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Capstone Projects

Assessment of Tree Planting Riparian Management along the Ausable and Boquet Rivers in New York State

Tue, 12/05/2017 - 14:28
Abstract: Ecological restoration is, in part, restoring degraded ecosystems. By adding riparian vegetation along degraded reaches of rivers and streams, ecologists can begin to restore the natural habitat and processes associated with that river or stream. Trees, shrubs and grasses can be very important in retaining stream bank soils, providing shade in the river and habitat for terrestrial species. Two programs called Trees for Tribs and Ausable River Association (AsRA), restore degraded riparian areas in the state of New York, including the Ausable and Bouquet Rivers in the Adirondack State Park. This study compared survival rates of the plantings in nine different locations along the Ausable River and one location along the Boquet River. The tree species, living status (survivorship), and stem density of the understory was recorded. The four AsRA planting sites and one U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service site planted saplings ranging from 6-8 feet in height, and the Trees for Tribs planted seedlings at the other five sites. It was found that there was no significant difference between the survival rates of the saplings in comparison to the survival rates of the seedlings (p-value = 0.37). In addition, there was no significant difference (p-value = 0.05) in the stem density measurements between sapling and seedling plots. It was also observed that records of tree plantings were either missing, incomplete or inaccurate from both Ausable River Association and Trees for Tribs.
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Major: Environmental Sciences
Year: 2017
Authors: Austin Tremblay

Living Machine ® Wastewater Treatment in Sólheimar

Tue, 12/05/2017 - 15:02
Abstract: As of 2014, Sólheimar Ecovillage in South Iceland began to experience inadequate sewage treatment. After a large earthquake, the community’s constructed wetland became damaged, freely expelling untreated wastewater into the surrounding watershed. After research, the Living Machine® system became the evident solution to help mitigate this issue. By using a case study of a Living Machine® system in South Burlington, Vermont, I was able to determine output estimates of individuals by gallons per day (GPD) and approximate a price for a Living Machine® with a greenhouse at $1,019, 694 USD. Different approaches Sólheimar could take to help make this project successful would be installing a flowmeter, applying for different grants, charging tourists to use the restrooms, and contacting the engineering company to discuss the current and future piping system in the village.
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Major: Environmental Sciences
Year: 2017
File Attachments: jsetter_final.pdf
Authors: Jessica Setter

A Comparison of Fall and Spring Minnow (Cyprinidae) Surveys to Assess Overwinter Changes in Community Composition in a Marshland of the Northern Adirondacks, NY

Wed, 12/06/2017 - 03:51
Abstract: Minnows are an integral component of a healthy aquatic ecosystem. However, minnows are very sensitive to habitat destruction and loss, changes in water quality, and over predation. As a result of its integral role, an unhealthy, or absent minnow population can wreak havoc on an ecosystem. The objectives are to compare minnow species richness and composition between spring and fall surveys for different regions in the marsh, compare minnow trap catch rates between fall and spring for each minnow species for different regions of the marsh, compare mean length of minnow species between fall and spring, and compare water temperature, dissolved oxygen, pH, and conductivity in the fall with that of late winter and post ice-out. The study location was Heron Marsh of New York’s Adirondack Park, which supports of variety of fish in the cyprinidae family. Water quality was collected using a YSI meter in all 4 seasons of the year, and minnows were sampled using galvanized steel minnow traps during the fall and spring. Nearly all sites saw an increase in cyprinid biodiversity and abundance. Long term monitoring should be established for more robust data that can in turn justify more solid conclusions.
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Major: Environmental Sciences
Year: 2017
File Attachments: Capstone Report
Authors: Brenden Blair

The Effects of pH on the Distribution of the Mink Frog (Lithobates septentrionalis)

Fri, 12/08/2017 - 14:41
Abstract: Amphibian decline is occurring at an alarming rate. The acidification of aquatic systems is contributing to the decline, affecting habitat viability which affects dispersal, breeding success and the mortality of young. Tolerances to the acidic conditions vary amongst species, but are not known for all amphibians. The mink frog (Lithobates septentrionalis) has scattered dispersals throughout the regions in which they are found. The goal of this study was to observe possible effects of pH on the distribution of the mink frog, which is native to the Adirondack Park. A call survey was completed in 40 Adirondack water systems to determine dispersal. The pH of the lakes in which the call survey was conducted were also recorded. This study documents the relationship between pH and distribution of the mink frog along with the variations between the lacustrine and deep water pH values for each water system. The mink frog was not found in lakes with pH <6.5. Evidence also showed that the pH between deep water and lacustrine regions had varying differences that may prove to be significant in regards to studying some species. It is recommended that lacustrine data be examined along with limnologic deep water data when studying lacustrine dwelling species.
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Major: Environmental Sciences
Year: 2017
File Attachments: final capstone.docx
Authors: Cheylynne Tyrrell

Does the presence of Malus spp. increase the fertility of the soil surface in pastures?

Mon, 05/01/2017 - 18:24
Abstract: Techniques to increase soil fertility in a pasture can benefit the system by combating soil degradation and increasing the health of vegetation. The use of apple trees (Malus spp.) may be particularly beneficial in achieving this due to reliable fruit yields, ease of management, and variety of suitable habitat. We hypothesized that soil directly under the canopy of apple trees would be higher in nutrients (C, Ca, K, Mg, N, & P) than soil in areas with no tree cover. Soil samples were taken from the top 15 cm of the soil surface under apple trees and in areas without trees at 14 sites in Massachusetts and New York. Samples were analyzed using spectrometry and color imagery to determine nutrient content. Potassium and magnesium concentrations were found to be significantly higher in under-canopy samples. Further research may expand these results and determine if the application of apple trees can be used to increase the health of pasture systems.
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Major: Environmental Sciences, Forestry
Year: 2017
File Attachments: capstone_gumbartpayson.pdf
Authors: Julia Payson, Ryan Gumbart

The Age and Origin of Lake Ejagham, Cameroon: 9,000-Year-Old Sediment Evidence Suggests Possible Bolide Impactor

Tue, 05/02/2017 - 15:18
Abstract: Lake Ejagham is a relatively small lake (54 hectares) located in the south-western region of Cameroon, Africa. Two sediment cores, EJ1 and EJ2, were extruded in 1987 by Dr. Dan Livingstone, preserved, and analyzed in 2016. Sediment and diatom analyses were performed in conjunction with radiocarbon dating, which suggests the maximum age of the lake itself is about 9,000 years old. The age of the lake was confirmed by both the radiocarbon dating of the sediment as well as the dating of wood fragments found at the base of the EJ2 core. The diatom analyses indicate that in recent times high percentages of planktonic diatoms were present, which suggests a relatively wetter hydroclimate than in the past. In the mid-section of EJ1 those planktonic diatom percentages were lower, which indicates drier climates or changes to the lacustrine environment. The consistency in the sediment and climate record suggest that Lake Ejagham has been uninterrupted by environmental catastrophes, which provided suitable conditions for endemic cichlids to evolve via sympatry, particularly Coptodon ejagham. Lake Ejagham has been thought to have formed as a solution basin, when water dissolves and carries away underground minerals forming a depression. Instead, the bedrock beneath the lake contains both soluble and insoluble layers, which prevent this from happening. Here we assert that the EJ1 and EJ2 cores support an alternative origin, possibly from a bolide impactor, however this is not conclusive.
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Major: Environmental Sciences
Year: 2017
Authors: Kenneth B. Alton

Affordable Sustainable Housing in the Urban Environment

Sat, 05/06/2017 - 21:26
Abstract: This paper addresses the lack of sustainable affordable housing in the urban environment. The focus of this study is the urban environment due to an increased rate of migration from rural areas to urban areas. This increase has led to a growing need for cities to become more sustainable in order to support the increasing population density. Focusing on the residential sector, cities have made great strides towards providing green-supportive and sustainable housing for their residents. However, the accessibility to sustainable housing in the urban environment for low-income residents is limited. The primary research questions this study addresses are what are the barriers to sustainable affordable housing in the urban environment, and how can we overcome these barriers? Through using secondary sources, the findings for this study were that the greatest barriers to developing sustainable low-income housing is the need for costly retrofits, and a lack of government subsidies. Addressing the second research question, the solutions to overcoming these barriers include: technological innovation, public-private partnerships, encouraging grass-roots groups, mixed-use development, and micro-apartments.
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Major: Natural Resources Conservation and Management
Year: 2017
Authors: Erinn Pollock

Master Interpretive Plan for the Paul Smith's College VIC

Fri, 05/05/2017 - 23:49
Abstract: The Master Interpretive Plan is an elaborate document used to plan programs that utilize all aspects of the VIC to ensure the programs achieve the goals and mission. This particular document is a framework that is intended to be used by the VIC staff to develop a more in-depth working document.
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Major: Recreation, Adventure Education and Leisure Management
Year: 2017
File Attachments: final4-19 (1).docx
Authors: Alicia M. Feraldi, Christopher M. Harloff

Analysis of Forage Quality in Adirondack Macrophytes: Implications for Waterfowl Nutrition

Fri, 04/29/2016 - 14:48
Abstract: To understand the relative nutritional value of macrophyte food sources for Adirondack waterfowl, the forage quality of four common Adirondack macrophytes were assessed. An analysis of two native pondweeds (Potamogeton) and two invasive watermilfoil (Myriophyllum) was conducted to deduce how invasive and native macrophytes compare in their relative concentrations of nitrogen and mineral content; important indicators of forage quality for waterfowl. Nitrogen content is used as a metric for relative concentration of protein. Macrophyte species were sampled from four Adirondack lakes of the same trophic status to account for effects of lake nutrient characteristics on plant nutrient uptake and synthesis. Total nitrogen was determined with the Kjeldahl procedure using flow injection analysis. Ash (mineral) content was acquired through high-heat burning in a muffle furnace. The invasive watermilfoil species had a higher percentage of nitrogen than the native species. There was no significant difference in the ash content between the species. It is critical to understand the ecological function of these species in relation to wildlife populations. The nutritional value of these aquatic macrophytes may have implications for the fitness and distribution of breeding herbivorous waterfowl in Adirondack lakes. These results may indicate that invasive plants will serve as a viable food source for herbivorous waterfowl as watermilfoil continues to spread across Adirondack aquatic systems.
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Major: Biology
Year: 2016
Authors: Bianca Fournier

Walden Pond: Ecological and Anthropological History Reflected in the Sedimentary Record

Tue, 05/03/2016 - 23:13
Abstract: This study examined environmental changes reflected in the microfossil record of a sediment core taken in August 2015 from Walden Pond, Massachusetts spanning the last 600 years. In particular changes in the eutrophication status, inorganic sediment deposition due to land use, lake water depth and temperature were examined using phytoplankton indicator species—diatoms and chrysophytes— to reconstruct environmental conditions. The study site was a basin shallower and closer to the source of anthropogenic N and P inputs than the site of previous studies at Walden’s deepest basin, allowing for finer detection of changes in water level and organic content of sediment. A gravity corer was used to collect the sediment core to preserve topmost sediment layers for analysis, as more than a decade has passed since the last published study of this kind at Walden Pond by Köster et. al. (2005). Results show a significant increase in indicators of eutrophic lake conditions since European settlement ca. 1630, and especially since the 20th century. However, relative Asterionella formosa and Synedra nana abundances had not changed significantly in the last decade since Köster et. al.’s 2005 study, and have in fact decreased somewhat, suggesting water treatment efforts by the Massachusetts Dept. of Environmental Protection (DEP) have had some success. Loss on ignition (LOI) of organic content shows a precipitous decline from the mid 19th century from 37% to 22%, representing intensive land clearance and development until the 1970’s when DEP management began. After that point, LOI rose, perhaps due to increased lake productivity, and has fluctuated around 25%. Relative Discostella stelligera abundance, while used in the WAl-3 piston core as a proxy for water depth, could not be used in the WAL-1 gravity core from this study as eutrophication has significantly impacted their abundance. Chrysophyte scale:diatom ratios corroborate an observed trend of increasing abundance in lakes globally since the 20th century, perhaps in response to rising global temperatures over the same period.
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Major: Biology
Year: 2016
File Attachments: Capstone Paper.docx
Authors: Erik Yankowsky