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Capstone Projects

Cultural eutrophication of Lower Saint Regis Lake using diatoms and organic content as indicators of eutrophication.

Tue, 04/28/2020 - 12:06
Abstract: Cultural eutrophication can greatly affect water quality, leading to algae blooms and can affect fish communities. Throughout the history of Paul Smith’s Hotel and College, development along Lower St. Regis lake has led to increases in eutrophic conditions, which has detrimental effects on water quality. In this study, a sediment core from Lower St. Regis Lake was analyzed to determine when past eutrophication events occurred. This was accomplished using species counts of diatoms from every 1.0 cm of sediment. The relative abundance of diatom species such as Tabellaria flocculosa, Asterionella formosa, and Fragilaria crotonensis were used as indicators of more eutrophic conditions. Loss on ignition (LOI) was also used to measure the organic content in the sediment at increments of 0.5 cm. The higher percent lost on ignition indicates higher productivity in the lake and more eutrophic conditions. Some samples from the sediment core were also dated using lead-210 to create a timeline that could be compared to known dates of events occurring along the lake that could have affected the trophic status of Lower St. Regis Lake. There was a sudden spike in the relative abundance of F. crotonensis and an increase in organic content at a depth of 20 cm in the core, indicating that conditions became more eutrophic. Based on the lead-210 dates, this spike in F. crotonensis and organic content occurred between 1898 and 1908, when development around the lake was increasing and Paul Smith’s Hotel added indoor plumbing with poor wastewater treatment practices.
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Major: Biology
Year: 2020
File Attachments: Capstone_0.docx
Authors: Lydia Harvey

The Influence of Microtopography on the Spatial Distribution of Peatland Plants

Mon, 04/27/2020 - 13:01
Abstract: Microtopography in peatlands creates structural patterns within the environment that, if understood, could allow for more comprehensive wetland management and restoration plans to be constructed. The objectives of this study are to determine: 1) the spatial scale at which microtopography occurs on in Adirondack peatlands; 2) if hummock size changes in relation to the distance from the forested wetland edge; and 3) if individual plant species respond to, or vary, in relation to microtopography and abiotic factors. To determine the influence of microtopography on peatland plants, data were collected on the surface area and height distributions of hummocks, the distance between hummocks and the abiotic soil characteristics. Plant species richness, and percent cover data were collected on hummocks only. The spatial scale of microtopography was determined to be regularly distributed across the sampling area. There was no significant correlation between the distance from the coniferous-edge and the relative size of hummocks. Plant species richness was found to be higher on hummocks as opposed to hollows. Using a combination of correlation and multiple regression analysis we determined that leather leaf (Chamaedaphne calyculata), lowbush blueberry (Vaccinium angustifolium), and common cranberry (Vaccinium macrocarpa) were correlated to individual abiotic variables. The variability of the percent cover of leather leaf was explained by increasing surface area, lower soil temperatures, and lower pH; the variability of the percent cover of lowbush blueberry was explained by increasing oxidation-reduction potential (ORP) and lower pH; and the variability of the percent cover of common cranberry was explained by lower hummock height alone. Only three of the common plants identified were correlated with the abiotic variables measured. Further research should be done to continue to determine the primary influence of the elevational gradients on the plant species composition and to determine the resilience of these systems to changing climate.
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Major: Ecological Restoration
Year: 2020
Authors: Joshua T. Young

What Are the Differences in Trichome Density and Morphology Between Arabidopsis Lyrata Subsp. Lyrata Populations When Grown in A Northern Common Garden, Outside of Their Geographic Distribution?

Tue, 04/30/2019 - 15:23
Abstract: Trichomes are diverse among plants. There is evidence suggesting that environmental factors may influence these structures and their densities. Other evidence shows that weather may influence genetics and gene expression. Arabidopsis lyrata subsp. lyrata is a wild flower that is native to North America and Europe and has been extensively studied. Literature regarding Arabidopsis states that within the family and genus, there is evidence suggesting that trichomes can be either non-branched, twice branched or thrice branched. This study’s purpose was to analyze how trichome density, and morphology in Arabidopsis lyrata subsp. lyrata differs between populations when grown outside of the natural distribution limit. Four populations of Arabidopsis lyrata subsp. lyrata were studied based on latitude. After analyzing the outcomes, unexpectedly there are no major differences between the north and south populations; however, there are differences between the four populations. Based on the data gathered, it was determined that the population, North2 (07G) must be genetically different from the other three populations. The four populations were grown together in a common garden; thus, all variables were the same. The environment did not influence trichome density or morphology within the North2 population, therefore the structures were genetically pre-determined.
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Major: Biology
Year: 2019
File Attachments: Scarabaggio_A.docx
Authors: Amber My Scarabaggio

The influence of a common parent on sap sweetness among open pollinated sugar maple (Acer saccharum Marsh.) offspring

Wed, 05/08/2019 - 15:08
Abstract: Beginning in the 1950s, the United States Forest Service began to look into the ability to predict and control the heritability of sap sweetness in sugar maples (Acer saccharum Marsh.). A search for genetically superior (sweeter) trees was conducted across 6 states, testing 21,000 trees. Only 53 trees were chosen to be parental stock for the “Super Sweet” sugar maple improvement program. These trees, cloned through rooted cuttings and scion wood grafting, were planted in the Grand Isle, VT clonal bank. One of the five progeny tests of open pollinated offspring from the clonal bank was established in Lake Placid, New York. These trees had their first evaluation at age ten. Each tree had its diameter and height measured, as well as its sap sweetness tested. Now, 35 years after planting, the trees were evaluated again. An inventory was conducted with diameter at breast height, tree height, and live crown ratio measurements. Of the 725 trees planted, only 396 trees remain. Only 258 trees were of size and quality to handle a 5/16” tap. Their sap sweetness was measured at multiple times though out the season. Knowing one of the two parents of each tree allowed for the comparison of the sap sweetness of the different common-parent groups. The data collected did not support that the knowledge of only one parent could be used to predicts a tree’s sweetness relative to any other parent’s offspring. The bigger picture progeny evaluations will continue the “Super Sweet” sugar maple improvement program.
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Major: Forestry
Year: 2019
Authors: Eric Mance

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.
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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

Comparison of 5 Firewood Storage Structures for Most Efficient Drying of Acer rubrum in Northern NY

Thu, 05/10/2018 - 12:47
Abstract: Worldwide over 2 billion people use firewood to heat their homes. The cultural relevance of the act of stacking firewood means that there are many different recommended methods of stacking and storage. For this study we tested five structures for the drying of firewood, and measured change in moisture content over five weeks to determine which method was the most efficient. Red maple (Acer rubrum L.) and Black cherry (Prunus serotine L.) trees were felled in the Creighton Hill Tract and hauled 1.2 miles to the study site behind the Paul Smith’s College John Dillon Sawmill in Paul Smiths, New York. There they were split and stacked into the five different methods, which included a heap, uncovered stack, covered stack, shed, and stack wrapped in plastic. Moisture content readings were taken from nine red maple pieces within each stack three times a week for a total of five weeks. Uncovered firewood was most susceptible to changes in moisture content in response to precipitation. Covered stacks of wood had the greatest decrease in moisture content over the course of the study, and also proved to be less vulnerable to precipitation events. Firewood wrapped in plastic maintained significantly higher moisture content than the other methods consistently throughout the study.
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Major: Forestry
Year: 2018
Authors: Talia Stewart, Scott Seelbach

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.
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Major: Environmental Sciences, Forestry
Year: 2017
File Attachments: capstone_gumbartpayson.pdf
Authors: Julia Payson, Ryan Gumbart

Analysis of Forage Quality in Adirondack Macrophytes: Implications for Waterfowl Nutrition

Fri, 04/29/2016 - 14:48
Abstract: To understand the relative nutritional value of macrophyte food sources for Adirondack waterfowl, the forage quality of four common Adirondack macrophytes were assessed. An analysis of two native pondweeds (Potamogeton) and two invasive watermilfoil (Myriophyllum) was conducted to deduce how invasive and native macrophytes compare in their relative concentrations of nitrogen and mineral content; important indicators of forage quality for waterfowl. Nitrogen content is used as a metric for relative concentration of protein. Macrophyte species were sampled from four Adirondack lakes of the same trophic status to account for effects of lake nutrient characteristics on plant nutrient uptake and synthesis. Total nitrogen was determined with the Kjeldahl procedure using flow injection analysis. Ash (mineral) content was acquired through high-heat burning in a muffle furnace. The invasive watermilfoil species had a higher percentage of nitrogen than the native species. There was no significant difference in the ash content between the species. It is critical to understand the ecological function of these species in relation to wildlife populations. The nutritional value of these aquatic macrophytes may have implications for the fitness and distribution of breeding herbivorous waterfowl in Adirondack lakes. These results may indicate that invasive plants will serve as a viable food source for herbivorous waterfowl as watermilfoil continues to spread across Adirondack aquatic systems.
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Major: Biology
Year: 2016
Authors: Bianca Fournier

Walden Pond: Ecological and Anthropological History Reflected in the Sedimentary Record

Tue, 05/03/2016 - 23:13
Abstract: This study examined environmental changes reflected in the microfossil record of a sediment core taken in August 2015 from Walden Pond, Massachusetts spanning the last 600 years. In particular changes in the eutrophication status, inorganic sediment deposition due to land use, lake water depth and temperature were examined using phytoplankton indicator species—diatoms and chrysophytes— to reconstruct environmental conditions. The study site was a basin shallower and closer to the source of anthropogenic N and P inputs than the site of previous studies at Walden’s deepest basin, allowing for finer detection of changes in water level and organic content of sediment. A gravity corer was used to collect the sediment core to preserve topmost sediment layers for analysis, as more than a decade has passed since the last published study of this kind at Walden Pond by Köster et. al. (2005). Results show a significant increase in indicators of eutrophic lake conditions since European settlement ca. 1630, and especially since the 20th century. However, relative Asterionella formosa and Synedra nana abundances had not changed significantly in the last decade since Köster et. al.’s 2005 study, and have in fact decreased somewhat, suggesting water treatment efforts by the Massachusetts Dept. of Environmental Protection (DEP) have had some success. Loss on ignition (LOI) of organic content shows a precipitous decline from the mid 19th century from 37% to 22%, representing intensive land clearance and development until the 1970’s when DEP management began. After that point, LOI rose, perhaps due to increased lake productivity, and has fluctuated around 25%. Relative Discostella stelligera abundance, while used in the WAl-3 piston core as a proxy for water depth, could not be used in the WAL-1 gravity core from this study as eutrophication has significantly impacted their abundance. Chrysophyte scale:diatom ratios corroborate an observed trend of increasing abundance in lakes globally since the 20th century, perhaps in response to rising global temperatures over the same period.
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Major: Biology
Year: 2016
File Attachments: Capstone Paper.docx
Authors: Erik Yankowsky

Mycoremediation Potential of Pleurotus ostreatus in Logging Operations

Mon, 05/02/2016 - 10:43
Abstract: The unintentional spillage of diesel and hydraulic fluid is an unfortunate part of forestry operations and the traditional cleanup methods can be costly. Many studies have shown that white rot fungi (WRF) are capable of breaking down a wide variety of environmental pollutants, including diesel fuel. The purpose of this study is to evaluate the ability of a WRF, Pluerotus ostreatus, to breakdown hydraulic fluid. Soil and sawdust were mixed at a 1:1 ratio and jars had, 0%, 3%, 5% and 10% of their volume added in hydraulic fluid. All jars were fully colonized within two weeks and after 30 days the concentration of residual hydrocarbon was analyzed with an extraction. The results showed that the maximum degradation of hydraulic fluid occurred at 5%. In addition sawdust spawn was dehydrated at different temperatures, in order to assess possible field application. The only dehydration test that grew was the air dried sample.
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Major: Forestry
Year: 2016
Authors: Peter Murphy, Kirklyn Denis