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Capstone Projects

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

Comparison of Fine and Coarse Organic Matter Among Levels of Shoreline Impact: Implications for Ecological Restoration

Mon, 05/01/2017 - 15:24
Abstract: Human lake shoreline development has been shown to have impacts on the dynamics of the lakeshore. Such dynamics include the riparian and littoral zones interactions; the complexity, abundance, and residence time of large woody debris; organic matter/detritus, and food webs for fish, birds, and macroinvertebrates. Understanding such dynamics, and the impacts of human development, are important when attempting to restore the shoreline through the process of ecological restoration. The objectives of the study were, (1) to compare the amount of organic matter (smaller than sticks, branches, logs, and trees) among three levels of impact (impacted, minimally impacted, and benchmark), (2) to compare the amounts of CPOM and FPOM among the three levels of impact. The field data was collected using a modified design of sediment corer. A total of 63 samples were taken and the results clearly showed that the reference (benchmark) site had a much higher accumulation of organic sediment along the shoreline. Also, the data analysis also showed that there was virtually no measurable FPOM among the impacted and minimally impacted sites, but among the references sites it was more abundant than CPOM, which was opposite from the impacted and minimally impacted sites.
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Major: Environmental Sciences
Year: 2017
File Attachments: Final_Morrill.docx
Authors: John Morrill

A Comparison of Leaf Litter in the Aquatic, Terrestrial, and Transitional Zones among Impacted, Minimally Impacted, and Benchmark Conditions of the Shorelines of the Lower St. Regis Lake and Black Pond

Mon, 05/01/2017 - 17:55
Abstract: Human development of shorelines impacts structure and functionality of the shoreline’s ecosystems. Ecological restoration projects can be used to rectify this impact, but first data must be collected to determine the extent of impact human development has had on the shoreline. The objective of this study was to compare the biomass (wet and dry weights) of deciduous and coniferous leaf litter among impacted, minimally impacted, and benchmark shorelines and between terrestrial and aquatic zones. Data was collected among the three impact levels on the Paul Smith’s College property along the shores of Lower St. Regis Lake (impacted and minimally impacted) and Black Pond (benchmark). Deciduous and coniferous leaf litter was collected in the aquatic and terrestrial zones of the shoreline and among the three impact levels using 0.7 m2 terrestrial and 0.25 m2 aquatic quadrats, and then compared using nonparametric statistical tests to determine differences among impact levels and between zones. The results of this study revealed that the relationship between deciduous and coniferous leaf litter was more nuanced than expected. The study supported the current body of scientific knowledge in that shoreline development decreases the overall amount of leaf litter accumulated in the shoreline of lakes. However, should future studies on variation between deciduous and coniferous leaf litter be conducted, the criteria for impact levels should be expanded to ensure the sites used are more comparable in forest type.
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Major: Environmental Sciences
Year: 2017
Authors: Hannah Ashdown

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

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

Forest Structure and Composition in the Smitty Creek Watershed

Wed, 12/14/2016 - 09:56
Abstract: The 2016 Smitty Creek CFI (Continuous Forest Inventory) study addressed the issue of creating a reliable and repeatable inventory design to examine general forestry trends and their relationships with the watershed itself. Identifying these trends and their consequences is important when considering factors linked to climate change, such as carbon storage and allocation. The objective of this project were as follows: establish 10 new CFI plots, monitor and record for signs of disease and insects, tree mortality, and overstory wildlife habitat, accurately estimate forest carbon sequestration, record understory composition in a 1/50th acre area around each plot center, and suggest methods and reasons for application in Paul Smith’s College CFI capstone projects. The study was conducted within the Smitty Creek watershed in Paul Smiths, NY with the plots falling on a transect that runs north and south. At each plot, trees within the radius were assigned numbered aluminum tags, trees were measured at diameter at breast height, and other features, such as snags, were recorded. Upon completing the project, 10 CFI plots had been created and their locations were recorded, several diseases and forest health concerns were identified, as well as, tree mortality and wildlife habitat considerations, carbon sequestration for the watershed was modeled over the next century, and a CFI project was designed for the Paul Smith’s College land compartments. The Smitty Creek watershed CFI project is repeatable and has an accurate baseline of information for future studies, and the Paul Smith’s College land compartments CFI plot design is ready for implementation.
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Major: Environmental Sciences, Fisheries and Wildlife Science, Forestry
Year: 2016
Authors: Gregg Slezak, Leonard Johnson, William O'Reilly, Jake Weber, Charlie Ulrich, Collin Perkins McCraw, Jake Harm, Nick Georgelas

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