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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.
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Major: Forestry, Natural Resources Management and Policy
Year: 2012
Authors: Kelly Hoffman

A Cost-Benefit Analysis of Allowing All-Terrain Vehicles on Vermont State Land

Sat, 12/01/2012 - 12:35
Abstract: Our capstone project is a cost-benefit analysis of allowing ATVs (All-Terrain Vehicles) on Vermont State land. This issue is controversial among Vermont outdoor enthusiasts. We wanted to know if the allowance of ATVs on Vermont state land is economically feasible. This study explored the current economic impacts and damages of ATV-related activities in Vermont, willingness to pay to use state land, and the possible economic benefits of allowing ATVs on state land compared to the trail construction and maintenance cost. We surveyed members of Vermont’s ATV community and conducted interviews of private and public landowners and private and public companies. Our results showed that on average most ATV users were willing to pay to use state land, the Vermont ATV community contributes to Vermont’s economy, and trail construction and maintenance is a legitimate factor when considering the construction of building sustainable trails on public land. Our study concluded that on a small scale, ATV trails on Vermont state land appears to be economically sustainable.
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Major: Natural Resources Management and Policy
Year: 2012
Authors: Cory Campbell, Kyle Wagner

Neo-homesteading in the Adirondack-North Country

Mon, 12/03/2012 - 16:15
Abstract: This study was an exploration of the values and behaviors of Adirondack-North Country neo-homesteaders and how such unique traits shape and influence community integrity and resilience. The use of the prefix neo is indicative of the new or emerging homesteading trend within recent decades as differentiated from similar cultural movements of the past. The purpose of the study was to synthesize the motivation behind the current cultural migration of populations toward a rural lifestyle; the cohesiveness of neo-homesteading communities in the Adirondack-North Country; the importance of ecological and regional socio-economic relationships; and how the flux of thoughts and behaviors promote the crafting of an alternative future. Analysis of the stated-values and observed behaviors of current homesteading populations in the Adirondack-North Country compared with those cited in primary literature sources provided insight into the back-to-the-land progression and regression from the mid-1800s to the 2000s. This research also compared and contrasted the diverse individual values that Adirondack neo-homesteaders display in regards to the current constructs of American society. Using grounded theory as a paradigmatic lens and ethnographic methodologies, the research process yielded organically developed emergent themes as influenced by economics, bioregionalism, place-based connections, religion, history, and the environment, which provided a multi-dimensional insight into homesteader choices and decision-making processes. Data was collected and interpreted using survey data as a means to provide a theoretical framework for more in-depth, subjective participant observation ethnographies. The data revealed that geographical place, community cohesion, and security with regard to family, food, and finances were the dominant drivers of the neo-homesteading movement in the Adirondack-North Country
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Literary Rights: Off
Major: Natural Resources Management and Policy
Year: 2012
Authors: William R. Martin, Michael J. Cerasaro

Managing White-tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus) for Buck to Doe Ratio and Increased Body and Antler Size on a Private 340 acres in Arcade, NY

Wed, 04/25/2012 - 13:14
Abstract: Currently in Arcade, New York there is a 340 acre piece of property that is made up of 3 parcels of land with 3 different owners; all of whom would like to see the large deer population managed for different reasons. One property owner, who also leases the other two properties for hunting purposes, would like to see the deer managed for buck to doe ratio and body and antler size. While the other two property owners would like to see the deer population reduced because of damages caused to their woods and vegetable gardens. The first goal of this management plan is to reduce the deer population for the 340 acre property, with objectives of reducing the buck to doe ratio to 1:1 or 1:2 by harvesting more does and monitoring the deer population with a hunter based record system. The second goal of this plan is to provide hunters with better opportunities to harvest mature deer, with objectives of instituting a 120 inch antler restriction and providing deer with better nutrition by using a system of highly nutritional food plots. All measures of success or failure will be assessed using the hunter based record system that was created.
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Literary Rights: On
Major: Natural Resources Management and Policy
Year: 2012
Authors: Mike Domagalski

Refining Karner blue butterfly (Lycaeides melissa samuelis) restoration efforts by comparing captive rearing and release methods used in the Albany Pine Bush

Mon, 12/05/2011 - 18:36
Abstract: With this research, the release efforts of the endangered Karner blue butterfly (Lycaeides melissa samuelis) of the Albany Pine Bush (APB) in New York State at two different stages of the butterfly’s life cycle were compared. Survival success rates were determined and environmental factors were measured to assess captive rearing methods and improve restoration efforts in the APB Preserve. Captive rearing efforts have been used in the past in this area, releasing Karner blue butterfly pupae into the wild; however, this year in 2011, pupae were allowed to eclose from their chrysalides in the lab and were released into the wild as adult butterflies. The analysis of the information gathered showed that the release of Karner blue butterflies in the adult stage offered a greater survival rate over release in the pupal stage. The average daily maximum temperatures increased each year during the summers of 2009-2011. Information from this research is important to help prevent the extirpation of this species from the Albany Pine Bush Recovery Unit and may be helpful to organizations such as the US Fish and Wildlife Services and the Nature Conservancy.
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Major: Environmental Sciences
Year: 2011
File Attachments: CapstoneFINAL.doc
Authors: Chelsea Sendzik

Promoting Conservation of Biodiversity in the Adirondack Park Through Understanding and Engaging Stakeholders

Thu, 02/09/2012 - 11:31
Abstract: Anthropogenic disturbance of natural environments has led to the widespread loss of native biodiversity and degradation of ecosystems. It is increasingly recognized that addressing this “biodiversity crisis” entails understanding the societal drivers of unsustainable patterns of use. Conservation psychology is a new discipline that specifically focuses on understanding the linkages between human behavior and action and promoting a healthy and sustainable relationship between humans and nature. In this project, we employed principles of conservation psychology with the goal of improving the efficacy and efficiency of conservation of biodiversity in the Adirondack Park (AP). To meet this goal we employed three specific strategies. The first of these strategies was the use of surveys to assess the values, attitudes, and actions different stakeholders have in regards to conservation of biodiversity in the AP. These surveys were disseminated via both direct mailings and online, and included 30 questions. Our second strategy was to use discourse analysis to create a dictionary of terms and phrases employed in a positive, neutral, and negative light in regard to conservation of biodiversity. This entailed analysis of 30 emic accounts derived from opinion articles written by stakeholders in the AP, as well as analysis of a number of etic accounts drawn from online sources. Our third strategy was to use conservation psychology literature to assess ways in which the presentation of information and peer-dynamics influenced the responses of stakeholders towards conservation of biodiversity. Using the combination of these three strategies, we were able to provide a holistic understanding of how different stakeholders in the AP perceive and act towards biodiversity conservation; identify language that can be used to illicit a more positive response from these stakeholders; and identify specific tools based on principles of psychology that can encourage more active and effective engagement in conservation of biodiversity by different stakeholders. Our research findings will allow groups focusing on promoting conservation of biodiversity in the AP to be more effective and efficient in their work in the future.
Access: Yes
Literary Rights: Off
Major: Environmental Sciences, Fisheries and Wildlife Science, Forestry, Natural Resources Management and Policy, Recreations, Adventure Travel and Ecotourism
Year: 2011
Authors: Christopher Critelli, John Ghanime, Derek Johnson, Samantha Lambert, Justin Luyk, Matthew Parker, Robert Vite, Heather Mason, Jesse Warner, Ethan Lennox, Sarah Robbiano, David Mathis, David A. Patrick

Food Plots for White-tailed Deer: Effects on the Browse Intensity of Commercial Tree Species in Western New York

Mon, 12/05/2011 - 10:09
Abstract: Throughout North America high densities of white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) are creating problems that affect humans as well as the natural environment; such as property damage (ex. deer/car accidents), crop damage due to browse, changes in forest species composition, as well as the creation of alternate stable states throughout the northeastern forests of the U.S. This study examined whether food plots for white-tailed deer are increasing, decreasing or having no effect on the browse intensity of commercial tree species in the northern hardwood/coniferous forests of western New York. Spring and summer browse intensity was determined at six sites throughout Wyoming, Cattaraugus, and Erie counties; three forested sites with food plots and three forested sites without food plots that were similar in species composition. The study found that food plots were causing an increase in browse intensity on commercial tree species to areas immediately adjacent (0-2 meters) to the food plots. However, further analysis that excluded measurements taken for subplots one at both food plot and non-food plot sites showed that non-food plot sites had a significantly greater proportion browsed. The findings suggest that if food plots are used as a management option for white-tails in western New York a buffer zone of at least 2 meters outside the food plot should be incorporated to account for the overflow of deer browse.
Access: Yes
Literary Rights: On
Major: Natural Resources Management and Policy
Year: 2011
Authors: Mike Domagalski

Designing a Multiple-Use Winter Recreation Trail System at the Paul Smith’s College Visitor Interpretive Center

Mon, 12/12/2011 - 10:13
Abstract: The purpose of this study is to investigate the interests and conflicts that arise between snowshoers, dogsledders, skijorers and cross country skiers. This study will be guided by interviews as well information from prior research performed on these types of users. Data will be collected by using interviews to determine the interests and conflicts of these users. This project will help give VIC managers recommendations andto provide information for a revised version of the winter trails map. The study and research that was done on user interests and conflicts to provide a higher level of enjoyment and safety for winter recreation trail users of the VIC for current and future generations. Results were collected by identifying recreational users of cross country skiing, snowshoeing, dog sledding and skijoring. Managers of recreational areas were also interviewed. The Paul Smith’s VIC would meet the needs of cross country skiers and snowshoers. The majority of the trails are suitable for cross country skiing and all of the trails would be suitable for the snowshoers depending on the type of snowshoer (secluded or controlled users). Dog-sledding and skijoring would not be suitable for the VIC due to the number of conflicts that are brought up when you bring dogs into the picture. Very few trails remain suitable for these two activities as well.
Access: Yes
Literary Rights: Off
Major: Natural Resources Management and Policy
Year: 2011
File Attachments: Capstone.docx
Authors: Matthew Piper

Changes in aquatic communities resulting from interactions between climate change and invasive aquatic plants in the Adirondacks.

Thu, 02/09/2012 - 11:26
Abstract: Global climate change can act synergistically with invasive species leading to shifts in ecosystem structure and function. We assessed how a rise in water temperature influenced the potential competitive advantage of an invasive aquatic plant, Eurasian watermilfoil, (Myriophyllum spicatum) over a co-occurring native species northern watermilfoil (M. sibiricum). We also examined the interrelationship between water temperature, watermilfoil, and the aquatic ecosystem including periphyton growth and zooplankton abundance. The study was conducted using replicated mesocosms (3785-liter), with water heaters used to provide a range of temperatures. We found that increasing water temperature promoted the likely competitive advantage of the invasive species, M. spicatum: Survival of M. sibiricum plants was lower than that of M. spicatum across all temperature treatments with a mean survival rate of 24% and 96% respectively. M. sibiricum also showed significantly slower rates of plant growth (mean growth of 3.3 cm compared to 7.6 cm for M. spicatum) and reduced vigor compared to M. spicatum, with an average of less than half the number of growing meristems. Zooplankton densities averaged over 20 times higher in mesocosms with M. sibiricum compared to those with the invasive M. spicatum. Periphyton biomass was best explained by water temperature with an increase in growth in warmer water. Our study confirms that in the face of global climate change, the invasive M. spicatum will continue to exert dominance over its native counterpart. Our results also provide compelling evidence that the combined effects of climate change and invasive aquatic plants can dramatically alter aquatic ecosystems.
Access: Yes
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Major: Environmental Sciences, Fisheries and Wildlife Science, Forestry, Natural Resources Management and Policy
Year: 2010
Authors: Nicholas Boudreau, Zachary Bozic, Geoffrey S. Carpenter, David M. Langdon, Spencer R. LeMay, Shaun M. Martin, Reid M. Mourse, Sarah L. Prince, Kelli M. Quinn, David A. Patrick