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Capstone Projects

Management Plan of White Shark (Carcharodon carcharias) Populations in Massachusetts (2019-2079)

Tue, 04/30/2019 - 09:15
Abstract: The Atlantic white shark (Carcharodon carcharias), hereafter known as white shark, is an understudied predatory species. The white shark is a species that is actively hunted for its jaws and fins. Not much natural history or basic information is known about the white shark. The goal of this management plan is to further understand the natural history of the white shark within the next 60 years. Objectives of this goal will be to carry out various surveys, and studies on the Atlantic white shark to understand habitat preferences, population sizes, fecundity, and food preferences. Actions will be to do mark-recapture studies, as well as aerial photo surveys. Another goal is to determine if the increasing gray seal population on the coast of Massachusetts is the main reason the populations of white sharks have increased in Massachusetts over the last 10 years. This will be done by taking the aerial surveys of populations of gray seals over a five-year study to determine if the population is increasing, decreasing, or stable. Then surveying the number of seals that are depredated on. It will also be determined by stomach contents if white sharks depredate any other species to determine if gray seals are the main food source for a white shark. Once the main food source is determined, researchers will be able to further manage the white shark. Outcomes of the management will be to understand the natural history of the Atlantic white shark and can more effectively manage for the population of white sharks in Massachusetts.
Access: Yes
Literary Rights: On
Major: Fisheries and Wildlife Science
Year: 2019
Authors: Bre-Ann Flouton Johnson

Thirty-year Wild Yak (Bos mutus) Management Plan for the Chang Tang Reserve, China

Tue, 04/30/2019 - 09:10
Abstract: Wild yaks (Bos mutus) are the largest of thirteen ungulate species existing on the Tibetan Plateau in China. They are non-selective grazers and ruminants, which allows them to travel in herds of up to thousands of individuals and survive on relatively low-quality forage. Conservation issues of primary concern include resource competition with domestic ungulates, hybridization, poaching, trading, and the potential impacts of climate change (i.e. lower average snowfall and longer ice-free period). The shifting climate allows pastoralists to establish permanent residences and keep larger livestock herds, which reduces available habitat for wild yaks. This management plan aims to restore wild yak populations within the Chang Tang Reserve to the 1995 estimate of 15,000 mature individuals to allow local subsistence culture to proceed. Objectives to reach this goal include increasing the population of annually fertile females by 50% in fifteen years, increasing connectivity between the Reserve and other fragmented portions of wild yaks’ distribution in China by 25% within ten years, and increasing landowner cooperation in wild yak conservation efforts by at least 75% within ten years. To increase the population of annually fertile females, at least five peer-reviewed articles focused on population dynamics and stage-based resource requirements will be published. These will require aerial surveys and fecal analyses. Furthermore, a mixture of optimally nutritious food plants will be planted in high elevation plots. Corridors with suitable habitat will be established between existing fragments to increase habitat connectivity. Surveying locals will help managers to identify uncertainties and to understand public awareness and perceptions of conservation need. Educational forums with supplementary materials will be provided to ensure locals are equipped to cooperate and to mitigate potential management issues, such as domestic-wildlife interaction. Locals of all ages will be provided education to establish positive perspectives of wild yaks and management practices, thus increasing cooperation. The management actions could increase yak populations above the Reserve’s carrying capacity (̴ 85,000) but allowing subsistence use will keep populations below this threshold.
Access: Yes
Literary Rights: On
Major: Fisheries and Wildlife Science
Year: 2019
File Attachments: ManagementPlan_WildYak.pdf
Authors: Audrey P. Emerson

Management Plan for Gopher Tortoise (Gopherus polyphemus) Populations in Georgia from 2019-2049

Sat, 04/27/2019 - 14:29
Abstract: Gopher tortoises (Gopherus polyphemus) are known for their elephantine hind feet and flattened, shovel-like forelimbs adapted for digging burrows. Burrows offer shelter from heat, fires, and predators, and serve as refugia for more than 350 other species including, the gopher frog (Lithobates capito), eastern diamondback rattlesnake (Crotalus adamanteus), burrowing owls (Athene cunicularia) and the endangered indigo snake (Drymarchon couperi). For this reason, gopher tortoises are considered a keystone species. Gopher tortoises are distributed throughout South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi in the southeastern United States. Gopher tortoises are commonly found in upland habitats with well-drained sandy soils and diverse groundcover lacking understory hardwoods. Their diet consists of grass-like herbaceous plants, fruits and flowers such as prickly pear cactus (Opuntia), wild grape (Vitis vinifera), legumes (Fabaceae), dandelions (Taraxacum), and grass-leaved golden asters (Chrysopsis graminifolia). Ecological concerns threatening gopher tortoise populations include deforestation, habitat fragmentation, and disease. Sociocultural and economic threats to gopher tortoises include human consumption, illegal pet trade and habitat development. All these issues have been documented in Florida, where most research for this species has been conducted. The scope of this management plan focuses in Georgia where these threats are relevant and create concerns to gopher tortoise populations. The goal of this management plan is to increase and stabilize gopher tortoise populations in Georgia from 2019-2049. Objectives of this goal include: increase adult gopher tortoise survivorship by 6% in thirty years, increase gopher tortoise hatchling survivorship by 10% in thirty years and increase and preserve gopher tortoise habitat, by 20% in twenty years throughout the state of Georgia. Actions focus on promoting the increased survivorship of hatchling and adult gopher tortoises, and increasing habitat needed for their survival. Emphasis is placed on reducing adult road mortality, anthropogenic transmission of upper-respiratory tract disease (URTD), nest protection, implementing headstarting programs to reduce hatchling predation, and using conservation easements and periodic fire to increase longleaf pine habitat. If gopher tortoise populations continue to decline the ecosystem in which they inhabit will collapse due to their role as a keystone species. With proper management this species can have stable and sizable populations for the state of Georgia.
Access: Yes
Literary Rights: On
Major: Fisheries and Wildlife Science
Year: 2019
Authors: Courtney Cronk

Lower St. Regis Lake Survey: A Comparative Study of Fish Population Structure and Function over Time

Thu, 12/13/2018 - 14:24
Abstract: Lake surveys are performed on bodies of water to provide a health analysis of fish populations over time. Lake surveys can be conducted in a variety of ways to attain specific data. Lower St. Regis Lake was surveyed to determine the fish community composition and to understand fish population traits. Using fyke nets placed at six predetermined locations for 24 hours, as well as fishing, we collected data for age, length (mm), weight (g), and parasites present. Data was analyzed in the lab using Excel to form graphs and tables to demonstrate our findings. Catch rates were lower compared to years before and comparing our data to New York State Department of Conservation data found that our length-at-age data was lower for the six-species sampled. Pumpkinseed and yellow perch were the only two species to have over twenty fish sampled. Decreased air temperatures brought in by a cold front during the week of our sampling may have been a reason for our lower number of fish caught. Mesh size is also a bias while using these nets as smaller fish can escape, and predatory fish can prey on smaller fish while in the net. Some species of fish such as black crappie may be more susceptible to capture due to its habit of associating with structure.
Access: Yes
Literary Rights: Off
Major: Biology, Environmental Sciences, Environmental Studies, Fisheries and Wildlife Science, Natural Resources Conservation and Management
Year: 2018
File Attachments: Capstone_Final.docx
Authors: Deacon Chapin, Jared Chlus, Louis Daversa, Jon Herrman, Robert Visicaro

Effects of Silvicultural Treatments on Wildlife Communities at the Paul Smith's College Forest Research Demonstration Areas

Fri, 05/11/2018 - 16:15
Abstract: Logging has drastically altered North American forest ecosystems for centuries. While extensive studies have been done to determine the impacts of different silvicultural practices on plant communities, minimal research has evaluated the impacts on wildlife communities, particularly in the Adirondack Mountains. Silvicultural practices may significantly impact wildlife communities due to the disturbances it causes, as well as the way it alters the habitat. We monitored winter wildlife communities in the Forest Ecosystem Research Demonstration Area owned by Paul Smith’s College in the Northern Adirondack Park. By analyzing the data collected by trail cameras, tracks and measuring percent browse, we compared the abundance and diversity of wildlife in three silvicultural treatments (i.e., clearcut, group selection, control). We also collected data regarding the physical aspects of the silvicultural treatment plot (i.e. canopy cover and snow depth) to indicate the kind of available habitat. We found that despite there being the highest average relative activity in group selection, there is no significant relationship between average relative activity and harvest treatment type. Using the Shannon-Weiner Diversity Index, we found that the highest diversity was in control/reference. Due to our limited treatment sample size, we did not have conclusive findings in most areas of our study. However, the highest total tracks and relative activity were found in the clearcuts. We suggest that more research be done on this study in order to eventually make forest management plans that properly account for both plant and wildlife species.
Access: Yes
Literary Rights: On
Major: Biology, Environmental Sciences, Natural Resources Conservation and Management
Year: 2018
Authors: Jacob Adams, Caitlin De Bellis, Tyler Fisk, Hyla Howe, Mark McHugh, Daniel Sutch

A Comparison of Winter Wildlife Use of Minimally, Moderately and Highly Impacted Shorelines on Lower St. Regis Lake and Black Pond in the Adirondack Park, NY

Wed, 05/09/2018 - 10:51
Abstract: Continued development and human interference with freshwater shorelines creates a degraded environment and can negatively affect native wildlife along impacted areas. Throughout the Adirondack Park, shorelines have experienced substantial degradation with the development of lakeside summer homes. There tends to be a strong preference for the aesthetics that lakes offer, as well as the numerous recreational opportunities they provide. The increased human use of shorelines and the development of anthropogenic structures has directly resulted in the degradation of shorelines in the Adirondack Park. Likewise, the Paul Smith’s College shoreline along Lower St. Regis Lake has been subjected to degradation throughout the history of the campus. This highly impacted site was selected, alongside minimally and moderately impacted sites in the surrounding areas as representatives for different impact levels. Shoreline degradation includes a decline in the health and presence of natural vegetation, creating a decrease in available food source for native wildlife. The removal of natural vegetation creates a decline in shoreline stability with the removal of root systems, allowing for greater amounts of erosion to occur. Additionally, degradation decreases available canopy cover and increases exposure of wildlife to predation. The objective of this study was to determine the difference in wildlife activity and diversity between three levels of shoreline impacts: minimal, moderate, and high. It was expected that the minimally and moderately impacted shoreline sites would show a greater diversity and abundance of wildlife than highly impacted shorelines. Trail camera data was analyzed at three sites for each treatment on Paul Smith’s College property, along both the Lower St. Regis Lake and Black Pond. Although we detected no significant differences in either activity or diversity across the treatments, there was higher relative activity and diversity in moderately impacted shorelines than minimally or highly impacted. However, wildlife species that are more rare and/or area-sensitive, such as the fisher (Martes pennanti) and American marten (Martes americana), were only detected in the minimally impacted shorelines of Black Pond. A restoration of the highly impacted shoreline to reflect minimally and non-impacted shorelines of the surrounding region would allow for opportunities to improve habitat for native wildlife species.
Access: Yes
Literary Rights: Off
Major: Biology, Ecological Restoration, Environmental Sciences
Year: 2018
File Attachments: Shoreline Restoration
Authors: Tessa White, Caroline Matuck, Kasey Lane, Rosemary Bloodnick, Kyle Pasanen, Annalee Kraai

Assessing the Use of Backpack Electrofishing to Index Age-0 Fish Abundance in Woody Structure Adjacent to the Lakeshore

Fri, 12/14/2018 - 10:50
Abstract: The preservation and monitoring of age-0 fishes and their habitat is imperative to the overall health of a lake and its fishery. The effectiveness of backpack electrofishing at capturing age-0 fishes along shorelines with coarse woody structure was assessed by attempting to correlate electrofishing catch rates with known population sizes. A 60x2m controlled study area along the shoreline of Lower St. Regis lake was selected and blocked off through use of a net encompassing the perimeter. Known population sizes were stocked into the net and a three-pass electrofishing depletion was conducted within the study area. Results indicated that there was no significant correlation between the known population size and the population estimate generated through electrofishing (p = 0.172). The lack of correlation may have been due to failure of the block net encompassing the study area.
Access: Yes
Literary Rights: On
Major: Fisheries and Wildlife Science
Year: 2018
File Attachments: Full Report
Authors: Justin Rozema

Minnow Abundance in Heron Marsh: Spatial Variation, the Status of the Non-Native Fathead Minnow, and Hybridized Redbelly and Finescale Dace

Fri, 12/14/2018 - 09:27
Abstract: Due to their distinct influence on surrounding ecosystems and food web dynamics, minnow populations have been monitored in Heron Marsh, in the northern Adirondacks in New York, since fall of 2012. This study documented the presence of species known to predate on minnows, the hybridization between redbelly dace (Chrosomus eos) and finescale dace (Phoxinus neogaeus), and the presence of the recently documented fathead minnow (Pimephales prometas). To survey piscivores, two fyke nets were set around the marsh for one trap night. The fishes were then identified and measured. The collection of predators is part of a preliminary study to document the presence of predator fish species within Heron Marsh. Minnow data was collected via minnow traps set at long term study sites and one new site. The traps were set over night and collected the following day. The minnows were identified and measured to the nearest mm. When analyzing the data collected in the field, the data from previous years was compared to this years data. The findings indicate that hybrids of redbelly and finescale dace can be observed only at sites where both parent species exist. This 2018 study was the first one to document hybrid species though they have been observed in past years. The status of the fathead minnow is not significantly different from findings from 2017 however, their populations are noticeably smaller than previous years. Predator composition was primarily brown bullhead (Ameiurus nebulosus) and creek chub (Semtilus atromaculatus).
Access: Yes
Literary Rights: Off
Major: Fisheries and Wildlife Science
Year: 2018
Authors: Sarah LaLumiere and Patrick Nicholson

A USE VERSUS AVAILABILITY DIET STUDY OF AGE-0 FISHES IN NEAR SHORE WOODY STRUCTURE

Thu, 12/13/2018 - 14:09
Abstract: In 2014, the need for an ecological restoration program began at Paul Smiths College in attempt to restore or improve the shoreline along Lower St. Regis Lake. When restoring a shoreline, one must look at what organisms are using the area and how they are doing it. Invertebrates and fishes play a large role in distinguishing problems or changes in an environment, so we sampled both to add useful knowledge to the restoration program. Specifically, we looked to see if fishes were selecting for specific invertebrates (food), or if they did not have a preference. We used a backpack electrofishing unit to sample young of the year fishes near shore along three 60-meter segments, and a 100-foot bag seine to collect fishes offshore along the same segments. Invertebrates were sampled along the same segments and was done so by picking up all coarse woody debris and brushing the pieces off with our hands into a sieve bucket. Woody debris too large to pick up were scraped underwater using a standard kick net. Invertebrates were identified to order level, and fish stomach contents were also identified to the order so that we could conduct a comparison. After using a Chi Square test, we found that according to our p-value (0.2796) fishes were not selecting against any individual taxonomic group. Smallmouth bass were also the dominant present species along nearshore woody debris which could either suggest a higher recruitment than other species, a preference of use by the smallmouth bass, or human introduced capturing bias. Although we can’t indefinitely say fishes were selecting for Dipterans, data shows that dipterans made up just 4.5% of the total invertebrate composition on CWD but made up 9% of the fishes’ stomach contents suggesting fishes may be selecting for them.
Access: Yes
Literary Rights: Off
Major: Fisheries and Wildlife Science
Year: 2018
File Attachments: CompletedCapstone.docx
Authors: Adrian Forbes, Alexander Frank, Matthew D Simpson

Special Topic: An Investigation of Long Term Monitoring of Fishes in Two Aquatic Ecosystems

Fri, 05/11/2018 - 10:06
Abstract: Lower St. Regis Lake Abstract Long-term ecological research is important in understanding how fish communities change over time. The objective of this study was to determine how fish communities in Lower St. Regis Lake have changed. From 2004 - 2017 fisheries students at Paul Smith’s College have conducted lake surveys on Lower St. Regis Lake using standardized sampling protocols. This study showed shifts in fish community composition, changes in size structure, and variable body condition. As Lower St. Regis Lake changes, continued long-term ecological research will provide an opportunity for students monitor and study factors that may be effecting fish populations and communities. Smitty Creek Abstract Long term ecological monitoring of streams provides an effective means to evaluate changing habitat conditions on fish population dynamics. Our objective was to use long-term data from four tributaries in Smitty Creek Watershed to explore the relationship of age-0 brook trout densities to regional weather conditions. Catch data of age 0 brook trout was collected during the fall from 2004 to 2017. Average monthly precipitation and temperature data was taken from the Lake Clear regional weather station. Of four streams, Little Aldo showed correlation of age-0 brook trout with the precipitation and temperature data. Future work should include improved instrumentation within the reaches and the use of site-specific data.
Access: Yes
Literary Rights: On
Major: Fisheries and Wildlife Science
Year: 2018
File Attachments: Final Capstone West St. Cyr
Authors: Taylor West, Joe St. Cyr