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Capstone Projects

Developing a Bird Integrity Index (BII) for Use as an Indicator of Stream Condition in the Northern Adirondack Park

Mon, 04/27/2020 - 12:50
Abstract: The primary goal of this research was to create a Bird Integrity Index (BII) to be used for the ecological integrity analysis of streams and their related riparian zones in the northern Adirondack Park based on frameworks provided by previous research in Oregon. Fifty-eight metrics were tested from avian survey (point count) data along fifteen stream reaches of 0.5km in length. These metrics represented aspects of avian taxonomic richness, dietary preferences, foraging techniques, tolerance or intolerance to human disturbance, and nesting strategies. To evaluate the responsiveness of each metric, they were plotted against an index of stream condition based on sampling of benthic macroinvertebrates according to the outline provided by the stream biomonitoring research unit of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. Five of the fifty-eight candidate metrics remained after removing metrics that had an R2 value of less than .2 or were highly correlated. Individual avian metric scores ranged from 0-10 and BII scores were set on a scale of 0-100. While the BII presented here was successful in responding to varying conditions based on disturbance levels (R2= .64), due to multiple unexpected relationships between avian metrics and stream condition, it is proposed that more in-depth and comparative research be completed before an Adirondack specific BII is presented for field usage.
Access: Yes
Literary Rights: On
Major: Ecological Restoration
Year: 2020
File Attachments: Jesse Rock Capstone.pdf
Authors: Jesse Rock

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.
Access: Yes
Literary Rights: Off
Major: Ecological Restoration
Year: 2020
Authors: Joshua T. Young

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.
Access: Yes
Literary Rights: On
Major: Ecological Restoration, Environmental Sciences
Year: 2020
Authors: Zoe Plant, Thomas Firkins, Julie Capito, and Benjamin Marshall

Reinvigoration of the Champlain-Adirondack Biosphere Reserve: Stakeholder Perceptions

Tue, 05/08/2018 - 15:02
Abstract: The Champlain-Adirondack Biosphere Reserve (CABR) was designated by the United Nations in 1989. This reserve spans the entire Adirondack Park, and includes the Lake Champlain Valley in Vermont as well. Biosphere reserves focus on conservation at a global level, and use international knowledge from lessons learned to best benefit each specific biosphere. Although CABR was designated in 1989, it became classified as inactive soon after. In 2016, Brian Houseal, Director of SUNY's College of Environmental Science and Forestry Newcomb Campus, prepared a periodic report to UNESCO on CABRs current status. The goal of this research was to determine the probability of stakeholder support to bring CABR out of inactivity, almost 20 years after it was designated originally. The research performed focused on stakeholders’ awareness and perceptions of the CABR, along with past indications of concerns and resistance among local residents. The research addresses this deficit and identifies and clarifies our representative’s samples perceptions of the designation. The research revealed that land use rights were still the major concern. The research revealed that this was still a concern because there is still a major lack of information on the CABR land classifications/land use rights. Information on CABR was concluded to be one of the largest challenges at this time. This research revealed that 68% of the residents were unaware of CABR until the periodic review was published in 2016, and over 40% of the residents had no idea what CABR was until they received an invite to come to the focus group.
Access: Yes
Literary Rights: Off
Major: Arboriculture and Landscape Management, Parks and Conservation Management
Year: 2018
File Attachments: Coolidge Capstone 2018.docx
Authors: Nicholas Coolidge

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.
Access: Yes
Literary Rights: Off
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

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.
Access: Yes
Literary Rights: Off
Major: Ecological Restoration
Year: 2018
File Attachments: Pratt_Capstone_2018.docx
Authors: Thomas Pratt

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.
Access: Yes
Literary Rights: Off
Major: Ecological Restoration
Year: 2018
Authors: Hunter Gaudette
, Joseph Hollner
, Jonathan Meadows
, Ryan Morr
, Sara Savoia, Cassandra Schrader

Where in the Unite States Can Dual-Flush Toilets Flush Out Savings?

Mon, 12/02/2013 - 13:06
Abstract: Potable water is becoming increasingly scarce in water poor regions of the United States. Reducing the volume of potable water consumed residentially and commercially is vital to ensure a stable water dependent future. Converting a traditional single-flush toilet into a dual-flush toilet is arguably the most effective means for reducing wastewater production in both residential and commercial settings. The objective of this study was to determine where within the United States dual-flush retrofits are cost effective. A cost-benefit analysis illustrating the price of the dual-flush retrofits & the monetary value of the water conserved post installation will be created using Paul Smith’s College campus of northern New York State as a testing site. The study will utilize a total of 145 toilets for both commercial and residential settings. Costs of the installation and purchasing of the product will be used to determine pay-back period and thus, the economic benefit of installing dual-flush toilets. Secondary data from previously completed dual-flush studies determined where within the 50 states dual-flush retrofits are cost effective. The resulting data illustrated relatively long payback periods for the greater United States with the most dramatic differences being seen in Hawaii and the least in Nebraska.
Access: Yes
Literary Rights: On
Major: Natural Resources Sustainability
Year: 2013
File Attachments: FinalC.docx
Authors: Andrew Noviasky