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Capstone Projects

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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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

Limnological Report of Marvin (Potters) Pond

Thu, 04/30/2015 - 09:51
Abstract: Long term data of limnological conditions is crucial to understand lentic freshwater ecosystems. Marvin (Potters) pond is a 2.04 hectare kettle pond located in Franklin County, New York in the Northern Adirondack Park. There have been numerous short studies of the pond over the past 30 years but the pond has never been intently monitored to date. The pond is assumed to be meromictic by the NYSDEC. The objectives of this study are to 1) calculate the morphometry of the pond and its watershed; 2) the determination of the trophic status of the pond; 3) to document the chemical composition of the pond, particularly as it relates to acidity and acid neutralizing capacity; 4) to document the annual dynamics of temperature and dissolved oxygen. Evidence from profile data on dissolved oxygen and total iron suggests that the pond is monomictic with the capability to be meromictic under certain climatic conditions. The mixing period of the pond occurred in the month of November. The morphometry of Marvin pond was found to have a conical cross sectional area and large depth for the surface area of the pond. The trophic state of Marvin pond was found to be eutrophic for chlorophyll-a and total phosphorus concentrations but mesotrophic for the secchi disk reading. The acidity of the pond was found to be high with a low buffering capacity.
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Major: Environmental Sciences
Year: 2015
Authors: Robert Frank

Trophic status of Lake Placid over the past 2740 + 30 years inferred by sub-fossil diatom analysis.

Thu, 04/30/2015 - 11:07
Abstract: The hypothesis of this study was that human activity in the Lake Placid watershed would cause changes in the lakes trophic status. Trophic status was inferred by changes in diatom assemblages over time. This analysis shows that an unusual increase in Asterionella and Tabellaria has occurred within the past 200 years. Both of these species are indicators of higher trophic status, so their increase in numbers indicates a recent increase in trophic status (Stager 2001, Rawson 1956, Stevenson et al, 1982). Loss on ignition tests were used to determine the organic content of samples from two cores. These tests showed that organic content has varied in the past, however changes observed in the upper 20 cm of the record for Lake Placid and Wolf Lake suggest that human activity impacted the lake. The data collected in this study supports the hypothesis that human settlement in the Lake Placid watershed has changed its trophic status.
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Major: Environmental Sciences
Year: 2015
Authors: Alex Garrigan-Piela

Effects of Reduced Turbidity and Suspended Sediment Concentrations on Macroinvertebrate Communities at a Restored Reach on Warner Creek

Fri, 05/01/2015 - 18:21
Abstract: A segment of Warner Creek, a tributary to the Stony Clove Creek in the Catskill Mountains of New York, was restored in 2013 to reduce concentrations of suspended sediment and turbidity caused by a localized mud boil erosion of a large clay bank. Before restoration, impaired water-quality from fine sediments may have adversely affected intolerant species of macroinvertebrates and their communities. This study compared macroinvertebrate assemblages from before (2011) and after (2014) restoration to determine if the restoration reduced concentrations of suspended sediment and turbidity sufficiently to improve the health of their macroinvertebrate communities. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) kick-sample methods were used to collect four replicate benthic invertebrate samples from Warner Creek and from a reference site on the Stony Clove Creek during August of 2011 and August of 2014. Four replicates of 100 specimens were identified to the family level from each replicate. The NYSDEC Bioassessment Profile scores and selected macroinvertebrate community metrics and turbidity and suspended sediment concentrations from a USGS stream gage downstream of the restoration both pre and post restoration were evaluated to test hypotheses that water quality and the health of macro-invertebrate assemblages differed post-restoration. Although some families at Warner Creek with low tolerance values were found to have increased post-restoration, it was also found that others with moderate tolerance values decreased. These types of fluctuations were seen in both years at both Warner Creek and the reference site, which makes it impossible to definitively say the impact restoration had on the macroinvertebrate assemblages one year post restoration. At this time it is obvious from the stream gage data that restoration significantly decreased turbidity and suspended sediment concentrations (SSC). Further collection of invertebrates and stream gage comparison is necessary to see if restoration does eventually impact the assemblage of invertebrates.    
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Major: Environmental Sciences
Year: 2015
File Attachments: Final Capstone.docx
Authors: Noel Deyette

Presence and Abundance of Microplastics within Flowing Waters of Private, Wilderness, and Other Forest Preserve Lands of the Northern Adirondack Park

Mon, 04/28/2014 - 16:26
Abstract: Microplastic sampling was conducted at thirteen locations throughout the water bodies of the Northern Adirondack Region. Plastics were found at all thirteen sites, which were categorized by the impact level of human development. Any particle less than 5mm can be defined as a microplastic particle. Microscopic plastics can be found in a variety of chemical cleaners, clothing fabrics, and concrete solutions. Storm water drainage systems and wastewater treatment plants are confirmed sources of microplastic pollution, which carry pollutants into our rivers, lakes, and streams. Ingestion of microplastic particles can lead to many distinctive threats, including biological and physical abnormalities, while possibly leading to bioaccumulation and biomagnification throughout the food web. Future practices for management and prevention of microplastic pollutants in the Adirondacks is critical for environmental protection, while also portraying a worldly view of an overlooked human induced issue.
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Major: Environmental Sciences, Natural Resources Management and Policy
Year: 2014
Authors: Patrick Colern, Sinjin Larson

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