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Capstone Projects

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

Rooted Education: learning from aquaponics

Sat, 04/30/2016 - 15:02
Abstract: Aquaponics is the integration of soil-less agriculture (hydroponics) within closed-loop aquaculture systems to reduce the toxic accumulation of nutrient waste from aquatic animals. Bacteria naturally establish to purify water by oxidizing the ammonia secreted by fish, which reduces the toxicity of effluent while creating a usable nitrogen source for plants. The conversion of ammonia and nitrite into nitrate by living bacteria communities is called a biological filter, or biofiltration (FAO 2014). Aquaponics would not be possible without biofiltration; the slightest amount of ammonia would be fatally toxic to fish, and plants wouldn't receive the nitrates they need to grow. There are unique opportunities offered by an aquaponics system to learn about ecological and human communities. 1.1. Aquaponics enables users to grow fish and agricultural plants with limited space and resource use (water, soil, and time). This enables an aquaponics user to invest less physical energy and time into expanding sustainable food resources for their household use. 1.2. A small aquaponics system could promote cultural values of self-sufficiency, energy consciousness, and connection to food systems. It could inspire individual efforts to produce food for one’s household, to build healthier and more resilient systems, and a greater appreciation for farming. Therefore, this project aims to actualize a mobile and functional aquaponics system for the educational benefit of the Paul Smith's College community. I will provide the background knowledge needed to maintain an aquaponics system, as well as describe the general concept of aquaponics design.
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Major: Environmental Sciences, Natural Resources Sustainability Studies
Year: 2016
File Attachments: The Author has selected not to publish this complete work.
Authors: Brian Jason Kohan

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

Would an underpass/tunnel on Keese Mills Road decrease the percentage of amphibian mortality due to road mortality?

Wed, 04/29/2015 - 18:09
Abstract: Road Mortality has had a huge impact on Amphibian populations worldwide. Several options are available to help maintain and preserve migrating populations across roadways. One method that is looked at during this study is underpass and fencing. In this study, I assessed the need for an underpass and if it could help reduce the amount of amphibian’s mortality by traffic and, if an underpass is necessary, properly predict a location. I also looked at if underpasses alone could reduce the mortality of amphibians. I constructed arrays and pitfall traps to simulate an underpass on Keese Mills Road at Paul Smiths and Santa Clara, Franklin County New York. I predicted that underpass would decrease the amount of amphibian being slayed. I also predicted that certain locations would have more usage then others. The results showed that there was no significant difference between the location of the sites and whether they would be used by the amphibians. The results also showed that there was no correlation between the species that were captured and the species that were killed.
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Major: Biology
Year: 2015
File Attachments: The Author has selected not to publish this complete work.
Authors: Jorge Velazquez

White-tailed Deer Browse Preference: A Comparative Study of the Catskill and Adirondack Mountain Regions, New York State

Tue, 05/05/2015 - 14:23
Abstract: Abundant white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) in New York State, United States, affect forest regeneration and stand composition through feeding (browse) pressure. White-tailed deer browse preference of six different hardwood tree species in two mountain ranges, the Catskill and Adirondack Mountains, within New York State were compared in order to determine the extent of browse selection by deer. There were no statistically different browse selection by white-tailed deer within the Catskills or Adirondack study area or between each study site. Visual analysis of the study areas after concluding the study revealed that red maple (Acer rubrum) was the preferred browse species at each study site.
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Major: Biology, Natural Resources Management and Policy
Year: 2015
File Attachments: Title, abstract, TOC , Report
Authors: John MacNaught, Blaine Kenyon, Mark Staats, Travis Boucher, Noah Finlayson-Gesten

The Effects of Varying Wavelengths of Light on Diatom Movement

Wed, 05/06/2015 - 16:18
Abstract: Diatoms were studied in order to determine in which wavelength of light they would be most active. It was surmised this knowledge would allow easier testing of future diatom movement hypotheses. This knowledge could, in turn, allow control over diatom movement in order to prevent or circumvent hazardous diatom blooms. Specimens were studied using a Parco scientific microscope in a dark room. They were studied both with and without cover slips to ensure the cover slips did not hinder movement. Sheets of high quality color transparency paper were laid over the microscope light, producing a single, strong color. In the end, the diatoms didn’t move at all, no matter the circumstances. The diatoms could have had no reason for movement or have been restricted by the small amount of water on the microscope slide due to the vast difference between the slide and the diatoms’ natural environment.
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Major: Biology
Year: 2015
File Attachments: Diatoms.docx
Authors: Eric Swiecki

Examination of Potentially Ectoparasite-driven Behavior in Burrowing Owls: Tests of Alternative Hypotheses

Thu, 05/07/2015 - 19:06
Abstract: Burrowing Owls (Athene cunicularia) and their nests harbor at least 39 species of arthropods from 21 different families. Among the ectoparasites on Burrowing Owls are fleas, which are primarily Pulex irritans (Family Pulicidae), the human flea. Fleas can number in the hundreds on individual Burrowing Owls. Thus, we hypothesized that flea infestation has shaped Burrowing Owl behavior to avoid the costs of ectoparasitism. As part of experiments using infrared trail cameras deployed at Burrowing Owl nests in southern Idaho ¬¬during 2012-2013, we noticed apparent sunning behavior in both adult and nestling Burrowing Owls. Camera images captured owls lying on the ground with wings outstretched and flat. We only observed this behavior during daylight hours, although cameras were active for 24 h/day. Sunbathing in birds is often associated with ectoparasite reduction, although sunning has not previously been examined in relation to flea infestation. During 2014 we conducted an experiment that included fumigating some nests with a flea removing insecticide and examined the prediction that sunbathing would occur more frequently in control nests where ectoparasites remained. As sunning was not during the coolest parts of the day, it did not appear to function for warming. Also, we ultimately found no difference in the frequency of sunning in fumigated and control nests, and there was no relationship between sunning and abundance of fleas on owls. Thus, the evidence is not consistent with the ectoparasite hypothesis, as owls sunned irrespective of flea load. We also evaluated the alternative hypotheses that sunning was related to thermoregulation, anting, drying or feather degrading bacteria. The first three we were able to reject, and the last will need future research.
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Major: Biology
Year: 2015
File Attachments: The Author has selected not to publish this complete work.
Authors: Skyler Wysocki

Analysis of common water sampling techniques used to assess lake trophic state

Sat, 12/05/2015 - 00:21
Abstract: Volunteer lake management programs (VLMPs) across the country employ different surface water sampling techniques to establish long-term trends in nutrient availability and trophic state. The three most common techniques are a surface grab (SG), 2m integrated tube sampler (IT), and a discrete sampler, such as a Van Dorn or Kemmerer bottle deployed to a depth of 1.5m (DD). These various sampling techniques vary not only in depth, but also in cost and ease of use. The objectives of my study are to 1) determine if there is a statistical difference in chlorophyll-a (chl-a) and total phosphorus (TP) concentration obtained between the three different sampling techniques, 2) determine if the treatment effect (sampling device) varies over time, 3) determine which method has the least amount of variability, and 4) determine if sampling technique ultimately influences trophic state classification. The study was conducted on Upper St. Regis Lake, Paul Smiths, New York. I collected 10 samples from the lake using the three different techniques during the months of June – August, 2015. I found a significant difference in chlorophyll-a concentration between sampling techniques during June and July, and during the month of July for TP. The three sampling techniques yielded similar variability for chlorophyll-a but significantly different variability for TP. Ultimately, the trophic status rating for Upper St. Regis was not effected by sampling technique. My study suggests that VLMP should utilize a SG or IT rather than a costly DD sampler.
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Literary Rights: On
Major: Environmental Sciences
Year: 2015
Authors: Hunter Favreau

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