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Capstone Projects

Management on a Protected Landscape: Black-Throated Blue Warblers (Setophaga caerulescens) in the Adirondack Park, NY 2019 - 2069

Tue, 04/30/2019 - 11:28
Abstract: Black-throated blue warblers (Setophaga caerulescens) are a neotropical migrant passerine that specializes in breeding within interior forest habitats, with dense lower strata. Since the Breeding Bird Survey began in 1966, there has been over a 1.5% decline in sightings of this species along survey routes. In recent years, it has been found that access to secondary growth during the post-fledging period is essential to physiological health for migration. In the Adirondack Park of New York, a protected forest, there is a severe deficit of early successional habitats, especially adjacent to large tracts of mature forest. Compounding on this, there is resounding public conflict in relation to forest operations. This management plan aims to increase black-throated blue warbler encounters on BBS survey routes by at least 1% yearly on average, or by 50% over 50 years. To increase populations directly, new early successional habitat, and understory nesting cover will be developed using a variety of forestry techniques. We will increase early successional habitat by 10% by 2034, 20% by 2049, and 30% by 2069. Understory cover is planned to be increased by 5% by 2034, 15% by 2049, and 20% by 2069. Public education will be increased by presenting residents and visitors to the Adirondacks with free opportunities to learn about how natural resources are managed. Public opinion will be monitored alongside this education to study how public approval of forestry relates to environmental education. By the end of this 50-year management cycle, it is expected that black-throated blue warblers, along with several other species, will benefit greatly from these management actions. In addition, the general public will have a greater understanding, and therefore support of scientific wildlife management, including all tools that are used.
Access: Yes
Literary Rights: Off
Major: Fisheries and Wildlife Science
Year: 2019
Authors: Bradley R. Geroux

Management Plan of White Shark (Carcharodon carcharias) Populations in Massachusetts (2019-2079)

Tue, 04/30/2019 - 09:15
Abstract: The Atlantic white shark (Carcharodon carcharias), hereafter known as white shark, is an understudied predatory species. The white shark is a species that is actively hunted for its jaws and fins. Not much natural history or basic information is known about the white shark. The goal of this management plan is to further understand the natural history of the white shark within the next 60 years. Objectives of this goal will be to carry out various surveys, and studies on the Atlantic white shark to understand habitat preferences, population sizes, fecundity, and food preferences. Actions will be to do mark-recapture studies, as well as aerial photo surveys. Another goal is to determine if the increasing gray seal population on the coast of Massachusetts is the main reason the populations of white sharks have increased in Massachusetts over the last 10 years. This will be done by taking the aerial surveys of populations of gray seals over a five-year study to determine if the population is increasing, decreasing, or stable. Then surveying the number of seals that are depredated on. It will also be determined by stomach contents if white sharks depredate any other species to determine if gray seals are the main food source for a white shark. Once the main food source is determined, researchers will be able to further manage the white shark. Outcomes of the management will be to understand the natural history of the Atlantic white shark and can more effectively manage for the population of white sharks in Massachusetts.
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Literary Rights: On
Major: Fisheries and Wildlife Science
Year: 2019
Authors: Bre-Ann Flouton Johnson

Thirty-year Wild Yak (Bos mutus) Management Plan for the Chang Tang Reserve, China

Tue, 04/30/2019 - 09:10
Abstract: Wild yaks (Bos mutus) are the largest of thirteen ungulate species existing on the Tibetan Plateau in China. They are non-selective grazers and ruminants, which allows them to travel in herds of up to thousands of individuals and survive on relatively low-quality forage. Conservation issues of primary concern include resource competition with domestic ungulates, hybridization, poaching, trading, and the potential impacts of climate change (i.e. lower average snowfall and longer ice-free period). The shifting climate allows pastoralists to establish permanent residences and keep larger livestock herds, which reduces available habitat for wild yaks. This management plan aims to restore wild yak populations within the Chang Tang Reserve to the 1995 estimate of 15,000 mature individuals to allow local subsistence culture to proceed. Objectives to reach this goal include increasing the population of annually fertile females by 50% in fifteen years, increasing connectivity between the Reserve and other fragmented portions of wild yaks’ distribution in China by 25% within ten years, and increasing landowner cooperation in wild yak conservation efforts by at least 75% within ten years. To increase the population of annually fertile females, at least five peer-reviewed articles focused on population dynamics and stage-based resource requirements will be published. These will require aerial surveys and fecal analyses. Furthermore, a mixture of optimally nutritious food plants will be planted in high elevation plots. Corridors with suitable habitat will be established between existing fragments to increase habitat connectivity. Surveying locals will help managers to identify uncertainties and to understand public awareness and perceptions of conservation need. Educational forums with supplementary materials will be provided to ensure locals are equipped to cooperate and to mitigate potential management issues, such as domestic-wildlife interaction. Locals of all ages will be provided education to establish positive perspectives of wild yaks and management practices, thus increasing cooperation. The management actions could increase yak populations above the Reserve’s carrying capacity (̴ 85,000) but allowing subsistence use will keep populations below this threshold.
Access: Yes
Literary Rights: On
Major: Fisheries and Wildlife Science
Year: 2019
File Attachments: ManagementPlan_WildYak.pdf
Authors: Audrey P. Emerson

Management Plan for Gopher Tortoise (Gopherus polyphemus) Populations in Georgia from 2019-2049

Sat, 04/27/2019 - 14:29
Abstract: Gopher tortoises (Gopherus polyphemus) are known for their elephantine hind feet and flattened, shovel-like forelimbs adapted for digging burrows. Burrows offer shelter from heat, fires, and predators, and serve as refugia for more than 350 other species including, the gopher frog (Lithobates capito), eastern diamondback rattlesnake (Crotalus adamanteus), burrowing owls (Athene cunicularia) and the endangered indigo snake (Drymarchon couperi). For this reason, gopher tortoises are considered a keystone species. Gopher tortoises are distributed throughout South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi in the southeastern United States. Gopher tortoises are commonly found in upland habitats with well-drained sandy soils and diverse groundcover lacking understory hardwoods. Their diet consists of grass-like herbaceous plants, fruits and flowers such as prickly pear cactus (Opuntia), wild grape (Vitis vinifera), legumes (Fabaceae), dandelions (Taraxacum), and grass-leaved golden asters (Chrysopsis graminifolia). Ecological concerns threatening gopher tortoise populations include deforestation, habitat fragmentation, and disease. Sociocultural and economic threats to gopher tortoises include human consumption, illegal pet trade and habitat development. All these issues have been documented in Florida, where most research for this species has been conducted. The scope of this management plan focuses in Georgia where these threats are relevant and create concerns to gopher tortoise populations. The goal of this management plan is to increase and stabilize gopher tortoise populations in Georgia from 2019-2049. Objectives of this goal include: increase adult gopher tortoise survivorship by 6% in thirty years, increase gopher tortoise hatchling survivorship by 10% in thirty years and increase and preserve gopher tortoise habitat, by 20% in twenty years throughout the state of Georgia. Actions focus on promoting the increased survivorship of hatchling and adult gopher tortoises, and increasing habitat needed for their survival. Emphasis is placed on reducing adult road mortality, anthropogenic transmission of upper-respiratory tract disease (URTD), nest protection, implementing headstarting programs to reduce hatchling predation, and using conservation easements and periodic fire to increase longleaf pine habitat. If gopher tortoise populations continue to decline the ecosystem in which they inhabit will collapse due to their role as a keystone species. With proper management this species can have stable and sizable populations for the state of Georgia.
Access: Yes
Literary Rights: On
Major: Fisheries and Wildlife Science
Year: 2019
Authors: Courtney Cronk

Lower St. Regis Lake Survey: A Comparative Study of Fish Population Structure and Function over Time

Thu, 12/13/2018 - 14:24
Abstract: Lake surveys are performed on bodies of water to provide a health analysis of fish populations over time. Lake surveys can be conducted in a variety of ways to attain specific data. Lower St. Regis Lake was surveyed to determine the fish community composition and to understand fish population traits. Using fyke nets placed at six predetermined locations for 24 hours, as well as fishing, we collected data for age, length (mm), weight (g), and parasites present. Data was analyzed in the lab using Excel to form graphs and tables to demonstrate our findings. Catch rates were lower compared to years before and comparing our data to New York State Department of Conservation data found that our length-at-age data was lower for the six-species sampled. Pumpkinseed and yellow perch were the only two species to have over twenty fish sampled. Decreased air temperatures brought in by a cold front during the week of our sampling may have been a reason for our lower number of fish caught. Mesh size is also a bias while using these nets as smaller fish can escape, and predatory fish can prey on smaller fish while in the net. Some species of fish such as black crappie may be more susceptible to capture due to its habit of associating with structure.
Access: Yes
Literary Rights: Off
Major: Biology, Environmental Sciences, Environmental Studies, Fisheries and Wildlife Science, Natural Resources Conservation and Management
Year: 2018
File Attachments: Capstone_Final.docx
Authors: Deacon Chapin, Jared Chlus, Louis Daversa, Jon Herrman, Robert Visicaro

A Comparison of Winter Wildlife Use of Minimally, Moderately and Highly Impacted Shorelines on Lower St. Regis Lake and Black Pond in the Adirondack Park, NY

Wed, 05/09/2018 - 10:51
Abstract: Continued development and human interference with freshwater shorelines creates a degraded environment and can negatively affect native wildlife along impacted areas. Throughout the Adirondack Park, shorelines have experienced substantial degradation with the development of lakeside summer homes. There tends to be a strong preference for the aesthetics that lakes offer, as well as the numerous recreational opportunities they provide. The increased human use of shorelines and the development of anthropogenic structures has directly resulted in the degradation of shorelines in the Adirondack Park. Likewise, the Paul Smith’s College shoreline along Lower St. Regis Lake has been subjected to degradation throughout the history of the campus. This highly impacted site was selected, alongside minimally and moderately impacted sites in the surrounding areas as representatives for different impact levels. Shoreline degradation includes a decline in the health and presence of natural vegetation, creating a decrease in available food source for native wildlife. The removal of natural vegetation creates a decline in shoreline stability with the removal of root systems, allowing for greater amounts of erosion to occur. Additionally, degradation decreases available canopy cover and increases exposure of wildlife to predation. The objective of this study was to determine the difference in wildlife activity and diversity between three levels of shoreline impacts: minimal, moderate, and high. It was expected that the minimally and moderately impacted shoreline sites would show a greater diversity and abundance of wildlife than highly impacted shorelines. Trail camera data was analyzed at three sites for each treatment on Paul Smith’s College property, along both the Lower St. Regis Lake and Black Pond. Although we detected no significant differences in either activity or diversity across the treatments, there was higher relative activity and diversity in moderately impacted shorelines than minimally or highly impacted. However, wildlife species that are more rare and/or area-sensitive, such as the fisher (Martes pennanti) and American marten (Martes americana), were only detected in the minimally impacted shorelines of Black Pond. A restoration of the highly impacted shoreline to reflect minimally and non-impacted shorelines of the surrounding region would allow for opportunities to improve habitat for native wildlife species.
Access: Yes
Literary Rights: Off
Major: Biology, Ecological Restoration, Environmental Sciences
Year: 2018
File Attachments: Shoreline Restoration
Authors: Tessa White, Caroline Matuck, Kasey Lane, Rosemary Bloodnick, Kyle Pasanen, Annalee Kraai

Paul Smith’s College Shoreline Restoration Conservation Plan

Fri, 12/14/2018 - 12:24
Abstract: A restoration plan was created for the Lower St Regis Lake shoreline of Paul Smith's College. To date, about 140 students have participated by way of studies and course work in surveys and assessments, which clearly indicate a much reduced level of biological diversity, ecosystem function, and human uses compared to other sites. The plan is designed based upon field assessments and with the intentions of using the shoreline as an on-site case study of experiential education – a tradition of at the core of Paul Smith’s College. The aim of the restoration plan is to increase biodiversity, ecosystem function, aesthetics, educational studies, and shoreline use.
Access: Yes
Literary Rights: Off
Major: Ecological Restoration
Year: 2018
Authors: Hunter Gaudette
, Joseph Hollner
, Jonathan Meadows
, Ryan Morr
, Sara Savoia, Cassandra Schrader

Wetland X: Wetland Mitigation Plan Amendment

Mon, 12/03/2018 - 17:56
Abstract: Wetland X is a wetland that is located in Western New York and has been converted to agricultural land. The goal of this study was to create a restoration plan for Wetland X that meets Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) standards. The study took place during June 2018 with the final plan being completed in August of 2018 and the data analysis report being completed in the fall of 2018. The focus of the study was on the woody vegetation of the site to document the species present and the density of vegetation on the site. Vegetation was sampled on four plots located at different areas of the site to provide the best representation of the sites overall conditions. The areas were sampled using zigzag transects and grid transect patterns; with one area being sampled using the zigzag pattern, two using the grid pattern and one using both transect methods as a comparison of the two methods. Sampling of the site found that an amendment was needed for Wetland X to ensure that the landowner remained in compliance with the Food Security Act Standards. The restoration plan focuses on planting and management techniques for the site that will allow proper growth of desired vegetation species and the eradication of the invasive species. The created restoration plan amendment has been implemented and will be completed by June of 2019 with five years of monitoring following completion.
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Literary Rights: Off
Major: Ecological Restoration
Year: 2018
File Attachments: Pratt_Capstone_2018.docx
Authors: Thomas Pratt

Assessing the Use of Backpack Electrofishing to Index Age-0 Fish Abundance in Woody Structure Adjacent to the Lakeshore

Fri, 12/14/2018 - 10:50
Abstract: The preservation and monitoring of age-0 fishes and their habitat is imperative to the overall health of a lake and its fishery. The effectiveness of backpack electrofishing at capturing age-0 fishes along shorelines with coarse woody structure was assessed by attempting to correlate electrofishing catch rates with known population sizes. A 60x2m controlled study area along the shoreline of Lower St. Regis lake was selected and blocked off through use of a net encompassing the perimeter. Known population sizes were stocked into the net and a three-pass electrofishing depletion was conducted within the study area. Results indicated that there was no significant correlation between the known population size and the population estimate generated through electrofishing (p = 0.172). The lack of correlation may have been due to failure of the block net encompassing the study area.
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Literary Rights: On
Major: Fisheries and Wildlife Science
Year: 2018
File Attachments: Full Report
Authors: Justin Rozema

Minnow Abundance in Heron Marsh: Spatial Variation, the Status of the Non-Native Fathead Minnow, and Hybridized Redbelly and Finescale Dace

Fri, 12/14/2018 - 09:27
Abstract: Due to their distinct influence on surrounding ecosystems and food web dynamics, minnow populations have been monitored in Heron Marsh, in the northern Adirondacks in New York, since fall of 2012. This study documented the presence of species known to predate on minnows, the hybridization between redbelly dace (Chrosomus eos) and finescale dace (Phoxinus neogaeus), and the presence of the recently documented fathead minnow (Pimephales prometas). To survey piscivores, two fyke nets were set around the marsh for one trap night. The fishes were then identified and measured. The collection of predators is part of a preliminary study to document the presence of predator fish species within Heron Marsh. Minnow data was collected via minnow traps set at long term study sites and one new site. The traps were set over night and collected the following day. The minnows were identified and measured to the nearest mm. When analyzing the data collected in the field, the data from previous years was compared to this years data. The findings indicate that hybrids of redbelly and finescale dace can be observed only at sites where both parent species exist. This 2018 study was the first one to document hybrid species though they have been observed in past years. The status of the fathead minnow is not significantly different from findings from 2017 however, their populations are noticeably smaller than previous years. Predator composition was primarily brown bullhead (Ameiurus nebulosus) and creek chub (Semtilus atromaculatus).
Access: Yes
Literary Rights: Off
Major: Fisheries and Wildlife Science
Year: 2018
Authors: Sarah LaLumiere and Patrick Nicholson