heather’s research focuses on PollinatorWatch and has two main objectives: 1) to determine the diversity and abundance of bees found in various habitats at rare, and 2) to determine the efficacy of ‘citizen science’ observations of bees through PollinatorWatch. Bee diversity at rare will be determined using a plot design along which blue, yellow and white pan traps will be placed out on the property in various locations and along which flowers will be sampled using sweep nets. ‘Citizen science’ participants will be trained to collect data using the PollinatorWatch protocol. The various data sets will be compared and the results will contribute to the long-term monitoring of bees throughout Canada.

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Planning for sustainable forest ecosystems in Waterloo, Ontario: a future radial radial-growth forecast of four significant tree species
University of Waterloo School of Planning, Faculty of Environmental Studies
Nigel Selig, M.Sc. Candidate. Supervisor: Dr. Roger Suffling

Summary: Trees produce annual rings in their wood. Valuable information can be extracted from these tree-rings: 1. the number of tree-rings is equal to a tree’s age, and 2. the width of any one tree-ring is determined by the local climate in the year that it was growing. Therefore, the tree-ring records within trees can be used to reconstruct past climate. Nigel Selig wants to find out if the reverse is also true. For example, can tree-rings records be reconstructed from climate and therefore can we predict how some tree species will respond to forecasted climate change? Nigel will use the long tree-ring records available on rare property (from sugar maple, white pine and eastern hemlock) and the local historical climate data (collected at meteorological stations) to determine the relationship between tree-ring width and climate (i.e. are the tree-rings wider during hot years; or are they wider during wet years etc.?). He will then use this relationship and current climate forecasts to reconstruct how tree growth in the Waterloo Region will respond to climate change over the next 100 years. These results will be valuable for those planning the effects of climate change in the region.


Selection on plant physiological traits in natural plant populations
University of Guelph, Department of Integrative Biology
Mark Sherrard, Ph.D. Candidate. Supervisor: Dr. Hafiz Maherali

Summary: Plant growth rates often vary across the landscape as do the availability of resources that are critical to plant survival. Does natural selection act on physical traits in plant populations and if so, what physical traits have the strongest influence on reproductive success? Is it possible to detect natural selection occurring in plants in areas where there is resource variability (i.e. variation over space)? Mark is attempting to answer some of these questions with his study of Smooth Brome Grass at rare and at two other locations in Southwestern Ontario. Mark will accomplish this by looking at the relationship between individual plant traits; such as photosynthesis and seed production, site characteristics; such as soil moisture and mineral content and the productivity of the surrounding plant community. He will also look at how all these factors vary over time by conducting fieldwork over three growing seasons. This will be one the first studies to look at natural selection across nutrient gradients in natural plant populations.
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