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Capstone Projects

A Comparison of Fall and Spring Minnow (Cyprinidae) Surveys to Assess Overwinter Changes in Community Composition in a Marshland of the Northern Adirondacks, NY

Wed, 12/06/2017 - 03:51
Abstract: Minnows are an integral component of a healthy aquatic ecosystem. However, minnows are very sensitive to habitat destruction and loss, changes in water quality, and over predation. As a result of its integral role, an unhealthy, or absent minnow population can wreak havoc on an ecosystem. The objectives are to compare minnow species richness and composition between spring and fall surveys for different regions in the marsh, compare minnow trap catch rates between fall and spring for each minnow species for different regions of the marsh, compare mean length of minnow species between fall and spring, and compare water temperature, dissolved oxygen, pH, and conductivity in the fall with that of late winter and post ice-out. The study location was Heron Marsh of New York’s Adirondack Park, which supports of variety of fish in the cyprinidae family. Water quality was collected using a YSI meter in all 4 seasons of the year, and minnows were sampled using galvanized steel minnow traps during the fall and spring. Nearly all sites saw an increase in cyprinid biodiversity and abundance. Long term monitoring should be established for more robust data that can in turn justify more solid conclusions.
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Major: Environmental Sciences
Year: 2017
File Attachments: Capstone Report
Authors: Brenden Blair

Developing A Wildlife Teaching Collection

Wed, 12/06/2017 - 13:14
Abstract: Wildlife specimens hold significant scientific and educational value at Paul Smith’s College through the preservation of essential biological information. Specimens allow for the better understanding of the past and present conditions of a species, and are a valuable teaching tool for all-inclusive wildlife education. However important, it is apparent that the accumulation of wildlife specimens is insufficient due to a lack of education surrounding the preservation of specimens and methods pertaining to the development of a specimen collection. In response, the procedural framework surrounding standard specimen preparation practices was analyzed and adjusted in order meet the specific needs of the institution. A comprehensive procedural manual was created with the intention of making specimen preparation a more approachable task for interested students, as well as to ensure continual growth of the wildlife teaching collection at Paul Smith’s College.
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Literary Rights: On
Major: Environmental Sciences
Year: 2017
Authors: Jacob McCourt, Benjamin Wrazen

The Effects of pH on the Distribution of the Mink Frog (Lithobates septentrionalis)

Fri, 12/08/2017 - 14:41
Abstract: Amphibian decline is occurring at an alarming rate. The acidification of aquatic systems is contributing to the decline, affecting habitat viability which affects dispersal, breeding success and the mortality of young. Tolerances to the acidic conditions vary amongst species, but are not known for all amphibians. The mink frog (Lithobates septentrionalis) has scattered dispersals throughout the regions in which they are found. The goal of this study was to observe possible effects of pH on the distribution of the mink frog, which is native to the Adirondack Park. A call survey was completed in 40 Adirondack water systems to determine dispersal. The pH of the lakes in which the call survey was conducted were also recorded. This study documents the relationship between pH and distribution of the mink frog along with the variations between the lacustrine and deep water pH values for each water system. The mink frog was not found in lakes with pH <6.5. Evidence also showed that the pH between deep water and lacustrine regions had varying differences that may prove to be significant in regards to studying some species. It is recommended that lacustrine data be examined along with limnologic deep water data when studying lacustrine dwelling species.
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Major: Environmental Sciences
Year: 2017
File Attachments: final capstone.docx
Authors: Cheylynne Tyrrell

Comparison of Fine and Coarse Organic Matter Among Levels of Shoreline Impact: Implications for Ecological Restoration

Mon, 05/01/2017 - 15:24
Abstract: Human lake shoreline development has been shown to have impacts on the dynamics of the lakeshore. Such dynamics include the riparian and littoral zones interactions; the complexity, abundance, and residence time of large woody debris; organic matter/detritus, and food webs for fish, birds, and macroinvertebrates. Understanding such dynamics, and the impacts of human development, are important when attempting to restore the shoreline through the process of ecological restoration. The objectives of the study were, (1) to compare the amount of organic matter (smaller than sticks, branches, logs, and trees) among three levels of impact (impacted, minimally impacted, and benchmark), (2) to compare the amounts of CPOM and FPOM among the three levels of impact. The field data was collected using a modified design of sediment corer. A total of 63 samples were taken and the results clearly showed that the reference (benchmark) site had a much higher accumulation of organic sediment along the shoreline. Also, the data analysis also showed that there was virtually no measurable FPOM among the impacted and minimally impacted sites, but among the references sites it was more abundant than CPOM, which was opposite from the impacted and minimally impacted sites.
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Literary Rights: On
Major: Environmental Sciences
Year: 2017
File Attachments: Final_Morrill.docx
Authors: John Morrill

A Comparison of Leaf Litter in the Aquatic, Terrestrial, and Transitional Zones among Impacted, Minimally Impacted, and Benchmark Conditions of the Shorelines of the Lower St. Regis Lake and Black Pond

Mon, 05/01/2017 - 17:55
Abstract: Human development of shorelines impacts structure and functionality of the shoreline’s ecosystems. Ecological restoration projects can be used to rectify this impact, but first data must be collected to determine the extent of impact human development has had on the shoreline. The objective of this study was to compare the biomass (wet and dry weights) of deciduous and coniferous leaf litter among impacted, minimally impacted, and benchmark shorelines and between terrestrial and aquatic zones. Data was collected among the three impact levels on the Paul Smith’s College property along the shores of Lower St. Regis Lake (impacted and minimally impacted) and Black Pond (benchmark). Deciduous and coniferous leaf litter was collected in the aquatic and terrestrial zones of the shoreline and among the three impact levels using 0.7 m2 terrestrial and 0.25 m2 aquatic quadrats, and then compared using nonparametric statistical tests to determine differences among impact levels and between zones. The results of this study revealed that the relationship between deciduous and coniferous leaf litter was more nuanced than expected. The study supported the current body of scientific knowledge in that shoreline development decreases the overall amount of leaf litter accumulated in the shoreline of lakes. However, should future studies on variation between deciduous and coniferous leaf litter be conducted, the criteria for impact levels should be expanded to ensure the sites used are more comparable in forest type.
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Literary Rights: On
Major: Environmental Sciences
Year: 2017
Authors: Hannah Ashdown

Does the presence of Malus spp. increase the fertility of the soil surface in pastures?

Mon, 05/01/2017 - 18:24
Abstract: Techniques to increase soil fertility in a pasture can benefit the system by combating soil degradation and increasing the health of vegetation. The use of apple trees (Malus spp.) may be particularly beneficial in achieving this due to reliable fruit yields, ease of management, and variety of suitable habitat. We hypothesized that soil directly under the canopy of apple trees would be higher in nutrients (C, Ca, K, Mg, N, & P) than soil in areas with no tree cover. Soil samples were taken from the top 15 cm of the soil surface under apple trees and in areas without trees at 14 sites in Massachusetts and New York. Samples were analyzed using spectrometry and color imagery to determine nutrient content. Potassium and magnesium concentrations were found to be significantly higher in under-canopy samples. Further research may expand these results and determine if the application of apple trees can be used to increase the health of pasture systems.
Access: Yes
Literary Rights: Off
Major: Environmental Sciences, Forestry
Year: 2017
File Attachments: capstone_gumbartpayson.pdf
Authors: Julia Payson, Ryan Gumbart

The Age and Origin of Lake Ejagham, Cameroon: 9,000-Year-Old Sediment Evidence Suggests Possible Bolide Impactor

Tue, 05/02/2017 - 15:18
Abstract: Lake Ejagham is a relatively small lake (54 hectares) located in the south-western region of Cameroon, Africa. Two sediment cores, EJ1 and EJ2, were extruded in 1987 by Dr. Dan Livingstone, preserved, and analyzed in 2016. Sediment and diatom analyses were performed in conjunction with radiocarbon dating, which suggests the maximum age of the lake itself is about 9,000 years old. The age of the lake was confirmed by both the radiocarbon dating of the sediment as well as the dating of wood fragments found at the base of the EJ2 core. The diatom analyses indicate that in recent times high percentages of planktonic diatoms were present, which suggests a relatively wetter hydroclimate than in the past. In the mid-section of EJ1 those planktonic diatom percentages were lower, which indicates drier climates or changes to the lacustrine environment. The consistency in the sediment and climate record suggest that Lake Ejagham has been uninterrupted by environmental catastrophes, which provided suitable conditions for endemic cichlids to evolve via sympatry, particularly Coptodon ejagham. Lake Ejagham has been thought to have formed as a solution basin, when water dissolves and carries away underground minerals forming a depression. Instead, the bedrock beneath the lake contains both soluble and insoluble layers, which prevent this from happening. Here we assert that the EJ1 and EJ2 cores support an alternative origin, possibly from a bolide impactor, however this is not conclusive.
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Major: Environmental Sciences
Year: 2017
Authors: Kenneth B. Alton

The Effect of One’s Origins on Recycling Behavior

Fri, 12/08/2017 - 10:36
Abstract: Recycling, which is valuable to combating pollution, reducing waste, conserving natural resources, and halting global climate change is a relatively easy activity that many can participate in. Research on recycling and what motivates humans to participate in it, has provided valuable knowledge on an individual’s obstacles to recycling. The research I conducted advanced the knowledge we have on how people decide to recycle or not. The research was conducted through surveys and interviews at Paul Smith’s College. The subjects were students, staff, and faculty. It was found that suburban participants were more likely to always recycle as opposed to those from rural areas. Interview participants were found to often cite their parents as reasons for current recycling habits. The results helped to further certain beliefs that parents, friends, and environmental knowledge help to promote positive recycling behaviors.
Access: Yes
Literary Rights: Off
Major: Environmental Studies
Year: 2017
Authors: Kevin Shea

Comparison of Cyprinid Composition and Abundance in Relation to Microhabitat Characteristics within Heron Marsh, in the Adirondack Park, NY

Mon, 04/24/2017 - 15:47
Abstract: Cyprinids are susceptible to local, watershed, and regional extirpation within the United States. Habitat alterations, non-indigenous species introductions, changes in water quality, and anthropogenic barriers have resulted in a decrease in overall cyprinid biodiversity. The objectives of this study are (1) to establish baseline water quality characteristics among sites in summer and fall, 2016, (2) to compare minnow densities to percent macrophyte cover among trap sites for common species, and (3) to compare 2016 minnow densities by species and combined with 2014 and 2012 density estimates. Heron Marsh is a shallow marsh located with the Adirondack Park, NY, that supports a wide variety of fishes in the Cyprinidae family. Baseline water quality was collected using an YSI meter, cyprinid densities were estimated using galvanized steel minnow traps, and macrophyte cover data was estimated using a 21-point grid system for trap sites within the marsh. Water quality monitoring will help assess changes in the marsh over time due to global warming. More minnow trap sites must be established to determine if there is a relationship between macrophyte cover and cyprinid abundance. This will allow the statistical power of our tests to become robust to assumptions that were otherwise violated. Cyprinid biodiversity and abundance were highest amongst the upper region of the marsh for most years. This suggests that the upper region of the marsh may be a sanctuary or refuge for certain cyprinid species.
Access: Yes
Literary Rights: On
Major: Fisheries and Wildlife Science
Year: 2017
File Attachments: Kuryla_Capstone paper.docx
Authors: Jake E Kuryla

Wildlife Habitat Conservation and Management of Invasive North American Beavers (Castor canadensis) in Southern Patagonia from 2017-2037

Tue, 04/25/2017 - 13:40
Abstract: Importing the incisor-toothed ecosystem engineers from Canada to the southernmost tip of South America seemed like an innovative idea in 1946. Since this early introduction by the Argentine Navy, this species has grown exponentially (5,000 times their initial population) to 35,000 and 50,000 in Tierra del Fuego. Their density (0.2–5.8 colonies/km2) in this geographic region is even higher than North America (0.08-1-4 colonies/km2). North American beaver (Castor canadensis) are notorious hydrologists and modify their habitat to construct dams, canals, and dens. This species presents ecological, economical, and socio-cultural detriments. These factors have the potential to migrate to northern territories with the beaver due to climatic conditions favoring the species propagation. This population’s exponential growth is deemed larger than predicted due to the lag in local inhabitants noticing the rodents’ presence. To address beaver management, Chile and Argentina are working together under a bi-national agreement. Their goal is to restore Southern Patagonian ecosystems with total eradication of invasive beavers. The 2017-2037 Southern Patagonian Beaver Management Plan identifies the following goals: 1) Decrease the population of North American beavers (Castor canadensis) in S. Patagonia. 2) Define beaver-absent areas near invaded territories that have the potential to become occupied by this plastic species in the near future due to similar habitat criteria. 3) Education, information, and outreach on S. Patagonia beaver management is improved. 4) Zoonotic implications of beaver are monitored, investigated and managed. Objectives for each of these goals are included within the management plan. Wildlife biologists, trappers, and public input are essential to this management plan. Surveys issued to trappers and citizens aid in monitoring of zoonotic diseases related to beavers as well as determine public opinion of this species. Trapping will continue to be integral in beaver management.
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Literary Rights: On
Major: Fisheries and Wildlife Science
Year: 2017
Authors: Emily Hill