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Capstone Projects

Impacts of Minnow Species Composition on Marsh Feeding Ecology: A Look at Minnow Composition in Heron Marsh

Mon, 11/30/2020 - 16:07
Abstract: Minnows play an important role in marsh ecosystems as both predator and prey. The abundance of minnows in water systems makes them important tools for studying the feeding ecology of small prey fish. Minnow traps were set within specific regions and plots located in the Heron Marsh in the Adirondack Park, New York. These traps were baited and checked the next day, and minnows were identified by species then released. Trophic guilds were assigned to each minnow species based on literature and feeding habits. ANOVA tests were conducted to compare minnow species composition from the fall of 2020 in all regions of the marsh. Histograms were used to compare length-frequency over time and sites where minnows frequent. The composition of trophic guilds showed that carnivores were scarce, as creek chub only over 100mm were considered predatory, and they were not as frequent as smaller creek chub. Omnivorous generalist feeders were common but no specific site in the marsh had more omnivorous feeders than other sites. Finally, the abundance of insectivores was high in most sites, and highest in the forest ecology trail site. Length frequency of the two most caught fish, creek chub and finescale dace, were represented with histograms. Creek chub under 100mm were more abundant in every site than individuals larger than 100mm. Similarly, finescale dace 70mm and smaller were more common in every site.
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Literary Rights: On
Major: Biology
Year: 2020
Authors: Emily Schmeltz

An Ecological History of the Albany Pine Bush, Albany NY

Mon, 11/30/2020 - 15:45
Abstract: Paleoecology allows us to look backward in time thousands of years to see the long-term ecological history of an area. The main focus was to conduct the first exploratory investigations of the wetland located in the Albany Pine Bush Preserve (APBP) and Stump Pond deposits and the first directly dated ecological history of the pine bush. Irregular fire regimes and land development have caused a massive loss to the pine bush. Between 1940 and 1990 the pine bush has experienced an 81% change in land cover. Despite this, the APBP is home to many rare and endangered species in need of habitat restoration. Three samples (APB1-A, APB1-C, & APB2) were collected from a wetland within the boundaries of the APBP and one sample (Stump-1) was collected from a nearby pond. Cores were analyzed for pollen assemblages to reconstruct the tree community. APB cores revealed that Pinus and Quercus pollen grains made up the majority of all pollen found from Present – 6600 years ago Stump-1 pollen assemblages were dominated by Pinus and Picea indicating that between 6600 and 10,600 years ago the ecosystem transformed into the pitch pine- scrub oak ecosystem we see today. This information can help the APBP justify future preservation and restoration work.
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Literary Rights: Off
Major: Biology
Year: 2020
File Attachments: Capstone Paper Full.docx
Authors: Skylar Murphy

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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Literary Rights: Off
Major: Biology
Year: 2020
File Attachments: Capstone_0.docx
Authors: Lydia Harvey

The Lower St. Regis Lake Shoreline: Understanding the Past, Analyzing the Present, and Recommendations for the Future

Sat, 05/09/2020 - 11:54
Abstract: Continuing shoreline research and restoration planning will help Paul Smith’s College adhere to their own missions and visions including experiential learning, improving students' lives, and maintaining an ecological conscience as a community.
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Literary Rights: On
Major: Ecological Restoration, Environmental Sciences
Year: 2020
Authors: Zoe Plant, Thomas Firkins, Julie Capito, and Benjamin Marshall

Small Mammal Presence and Predation of Boreal Bird Nests in Forested vs. Open Peatlands in the Northern Adirondack Park, NY

Mon, 11/30/2020 - 16:07
Abstract: Recent declines of many boreal birds have been documented in the last decade and area attributed to changing climate and human development. One factor that has not been studied in the critical boreal peatland habitats in the Adirondack Park is the occurrence and influence of small mammals preying on passerine boreal bird nests. The hypotheses tested were (1) small mammals occupy forested peatlands in a higher abundance than open peatlands at the study sites and (2) boreal bird nests in forested peatlands are more likely to be preyed on by small mammals than nests in open peatlands. Baited track tubes were placed on transects within open and forested peatlands and activity was estimated from prints left on contact paper, and artificial nests and eggs were used to compare the difference in nest predation between open and forested peatlands. There was a difference in small mammal activity between forested and open bog at the Paul Smith’s VIC study area, but results were not significant at Shingle Shanty medium bog. 67% of artificial nests in the forested bog at the VIC were destroyed, and only 14% were destroyed in the open bog. At Shingle Shanty, 83% of the nests were destroyed in the forested bog and 0% of artificial nests were damaged in the open bog.
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Literary Rights: On
Major: Environmental Sciences
Year: 2020
Authors: Carly Beckstrom

Soil moisture levels’ impact on variation in microhabitat selection and distribution between shrub species along the riparian zones of the St. Regis River in Northern New York

Sat, 11/28/2020 - 15:42
Abstract: Willows (Salix spp.) are commonly found along riparian zones of northern latitude water bodies and are often used in riparian restoration and bank stabilization. However, not much is known about willows on a species level, especially among thee shrubby species native to North America. This study seeks to better understand the variation in the distribution of three willows (Salix bebbiana, S. discolor, and S. petiolaris) and two other shrub species (Alnus incana and Viburnum nudum) on a species level based on soil moisture. To reach this goal this study analyzes their distribution at several points along the shore of the St. Regis River. The study analyzed vertical distance from the river as a proxy for soil moisture, saturation volume as a proxy for porosity, and bulk density. It was found that soil moisture, as approximated by vertical distance was statistically significantly linked to the distribution of different shrub species. Porosity, bulk density, and distance along the river had no statistically significant relationship. The results supported the hypothesis that willows had the highest soil moisture requirements. The sample sizes were very small and only one willow, a S. petiolaris, was found in the study sites.
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Literary Rights: Off
Major: Forestry
Year: 2020
File Attachments: G.Davis_Capstone_final.docx
Authors: Gregory Davis

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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Literary Rights: Off
Major: Environmental Sciences, Natural Resources Management and Policy
Year: 2014
Authors: Patrick Colern, Sinjin Larson

Alpine Ecosystems on Ski Area Summits in the Northeast: A Best Management Practices Manual

Mon, 12/01/2014 - 15:19
Abstract: Over the past half a century, anthropogenic climate change has triggered temperatures in the northeastern United States to rise. This increase has led to decreased winter precipitation and a longer annual growing season. Species found in upland/montane habitats on the southern edge of their range limits are particularly threatened by these changes. Warmer temperatures have allowed larger woody plants to advance up mountain slopes, entering the habitat of these fragile species. In the next decade, we will witness a complete disappearance of alpine flora from several locations across the northeast including Whiteface in New York, Sugarloaf in Maine and Mount Mansfield in Vermont. Managers of ski resorts can therefore play an important role in promoting the continued persistence of high-altitude flora and fauna through carefully considered management decisions can also serve to promote the reputation of the ski industry as stewards of mountaintop ecosystems. Doing so will allow for continued study of the species that exist within these communities, the protection of biodiversity, and increased revenue for the resort itself through elevated public image and mountain-top tourism. To help begin these conservation efforts, we have created a best management practice (BMP) manual to guide ski area managers in making these developments. It includes techniques for sustainable slope, soil, vegetation and wildlife management, erosion control, artificial snow production, and ski slope construction and design. Also included are marketing techniques and an overview of the economic viability of the practices outlined in this manual.
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Literary Rights: On
Major: Forestry, Natural Resources Management and Policy
Year: 2014
Authors: Pali Gelsomini, Dylan Randall

Forest Succession's Effect on Soil Physical and Chemical Properties after Agriculture Abandonment

Mon, 12/01/2014 - 11:00
Abstract: Landscapes have been significantly altered by humans and replacing forests with agricultural crops is a major alteration humans have made. This landscape change has affected soils significantly. Agriculture practices can potentially have detrimental effects on soils. However, through the 20th century forest cover drastically increased in the United States through the recruitment of second growth forests as a result of agriculture abandonment. Forests reclaiming farm lands through forest succession can have a significant effect on recoveries in soil physical and chemical properties such as bulk density, soil strength, porosity and fertility. Therefore, the goal of this study was to investigate forest successions effect on soil physical and chemical properties after agriculture abandonment. Three specific hypotheses were tested: 1) Bulk density and soil strength will decrease while micro and macro porosity will increase as forests reclaim farm lands. 2) Soil carbon and available nitrogen will increase over time. 3) Soil pH will decrease and electrical conductivity will increase over time. These hypotheses were explored on abandoned agriculture fields in a chronosequence study on coarse loamy Inceptisols in upstate New York across a 60 year temporal scale. Data showed that total porosity, total carbon and available nitrogen increase while soil pH, bulk density, soil strength and electrical conductivity decline over time. These results support all three hypotheses except for the latter half of hypothesis number three. The findings of this study suggest that although agriculture may disturb soil properties, time coupled with forest succession can result in significant recoveries.
Access: Yes
Literary Rights: Off
Major: Forestry
Year: 2014
File Attachments: Final Report.docx
Authors: Nathan Piché

Differences in soil fertility along roadsides between state and locally managed roadways in Franklin County, New York

Thu, 05/08/2014 - 20:30
Abstract: Techniques for managing roadways often incorporate use of sodium chloride, or roadsalt. Use of this substance can vary greatly depending on whether state or local municipalities are prescribing management for particular roadways. Roadsalt has the potential to affect the chemical composition of roadside soils. This study sought examine relationships between winter management techniques and soil chemical properties as distance increased from roadsides. Transects were set up perpendicular to 5 roads managed by the State of New York, and 5 roads managed by towns in Franklin County, New York. 10 samples were removed from the soil surface at each transect, every two meters back from each roadside from 2 to 20 meters. pH, conductivity, abundances of Ca, Na, K, Mg, Cl, % Na on CEC, & % Ca on CEC were determined for each sample. Using ANOVA equations pH, % Na, and Cl concentration were found to have significant relationship with distance while %Na, % Ca, and Na concentration had significant relationships with regards to management. It was concluded that Na is displacing large amounts of Ca on exchange near state managed roads, decreasing soil fertility specifically in those areas. Results follow trends found in other studies that cite increasing concentrations of both Na and Cl on watershed scales.
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Literary Rights: On
Major: Forestry
Year: 2014
File Attachments: Actually Done.docx
Authors: Dylan Kirk