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Capstone Projects

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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Major: Environmental Studies
Year: 2016
Authors: Dominic Rickicki

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

Best Management Practices for Cultivating Cold-Weather Shiitake Strains in the Adirondack North Country

Fri, 05/01/2015 - 09:55
Abstract: Shiitake (Lentinula edodes) cultivation has become an important tool for private woodlot owners to diversify their income and manage their woodlots more efficiently and sustainably. Through the art and science of mushroom cultivation three strains of shiitake have been created for varying climates: Wide Range (WR), Warm Weather (WW), and Cold Weather (CW). This study proposes that CW strains would be most ideal for the Adirondack North Country because growing conditions now and in the future are nearly optimal. CW strains have a shorter fruiting period (spring and fall) than the WR and WW; therefore, the mushroom production potential of the CW is underutilized. In order to get maximum production of their logs, most growers use a method called shocking to induce fruiting with WR and WW; however, research has shown that shocking does not trigger fruiting in the CW strains; rather, CW strains respond to temperature fluctuations. Taking this into account, we’ve introduced a hybrid approach of growing CW shiitake, which combines outdoor and indoor cultivation techniques to best imitate that temperature fluctuation. Growing CW shiitake using a hybrid approach can be the best choice for small-scale growers who wish to extend their growing season into the winter months, thus opening new market opportunities. By conducting interviews with shiitake growers in similar climates and compiling and analyzing literature from other professionals, we have gathered data on log harvesting, laying yard conditions, moisture management, and lighting conditions and developed a best management practices guide for small-scale shiitake grower/woodlot owners in a northern Adirondack climate. Ultimately, growers could diversify their sources of income, provide incentive to manage their woodlots and most importantly learn how to effectively utilize CW strains through the winter months.
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Major: Environmental Studies, Forestry
Year: 2015
Authors: Brittney E. Bell, Evan M. White

Management of the Invasive Species; a recommendation to the Paul Smith's College VIC

Wed, 05/06/2015 - 08:10
Abstract: This research looks at invasive species that are harming the Adirondack region. By examining both invasive species on land and water we can make connections to what the problematic issues are. By understanding the species, information can be gathered to educate the public on what to look for and how to prevent the species from spreading. Paul Smith’s College VIC is looking for new ideas to incorporate for both the campus and local community. The focus of this project is to look at what the VIC has done in the past, present and future in terms of education and programs. Creating a new program and addressing an environmental issue are two key components that we hope to make the VIC a stronger addition to the area.
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Major: Environmental Studies
Year: 2015
File Attachments: Invasive Species.docx
Authors: Cari Brazie

The Effects on Soil Caused by Garlic Mustard (Alliaria petiolata) in a Northern Hardwood Forest in the Northern Adirondack Mountains

Mon, 12/02/2013 - 10:54
Abstract: Plant invasions are thought to be among the worst causes of biological extinction and biodiversity loss in the modern world. With the United States spending upward of thirty four million dollars a year in attempts to control and repair the damages caused by invasive plants, not only are we feeling the biological effects, but we financially cannot afford to keep combating these invasive species (Barto and Cipollini, 2009). Garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata) can invade multiple types of sites whether the soil is sandy or if a site has been disturbed. This invasive species will take over the understory and alter soil chemistry (Morris, McClain, Anderson and McConnaughay, 2012). This study aimed to look at how garlic mustard is affecting soils in the northern Adirondack Mountains in New York State. Although currently scattered and not very prevalent, there have already been changes to the soil chemistry. This study was conducted by setting up multiple plots within areas where garlic mustard was present and gathering soil to be used to test for nutrient values. It was found in this study that calcium, phosphorous, magnesium, potassium, sodium, aluminum and soil pH values changed due to the presence of garlic mustard.
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Major: Biology, Forestry
Year: 2013
File Attachments: Capstone Final.docx
Authors: Kyle Dash

A Paleolimnological study of precipitation variability in the Adirondacks over the last thousand years

Mon, 12/02/2013 - 20:40
Abstract: At present, most regional climate models anticipate wetter conditions by the end of this century, but a few models anticipate drier conditions. This study uses foresight to test these models, as well as describe the relationship between the dominant climate system in the region and past precipitation in the Adirondacks. Precipitation was inferred from diatom assemblages observed along a lake sediment core extending into the 1000 years. This study shows that abrupt, extreme wet events were common during the last 1000 years, and a relationship between the dominant climate system (North Atlantic Oscillation) and precipitation was irregular during the cool Little Ice Age but negatively associated during the warm Medieval Climate Anomaly. With temperatures in the Northeast projected to increase by 2-5 degrees C by 2100 AD, our study suggests the region may become more arid rather than wetter, opposite of what models currently suggest.
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Major: Biology, Environmental Sciences
Year: 2013
File Attachments: regalado.serwatka.docx
Authors: Sean A. Regalado, W. Martin Serwatka

Tardigrade Abundance in Green Shield Lichens on Different Tree Species

Wed, 04/24/2013 - 18:43
Abstract: Many studies have been done on tardigrades, a microscopic, aquatic organism that feeds on plant cell fluid, bacteria, algae, protozoa, and other small invertebrates. Most of these studies have addressed their ability to survive extreme environments and not their preferred living habitats. Virtually no studies have been done investigating the ecology of tardigrades. This study focuses on which species of tardigrade live on a species of lichen (Common Greenshield Lichen, Flavoparmelia caperata) found on three species of trees; Red Maple (Acer rubrum), Black Cherry (Prunus serotina), and White Pine (Pinus strobus). Five trees of each species were chosen and five samples of the Common Greenshield Lichen were taken from all 25 trees during each of the fall and winter seasons. From every lichen sample processed, five slides were looked at, each containing two drops of the water that the lichen was suspended in for 2 hours. The samples were looked at underneath a compound microscope and a dichotomous key was used to identify tardigrades that were found. Due to the fact that liquid water is less available in winter, samples were taken during the fall and winter to look at the differences in species diversity and abundance. The greatest abundance of tardigrades was found on Red Maple, during both fall and winter. Black Cherry had the lowest abundance of tardigrades during both fall and winter. White Pine had an abundance less than that of Red Maple but greater than that of the Black Cherry. There were more tardigrades found on the lichen in fall than in winter. This implies that they find Red Maple a more suitable habitat than the Black Cherry and White Pine, may be related to acidity of the Black Cherry and White Pine being greater than that of Red Maple. Throughfall and stemflow on the trees may also contribute to habitat preference of the tardigrades.
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Major: Biology
Year: 2013
File Attachments: Capstone Report.docx
Authors: Heather Cooner

New York State Feral Hog (Sus scrofa) Management Plan: Species Eradication and Public Education

Thu, 04/25/2013 - 11:22
Abstract: Feral hogs, also referred to as feral swine, Eurasian or Russian wild boar, and wild pigs, are the same species Sus scofa. They are an aggressive invasive species introduced to the United States in the 1500s and have spread over most of the country in the last few decades (Gipson et al. 1998). Due to their unique life history feral hogs are a persevering ungulate species capable of causing extensive economical and ecological damage while causing a threat to human health and safety. They are considered one of the world’s worst invasive species (Lowe et al. 2000). Extinction of native species and loss of biodiversity due to this widely invasive species has been documented worldwide (Wolf and Conover 2003). This management plan describes the life history of feral hogs, the need for management in New York State, several action plans to address the need for management, and assessment protocol for each action plan. Also included in this plan is a grant request to fund the educational objectives in order to achieve more awareness and cooperation with the public, promoting higher probability of management success.
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Major: Biology
Year: 2013
File Attachments: Feral Hog Management Plan
Authors: William Schmieder Jr.

No Known Antidote: Quantification of a deadly toxin, tetrodotoxin, in red efts (Notopthalamus viridescens; Rafinesgue, 1820)

Mon, 04/29/2013 - 17:42
Abstract: Tetrodotoxin (TTX) in found in taxa worldwide including the eft life stage of the eastern newt (Notopthalamus virisdescens). Previous studies have shown that there is variability of TTX concentrations within efts and newts, and it is not known if the presence of TTX in these efts is common among populations. Our objective was to determine the distribution of TTX within the body N. viridescens efts. We hypothesized that the skin would have the highest concentrations of TTX as it is the area of the body that will likely come into contact with a predator. If certain regions of the skin come into contact with a predator more often than others, there may be significant differences in the dorsal, abdominal and pectoral regions of skin. Further, we hypothesized that the ova would have the second highest concentration of TTX as they are vital to reproduction yet vulnerable to predation. Through HPLC analysis we determined the concentrations of TTX within different tissues of N. viridescens efts including the: dorsal, pectoral, and abdominal skin; ovaries; testes; liver; pancreas; and alimentary canal. The concentrations of TTX between the different tissue types are not significantly different, nor were individuals significantly different in concentration of TTX from one another. Toxicity levels were high in comparison to other N. viridescens efts and more similar to the toxicity of highly toxic Taricha newts. The high toxicity of N. viridescens could be contributed to strong predation pressure by the slightly resistant garter snake (Thamnopsis sirtalis) and eastern hognose snake (Heterodon platirhinos).
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Major: Biology
Year: 2013
Authors: Kimberly M. Forrest