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Capstone Projects

Creating a Reliable Surveying Network: Does Adding New Survey Control Points to Paul Smith’s College Campus Enhance its Current Network?

Tue, 12/05/2017 - 18:48
Abstract: The goal of the project was to improve the current geometry of the Paul Smith’s College surveying network. Four new survey control points were added to the current network allowing for new connectivity to old control points. Previously, there was a Westside network and an Eastside network that were not connected and by connecting these two networks, it has expanded the current network further into the campus. Two different methods were used to help identify the new network. A traditional survey method, a closed traverse, was used to connect the old control points to the new control points by utilizing a Nikon DTM-352 series total station. A X90 OPUS GPS unit was used to connect the new control points into a geodetic network. After the data was collected a least squares adjustment was done to the closed traverse to correct for error within the traverse. The GPS data was processed by Topcon Tools utilizing a Continuously Operating Reference System (CORS) to obtain a better level of accuracy for the network it produced. The two different techniques used produced different results in the overall survey networks and supplied different coordinates than what has been previously used by students at the college. These results gained from the project are not of a consistent level of precision and are not recommended for use without conducting more closed traverses to increase precision within the network.
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Major: Forestry, Natural Resources Management and Policy, Surveying Technology
Year: 2017
Authors: Frederick C. Petzoldt, Michael S. Thompson

The Application of Silvicultural Treatments to Establish and Maintain Early Successional Habitat in the Adirondack Forests of New York State

Sat, 04/29/2017 - 15:12
Abstract: Early successional habitat (ESH) in New York state can be described as young forests comprising trees, shrubs, grasses, and other herbaceous plants that form relatively open canopies with dense understories. ESH has decreased due to nearly ninety percent of the naturally occurring shrublands of North America having been destroyed. The destruction of this habitat is of top concern due to the threatened and endangered species whom rely on these sorts of habitats to thrive. Considering the future climate projections, population models, and theoretical species distribution, responsible stewardship is needed to manage in favor of ESH types. A meta-analysis of various journals and databases was performed to synthesize information into a general management plan for establishing ESH in the Adirondacks. Through combining methods and silvicultural management practices from past plans in the northeastern United States, as well as background knowledge of the area, this management plan has been tailored specifically for an Adirondack forest. These outlined silvicultural treatments may also be extended to a variety of other forest types in the eastern U.S.A. Re-establishing young forests throughout the region is the goal of this plan. In doing so, these practices will enhance the health, resiliency, and biodiversity of the Adirondack region, and New York State by creating critical ESH which the fauna and flora of this region depend upon.
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Literary Rights: On
Major: Integrative Studies, Natural Resources Management and Policy
Year: 2017
Authors: Nicole Morin, Ryan Baker, Ora Bice

Wildfire Probability of Paul Smith’s College Lands

Tue, 12/05/2017 - 13:07
Abstract: For centuries, wildfires have been seen as devastating natural disasters burning homes, property and forests. For many years, man has tried to fight these fires to mitigate the damage that they do. In recent years, climate change has increased both the number of fires and the intensity at which they burn. We have developed a GIS model that incorporates factors such as slope, aspect, and land cover to determine what areas of Paul Smith’s College lands are prone to wildfires. Our goal was to find areas within the Paul Smiths College land that have a high probability for an intense wildland fire. We gathered our GIS data from online resources such as Cugir, NYS Clearing House and Earth Explorer. We then reclassified each of the data layers based on criteria determined from other scholarly papers to then use that criteria to develop our model. After running the model, we found twenty-two areas of interest also known as hot spots. We then proceeded to check five of the twenty-two hot spot areas to double-check that the characteristics that our model depicted were true hazardous areas.
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Literary Rights: On
Major: Natural Resources Management and Policy
Year: 2017
File Attachments: CapstonePaper.pdf
Authors: Michael Sweet , Joey Morris

Tiny houses for families

Tue, 05/02/2017 - 20:54
Abstract: Houses have changed in size and style over the centuries. We looked at tiny houses and research the economic and social benefits and issues with raising a family in a tiny house. We limited the family to four and made our house 800 square feet. We looked at case studies of families who are currently raising a family in a tiny home to find out what they say their problems may be. We found many unexpected benefits in our research. Many families believe that aside from the economic benefits, raising a family in a tiny home forces the family to be close and to communicate with each other. We interviewed a contractor, Harry Gordon, who gave us information in the building of sustainable housing. There was also a survey we conducted from the Paul Smith’s Community. The survey gave us data on the amount of people who were willing to raise a family in a tiny home. In our results, we found that for those willing to try to raise a family in a tiny house, it is very feasible.
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Major: Natural Resources Management and Policy, Natural Resources Sustainability Studies
Year: 2017
Authors: Kimberly Yager, Sandra Esparza

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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Literary Rights: Off
Major: Biology
Year: 2016
File Attachments: Capstone Paper.docx
Authors: Erik Yankowsky

Turning Points and the Ecological Conscience

Mon, 04/25/2016 - 08:15
Abstract: We live in a time when environmental crises seem to be overwhelming: global climate change, water crises, and mass extinctions, to name a few. Some people seek out ways to address environmental problems, while others remain ignorant or deny the existence of serious issues. Aldo Leopold’s land ethic calls those who help, people who feel “the stirring of an ecological conscience.” Many studies have looked at the psychology of environmentalism and the factors that instill an environmental ethic. Some studies look at early childhood, others at significant turning point events. Many factors foster an ecological conscience among people. I was interested in how the “stirring of an ecological conscience” was instilled in our own community here at Paul Smith’s College. The faculty and students all have a story to tell about what led them here and this project explored that. The sample studied here found that among faculty and students, experiences from childhood played a significant role in the development of an ecological conscience. These experiences most often influenced the path of each participants life journey. These findings provide us with information on ways we can look to help instill the ecological conscience in others, through education and daily life.
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Literary Rights: Off
Major: Environmental Studies
Year: 2016
Authors: Dominic Rickicki

An examination of sustainable agricultural practices of small scale dairy farms in the Adirondack North Country of Upstate New York

Mon, 05/01/2017 - 09:14
Abstract: This study examines the sustainable practices of small scale dairy farms in the Adirondack North Country of Upstate New York. The results of this study can assist farmers in developing and implementing sustainable agriculture practices specific for small scale dairy farms in the North Country. Methods for research include farm tours as well as in person interviews with the farmers which will provide an understanding of what farming practices are currently being implemented as well as identifying what potential practices may be implemented. The information that is gathered can also be helpful with legislative processes. It may provide law makers and various agencies with valuable information that can help create guidelines and regulations that support sustainable farming methods as well as assist farmers in understanding their challenges and successes in reaching both economic and environmental sustainability
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Literary Rights: Off
Major: Natural Resources Management and Policy
Year: 2016
Authors: Steven Vincent

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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Literary Rights: On
Major: Biology
Year: 2015
File Attachments: Diatoms.docx
Authors: Eric Swiecki