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Capstone Projects

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

An Assessment of Heavy Metal Concentrations in Adirondack Waterfowl

Thu, 04/28/2016 - 22:53
Abstract: We analyzed heavy metal concentrations in waterfowl liver and breast tissue from ducks harvested within the Adirondack Park from October 3 to November 13, 2015. Interspecific, intersex, and feeding behavior variation in heavy metal concentrations were assessed. Waterfowl from two feeding behavior groups (diving and dabbling) were harvested from the watershed within a 50 mile radius of Paul Smith’s, New York. Harvested waterfowl species included mallard (Anas platyrhynchos), American black duck (Anas rubripes), common merganser (Mergus merganser), ring-necked duck (Aythya collaris), bufflehead (Bucephala albeola), and hooded merganser (Lophodytes cucullatus). Legal harvest of these species during regulated New York State duck hunting season allows for permissible use of internal organs for heavy metal determination. Dry weight (mg/kg) of digested liver and breast tissue samples were analyzed using atomic absorption spectroscopy. Due to unknown laboratory error, absolute concentration values were inaccurate, thus, rendering accurate analyses unfeasible. However, relative observable trends were able to be assessed given our data’s high precision. Analyte concentrations were significantly greater in liver tissues and there were significant differences between species. Variation in mercury, lead, bismuth, cadmium, chromium, and zinc concentrations in waterfowl serve as an indicator of the presence, cycling, bioaccumulation, and temporal trends of these metals in northeastern aquatic habitats.
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Major: Environmental Sciences, Fisheries and Wildlife Science
Year: 2016
File Attachments: Final2.docx
Authors: Brandon Snavely, Lewis Lolya

Outward Bound semester: Skills to last a life time

Wed, 12/14/2016 - 10:44
Abstract: The focus of this study will examine the level at which an Outward Bound semester fosters personal growth, connection with nature, and hard skills. This particular Outward Bound semester course traveled from the Florida Keys then on to Costa Rica and Panama in Central America. The course focused on the water elements of sailing, surfing, whitewater rafting, scuba diving, and sea kayaking. Methods used include personal journal reflections, peer and instructors oral and written responses. The researcher was an active participant in the immersive experience and kept a journal of the entire experience trying to gather as much information about the course itself and reflecting on the research process throughout. This research indicated that this experience developed personal character and a connection with nature. These skills have an impact deeper than an isolated course with Outward Bound but can be transferred to daily life.
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Major: Recreations, Adventure Travel and Ecotourism, Recreation, Adventure Education and Leisure Management, Parks, Recreation and Facilities Management
Year: 2016
Authors: Sam Annable

Interpreter's Guide to the Finger Lakes Trail

Wed, 04/29/2015 - 21:44
Abstract: Guidebooks help hikers to navigate trail systems and gain a better understanding of their surroundings. Many types of guides exist for popular long distance hiking trails such as the Appalachian Trail, the Pacific Crest Trail, and the Continental Divide Trail. The Finger Lakes Trail (FLT) runs 558 miles across the base of New York State, yet has very little associated literature. I hiked a 52 mile section of the Finger Lakes Trail from Ellicottville to Portageville in western New York. Using observations from the trail and related literature, I wrote an interpretive guide for this section. My FLT interpretive guide covers topics related to planning and packing for a multiday backpacking trip, natural history of western New York forests, the story of the development of the FLT system, and backpacking ethics. This work will help satisfy the human need to acquire knowledge and potentially enrich the experience of FLT hikers.
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Major: Environmental Sciences
Year: 2015
Authors: Jennifer Maguder

Effects of Reduced Turbidity and Suspended Sediment Concentrations on Macroinvertebrate Communities at a Restored Reach on Warner Creek

Fri, 05/01/2015 - 18:21
Abstract: A segment of Warner Creek, a tributary to the Stony Clove Creek in the Catskill Mountains of New York, was restored in 2013 to reduce concentrations of suspended sediment and turbidity caused by a localized mud boil erosion of a large clay bank. Before restoration, impaired water-quality from fine sediments may have adversely affected intolerant species of macroinvertebrates and their communities. This study compared macroinvertebrate assemblages from before (2011) and after (2014) restoration to determine if the restoration reduced concentrations of suspended sediment and turbidity sufficiently to improve the health of their macroinvertebrate communities. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) kick-sample methods were used to collect four replicate benthic invertebrate samples from Warner Creek and from a reference site on the Stony Clove Creek during August of 2011 and August of 2014. Four replicates of 100 specimens were identified to the family level from each replicate. The NYSDEC Bioassessment Profile scores and selected macroinvertebrate community metrics and turbidity and suspended sediment concentrations from a USGS stream gage downstream of the restoration both pre and post restoration were evaluated to test hypotheses that water quality and the health of macro-invertebrate assemblages differed post-restoration. Although some families at Warner Creek with low tolerance values were found to have increased post-restoration, it was also found that others with moderate tolerance values decreased. These types of fluctuations were seen in both years at both Warner Creek and the reference site, which makes it impossible to definitively say the impact restoration had on the macroinvertebrate assemblages one year post restoration. At this time it is obvious from the stream gage data that restoration significantly decreased turbidity and suspended sediment concentrations (SSC). Further collection of invertebrates and stream gage comparison is necessary to see if restoration does eventually impact the assemblage of invertebrates.    
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Major: Environmental Sciences
Year: 2015
File Attachments: Final Capstone.docx
Authors: Noel Deyette

Presence and Abundance of Microplastics within Flowing Waters of Private, Wilderness, and Other Forest Preserve Lands of the Northern Adirondack Park

Mon, 04/28/2014 - 16:26
Abstract: Microplastic sampling was conducted at thirteen locations throughout the water bodies of the Northern Adirondack Region. Plastics were found at all thirteen sites, which were categorized by the impact level of human development. Any particle less than 5mm can be defined as a microplastic particle. Microscopic plastics can be found in a variety of chemical cleaners, clothing fabrics, and concrete solutions. Storm water drainage systems and wastewater treatment plants are confirmed sources of microplastic pollution, which carry pollutants into our rivers, lakes, and streams. Ingestion of microplastic particles can lead to many distinctive threats, including biological and physical abnormalities, while possibly leading to bioaccumulation and biomagnification throughout the food web. Future practices for management and prevention of microplastic pollutants in the Adirondacks is critical for environmental protection, while also portraying a worldly view of an overlooked human induced issue.
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Major: Environmental Sciences, Natural Resources Management and Policy
Year: 2014
Authors: Patrick Colern, Sinjin Larson

Evaluating the Recovery of Lakes from Acid Deposition in the Adirondack Park

Mon, 12/02/2013 - 22:49
Abstract: Acid rain has been an environmental problem since the 1980’s and has been a core issue in the Adirondack Park located in the northern part of New York State. Acid rain is created by acidic gases from anthropogenic uses that mix in the atmosphere with precipitation and forms acid deposition. Acid Rain lowers the pH of water which has detrimental effects on the biota living within lakes. There is a general consensus that the chemistry of lake water is recovering from acid deposition, however, there have not been sufficient studies on the state of recovery from acid rain in the Adirondack Park or much of the United States. This study will investigate if lake recovery is indeed happening in the Adirondack Park. This study analyzed the water chemistry of lakes using data collected from the Adirondack Lake Survey Corporation (ALSC) and New York State Department of Conservation (DEC). The object of this study is to find a trend in the water chemistry and combine it with DEC data to evaluate the present condition of lakes within the park. The results showed that there are not significant correlations of the data besides SO42- concentrations, which have been approving in the park in the last 20 years.
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Major: Environmental Sciences
Year: 2013
File Attachments: The Author has selected not to publish this complete work.
Authors: Timothy Grossman, Ryan Kish

Alternative Management Methods for Acid Deposition in Lakes

Fri, 04/26/2013 - 18:09
Abstract: Acid deposition has been causing the acidification of lakes in the Northeast United States for decades. The result is lake ecosystems with abnormally low pH that stresses the organisms that live there. Management plans in place in the Adirondack Park have been working to remediate acidified lakes for the past few decades. Limestone (CaCO3) has been the generally accepted method for managing these lakes, in an attempt restore the lakes pre-impacted conditions. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the effectiveness of liming in reversing the effects of acidification, and to identify effective alternatives. Five alternatives were tested against limestone: Sodium carbonate (Na2CO3), Sodium bicarbonate (NaHCO3), Sodium acetate (CH3COONa), Magnesium carbonate (MgCO3), and Potassium carbonate (K2CO3). Double End-Point Titration tests were performed on all of the compounds, using both distilled water and lake water, to determine the relative alkalinity of each compound. Alkalinity is the measure of the ability of a solution to neutralize acid, also known as its "buffering capacity." Lake water was used in the titration tests in an attempt to mimic in-situ testing. The results of the titrations showed limestone proving to be the most effective in the lake water tests, with Magnesium carbonate and Potassium carbonate ranked closely behind. While limestone has proven to be an effective management method, its reliability is dependent upon the characteristics of the lake catchment, making it important to continue to look for alternative solutions.
Access: Yes
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Major: Environmental Sciences
Year: 2013
Authors: Derek Scott

Soil and Vegetation Characteristics of High Elevation Wetlands in the Adirondack Park

Mon, 12/03/2012 - 17:14
Abstract: Wetland ecosystems are finally being understood for their true importance. Wetlands in the past were misunderstood and thought to be disease carrying burdens on our way of life; however this mentality changed during the mid-19thcentury. These ecosystems are important for biodiversity and act as natural water purification systems. This study was undertaken to help understand, the high elevation wetland characteristics. Our goals were to analyze the soils and describe the vegetation in high elevation wetlands. The soil and vegetative surveys helped define the characteristics of these ecosystems and create a better understanding of them. The combination of vegetation species that are wetland indicators were found in each site, the soil pH, and nutrients show that each site had signs of being a wetland community.
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Major: Environmental Sciences, Forestry
Year: 2012
File Attachments: FINAL Capstone Report.doc
Authors: Brandon Ploss, Sean Ayotte

A MULTI-SCALE EVALUATION OF THE EFFECTS OF FOREST HARVESTING FOR WOODY BIOFUELS ON MAMMALIAN COMMUNITIES IN A NORTHERN HARDWOOD FOREST

Fri, 02/01/2013 - 16:19
Abstract: Forest harvesting and subsequent effects on forest structure have been shown to influence mammalian community assemblages and the abundance of individual species, however less attention has been paid to the implications of how harvested timber is used. This is particularly relevant in the Northern Forest, where a considerable portion of the forest harvesting is used to produce biofuels. Biofuels harvesting typically involves the process of whole-tree chipping which may lead to a dramatic reduction in the amount of woody material in the form of slash and coarse woody debris (CWD) left in harvested stands. The goal of our study was to assess the effects of biofuels harvesting on forest structure and subsequent effects on mammalian community structure and abundance. To address this goal, we focused on a ~35 Ha area of partially-harvested northern hardwood forest in the northern Adirondacks, New York. To sample mammals we used a combination of Sherman traps and track plates established at two scales across stands within this area. Our results showed that the response of small mammals to changes in forest structure is both species and scale specific. At the individual trap scale, CWD, slash, and understory cover were important drivers of the occurrence of individual species of small mammals. At the larger “grid” scale, small mammal relative abundance was driven by canopy cover and the density of woody stems. Our results indicate that the current harvesting practices used for biofuel production in the Adirondacks are unlikely to result in declines in abundance of common small mammal species. However, the retention of some slash post-harvest may be beneficial to some species, thus foresters may want to include slash retention when developing silvicultural prescriptions.
Access: Yes
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Major: Environmental Sciences, Fisheries and Wildlife Science, Natural Resources Management and Policy
Year: 2012
Authors: Cody Laxton, Alisha Benack, Danielle Ball, Scott Collins, Sam Forlenza, Richard Franke, Stephanie Korzec, Alec Judge, Connor Langevin, Jonathan Vimislik, Elena Zito