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Capstone Projects

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

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

Paul Smith’s College Shoreline Restoration Conservation Plan

Fri, 12/14/2018 - 12:24
Abstract: A restoration plan was created for the Lower St Regis Lake shoreline of Paul Smith's College. To date, about 140 students have participated by way of studies and course work in surveys and assessments, which clearly indicate a much reduced level of biological diversity, ecosystem function, and human uses compared to other sites. The plan is designed based upon field assessments and with the intentions of using the shoreline as an on-site case study of experiential education – a tradition of at the core of Paul Smith’s College. The aim of the restoration plan is to increase biodiversity, ecosystem function, aesthetics, educational studies, and shoreline use.
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Major: Ecological Restoration
Year: 2018
Authors: Hunter Gaudette
, Joseph Hollner
, Jonathan Meadows
, Ryan Morr
, Sara Savoia, Cassandra Schrader

Wetland X: Wetland Mitigation Plan Amendment

Mon, 12/03/2018 - 17:56
Abstract: Wetland X is a wetland that is located in Western New York and has been converted to agricultural land. The goal of this study was to create a restoration plan for Wetland X that meets Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) standards. The study took place during June 2018 with the final plan being completed in August of 2018 and the data analysis report being completed in the fall of 2018. The focus of the study was on the woody vegetation of the site to document the species present and the density of vegetation on the site. Vegetation was sampled on four plots located at different areas of the site to provide the best representation of the sites overall conditions. The areas were sampled using zigzag transects and grid transect patterns; with one area being sampled using the zigzag pattern, two using the grid pattern and one using both transect methods as a comparison of the two methods. Sampling of the site found that an amendment was needed for Wetland X to ensure that the landowner remained in compliance with the Food Security Act Standards. The restoration plan focuses on planting and management techniques for the site that will allow proper growth of desired vegetation species and the eradication of the invasive species. The created restoration plan amendment has been implemented and will be completed by June of 2019 with five years of monitoring following completion.
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Major: Ecological Restoration
Year: 2018
File Attachments: Pratt_Capstone_2018.docx
Authors: Thomas Pratt

Antifungal activity of propolis, neem oil, and cedarwood oil against the white-rot fungus Trametes versicolor on American beech

Fri, 12/07/2018 - 16:27
Abstract: Fungi are often considered the most destructive organisms to attack wood that has gone through the milling process, so developing compounds to resist decay are extremely important. Copper chromated arsenic (CCA) was an industry standard until 2003 when its use was restricted due to environmental concerns. Thus, research into environmentally friendly compounds has become more common. This study investigated which compound, propolis extract, neem oil, or cedarwood oil, would best preserve beech wood exposed to Trametes versicolor. Extracts for each of the compounds were prepared using denatured ethanol, and infused into wood blocks using a vacuum pump. Blocks were made of American beech (Fagus grandifolia Ehrh.) and were 10mm x 20mm x 5mm in size. The blocks were subjected to a common white-rot fungal strain, Trametes (= Coriolus) versicolor (L.) Lloyd (1920), for six weeks. Overall, propolis and cedarwood oil treated blocks lost significantly less mass than both neem and control blocks, suggesting they have potential for use as natural wood preservatives, and could be used as cobiocides.
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Major: Forestry
Year: 2018
File Attachments: Final Capstone Report.docx
Authors: Adam Milenkowic, Timothy Otis

Coarse Woody Debris Volume Following Conventional and Whole-Tree Harvesting

Tue, 12/04/2018 - 16:50
Abstract: Coarse woody debris (CWD) affects important ecological patterns and processes in the forest, including nutrient cycling, carbon stocks, wildlife habitat, regeneration dynamics, and hydrology. Timber harvesting practices have been shown to affect the abundance and distribution of CWD in forest stands. This study separates timber harvesting practices into two categories: conventional harvesting (CH), where only the main stem of trees and possibly some large branches are harvested, leaving branches, twigs, leaves, buds, and other plant parts to decompose on the forest floor, and whole-tree harvesting (WTH), which removes the entire aboveground portion of trees. I measured post-harvest CWD volume within recent patch clear cuts in Vermont, comparing results between CH and WTH. Conventional harvesting sites contained significantly more (p = 0.04) CWD volume (954ft^3/ac) than WTH sites (422 ft^3/ac). In other words, CH resulted in a post-harvest CWD volume 126% greater than the volume resulting from WTH. The most important difference was a wide discrepancy between treatments in decay class 2, which contained 66% of the total CWD volume. The increased reduction of CWD through WTH, especially when carried out over multiple rotations, may have negative effects on future site productivity, as well as richness and abundance of wildlife. The choice to employ CH or WTH may also affect the carbon balance, regeneration dynamics, and hydrology of forest stands.
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Major: Forestry
Year: 2018
Authors: William (Bill) Musson

ECTOMYCORRHIZA’S INFLUENCE ON SEEDLING GROWTH

Tue, 12/04/2018 - 14:16
Abstract: Mycorrhizae play an important role in forest ecosystems through their symbiotic relationship with trees and root systems. Of the mycorrhizae, ectomycorrhiza (EM), specifically targets softwood species and some hardwoods. In this experiment, the results of a powdered EM inoculum and red oak (Quercus rubra L.), pitch pine (Pinus rigida Mill.), and red spruce (Picea rubens Sarg.) were evaluated during one growing season. The study compared a control of no EM and treatment with EM in seed grown trees in containers. Difference between heights of the treatment and control were recorded to see if the inoculum impacted seedling growth of the host species. Throughout this capstone the hypothesis states: An ectomycorrhizae (EM) powdered inoculum would influence pitch pine, red spruce, and red oak seedlings height and biomass for the duration of one growing season (April-Late August). Red oak control exceeded treatment in biomass but not height, and pitch pine and red spruce treatment exceeded control in height and biomass.
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Major: Forestry
Year: 2018
File Attachments: finalreport_slinger.docx
Authors: Samantha L. Slingerland

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