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Capstone Projects

The Distribution of Northern Harriers (Circus cyaneus) in Northern New York State in Relation to the Availability of Habitat Types

Mon, 04/16/2012 - 18:55
Abstract: Northern Harriers (Circus cyaneus), a bird of prey species, are widely distributed throughout the United States generally at low densities. Harriers are found in New York State, although they are less common than in the Midwest. As the harrier is a species of concern in some regions, it is important to understand how land cover types can affect the distribution of Northern Harriers over time, within a given area. Specifically, this study investigated whether the distributions of Northern Harriers are dependent upon habitat type, and if the frequency of habitat types significantly affects the abundance of Northern Harriers. The area selected for this study includes the majority of New York State to the North and East of Watertown. This region was selected because data indicates that harrier populations have declined from 1980 to 2005. In addition, this region encompasses mountainous areas as well as lower, relatively flatter land outside of the Adirondacks which represents most of New York State. Remote Sensing and Geographic Information Systems were utilized to determine land cover types for the region. These land cover types were then combined with New York State Department of Environmental Conservation’s Breeding Bird Atlas survey blocks. Dominant cover types for each survey block were determined, and the region as a whole was compared to survey blocks within which harriers were present. This process was completed for the years 1984 and 2005, two years in which the Breeding Bird Atlas data were collected for New York State. By using Remote Sensing and GIS, a clearer understanding of the relationship between cover type frequency and harrier presence was possible. Results indicate that Northern Harriers are significantly selecting habitat from land cover types in a proportion different to that which is available. Land cover in this region has shifted throughout the time covered in this study. In addition, a trend of open habitat being chosen over closed canopy habitat is evident. Understanding harrier selection of land cover types can greatly affect management strategies, practices and funding, as the specie is listed as threatened in New York State. The results of this study support much of the available scientific literature on harriers, which state that harriers require a combination of open canopy habitats, including early successional habitat with low vegetative cover.
Access: Yes
Literary Rights: Off
Major: Forestry, Natural Resources Management and Policy
Year: 2012
Authors: Kelly Hoffman

Comparison of Skid Trail Soil and Adjacent Undisturbed Forest Soil Physical Properties Over a Chronosequence in Vermont

Mon, 04/16/2012 - 19:04
Abstract: The effects of harvesting on forest soil physical properties are visually noticeable on soils where equipment has operated. The effects of equipment passes on forest soils of the Northeastern United States are not well documented. Results from such investigations are less telling when the resilience of forest soils over time is not measured. In an attempt to provide insight, single equipment pass skid trails at two harvest sites (1991 and 2010) meeting similar criteria were sampled. Bulk density (BD), macroporosity, microporosity, total porosity, and strength of skid trial soils and adjacent undisturbed forest soils were measured at each site. The results showed a P-value of 0.019 between soil bulk density, time since harvest, and disturbance type. The 1991 site has resilient soil, as skid trial soil properties were not significantly different than the undisturbed soil properties 20 years later. At the 2010 site, skid trail soil properties were significantly different than undisturbed soil. The goal is that this study be used in conjunction with previous research to aid Northeastern forest managers in determining how to remove wood over successive treatments. The data suggests that soil physical properties are not permanently altered after single equipment passes at the two study sites.
Access: Yes
Literary Rights: Off
Major: Forestry
Year: 2012
File Attachments: Project 2nd Draft.docx
Authors: Steve Handfield, Daniel Kelting

Gauging Public Perception towards Visitor Impact as well as a Hypothetical Recreation Permit for the Adirondack State Park, New York

Mon, 04/16/2012 - 20:19
Abstract: Human impact upon natural resources can have negative environmental and social impacts. A questionnaire was given out at Marcy Dam to determine whether or not the public perceived negative impacts from visitor use, in particular mountain recreation areas. Participants were also questioned about a hypothetical permit which could introduce a new form of management within impacted areas. Surveys were then analyzed to see how the public had responded to heavily impacted areas and the idea of a recreation permit. Results were displayed in pie chart form to represent public perceptions and views. From the surveyed participants, it was discovered that the majority of people (85%), saw negative impacts in popular recreation areas. The majority of participants (64%), also expressed they would not be willing to accept a recreation permit for use in certain areas.
Access: Yes
Literary Rights: Off
Major: Forestry
Year: 2012
File Attachments: Capstone_Final Draft.docx
Authors: Kyle Leech

Effects of Snow on GPS Accuracy in Forest Environments

Wed, 04/18/2012 - 15:54
Abstract: Abstract Global Positioning Systems, or GPS, have become an indispensable aspect of modern life, used in everyday situations and is a vital component of many occupations, including forestry and natural resources. With increased GPS accuracy, a forester is able to better locate boundaries and geographic or cultural features beneath forest canopy, leading to increased productivity. In the terms of forestry practices, decreased accuracy can cause errors which could lead to financial or physical loss of resources. The goal of this study is to determine the effects of canopy snow on the accuracy of commercially available, recreation grade GPS units which are suitable for forestry use. The effect of snow on canopy closure was tested through the photographic examination of pre and post snow canopy conditions. GPS accuracy was determined by taking averaged GPS measurements alongside the photo measurements. These were points were compared to previously established coordinates derived from a survey traverse. The results showed that snow did affect the canopy closure of the test forest, yet any correlation between GPS accuracy and increased canopy closure was found to be inconclusive.
Access: Yes
Literary Rights: On
Major: Forestry
Year: 2012
File Attachments: Snyder2012.pdf
Authors: Rand J. Snyder