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Capstone Projects

Forest Structure and Composition in the Smitty Creek Watershed

Wed, 12/14/2016 - 09:56
Abstract: The 2016 Smitty Creek CFI (Continuous Forest Inventory) study addressed the issue of creating a reliable and repeatable inventory design to examine general forestry trends and their relationships with the watershed itself. Identifying these trends and their consequences is important when considering factors linked to climate change, such as carbon storage and allocation. The objective of this project were as follows: establish 10 new CFI plots, monitor and record for signs of disease and insects, tree mortality, and overstory wildlife habitat, accurately estimate forest carbon sequestration, record understory composition in a 1/50th acre area around each plot center, and suggest methods and reasons for application in Paul Smith’s College CFI capstone projects. The study was conducted within the Smitty Creek watershed in Paul Smiths, NY with the plots falling on a transect that runs north and south. At each plot, trees within the radius were assigned numbered aluminum tags, trees were measured at diameter at breast height, and other features, such as snags, were recorded. Upon completing the project, 10 CFI plots had been created and their locations were recorded, several diseases and forest health concerns were identified, as well as, tree mortality and wildlife habitat considerations, carbon sequestration for the watershed was modeled over the next century, and a CFI project was designed for the Paul Smith’s College land compartments. The Smitty Creek watershed CFI project is repeatable and has an accurate baseline of information for future studies, and the Paul Smith’s College land compartments CFI plot design is ready for implementation.
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Major: Environmental Sciences, Fisheries and Wildlife Science, Forestry
Year: 2016
Authors: Gregg Slezak, Leonard Johnson, William O'Reilly, Jake Weber, Charlie Ulrich, Collin Perkins McCraw, Jake Harm, Nick Georgelas

Management Plan of the Ring-Tailed lemurs (Lemur catta) at Beza Mahafaly Special Reserve in Madagascar

Tue, 05/03/2016 - 11:29
Abstract: The need to protect Ring-tailed lemurs is evident. Lemurs are the most threatened group of vertebrates in the world with the IUCN listing 94% of lemur species as threated. This high percentage is in part due to the fact that lemurs only occur naturally in Madagascar so changes to the island effects the whole infraorder (Lemuriformes). Helping to curb illegal activities will protect not just the habitat for Ring-Tailed lemurs but will help the entirety of Madagascar’s Wildlife that has evolved on an island that used to be covered by up to 90% forest. These illegal practices are often protected by armed guards which may require assistance from the Madagascar government for adequate protection of the islands forests
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Major: Fisheries and Wildlife Science
Year: 2016
File Attachments: The Author has selected not to publish this complete work.
Authors: Elias Carter

Outward Bound semester: Skills to last a life time

Wed, 12/14/2016 - 10:44
Abstract: The focus of this study will examine the level at which an Outward Bound semester fosters personal growth, connection with nature, and hard skills. This particular Outward Bound semester course traveled from the Florida Keys then on to Costa Rica and Panama in Central America. The course focused on the water elements of sailing, surfing, whitewater rafting, scuba diving, and sea kayaking. Methods used include personal journal reflections, peer and instructors oral and written responses. The researcher was an active participant in the immersive experience and kept a journal of the entire experience trying to gather as much information about the course itself and reflecting on the research process throughout. This research indicated that this experience developed personal character and a connection with nature. These skills have an impact deeper than an isolated course with Outward Bound but can be transferred to daily life.
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Major: Recreations, Adventure Travel and Ecotourism, Recreation, Adventure Education and Leisure Management, Parks, Recreation and Facilities Management
Year: 2016
Authors: Sam Annable

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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Major: Forestry, Natural Resources Management and Policy
Year: 2014
Authors: Pali Gelsomini, Dylan Randall

A MULTI-SCALE EVALUATION OF THE EFFECTS OF FOREST HARVESTING FOR WOODY BIOFUELS ON MAMMALIAN COMMUNITIES IN A NORTHERN HARDWOOD FOREST

Fri, 02/01/2013 - 16:19
Abstract: Forest harvesting and subsequent effects on forest structure have been shown to influence mammalian community assemblages and the abundance of individual species, however less attention has been paid to the implications of how harvested timber is used. This is particularly relevant in the Northern Forest, where a considerable portion of the forest harvesting is used to produce biofuels. Biofuels harvesting typically involves the process of whole-tree chipping which may lead to a dramatic reduction in the amount of woody material in the form of slash and coarse woody debris (CWD) left in harvested stands. The goal of our study was to assess the effects of biofuels harvesting on forest structure and subsequent effects on mammalian community structure and abundance. To address this goal, we focused on a ~35 Ha area of partially-harvested northern hardwood forest in the northern Adirondacks, New York. To sample mammals we used a combination of Sherman traps and track plates established at two scales across stands within this area. Our results showed that the response of small mammals to changes in forest structure is both species and scale specific. At the individual trap scale, CWD, slash, and understory cover were important drivers of the occurrence of individual species of small mammals. At the larger “grid” scale, small mammal relative abundance was driven by canopy cover and the density of woody stems. Our results indicate that the current harvesting practices used for biofuel production in the Adirondacks are unlikely to result in declines in abundance of common small mammal species. However, the retention of some slash post-harvest may be beneficial to some species, thus foresters may want to include slash retention when developing silvicultural prescriptions.
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Major: Environmental Sciences, Fisheries and Wildlife Science, Natural Resources Management and Policy
Year: 2012
Authors: Cody Laxton, Alisha Benack, Danielle Ball, Scott Collins, Sam Forlenza, Richard Franke, Stephanie Korzec, Alec Judge, Connor Langevin, Jonathan Vimislik, Elena Zito

The influence of temperature, moon phase and cloud cover on the catchability of bats in the Upper Connecticut River Basin and the Merrimack River Basin

Sun, 12/09/2012 - 15:28
Abstract: Small mammals modify their behavior in response to environmental factors such as weather, temperature, moon phase, visibility and the time of night at which they forage. The goal of my study was to determine how environmental variables such as temperature, moon phase and visibility (cloud cover) affected the efficiency (bat captures/net meter/ hour) of bat mist netting. Mist nets were placed in the months of June, July, August, September and November from 2003 to 2012 using mist netting surveys at 23 Army Corps of Engineers dams and recreation projects in New Hampshire and Vermont. Catch rate of bats was not affected by moon phase (P= 0.317) or cloud cover (P=0.130), but were slightly affected by temperature (P=0.053). These results were consistent with other studies that looked at the effects of moon phase, cloud cover and temperature on bats. Knowing the effects of environmental conditions on catchability could be useful to biologists in determining if it is worthwhile to mist net bats on nights with certain conditions to maximize efficiency of catching bats
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Literary Rights: On
Major: Fisheries and Wildlife Science
Year: 2012
Authors: Jeremy Chamberlain

Can black-capped chickadees learn to associate ultraviolet markers with a food source?

Thu, 12/06/2012 - 07:22
Abstract: Food storing birds, like black-capped chickadees (Poecile atricapillus), have a higher hippocampal volume than other birds, giving them the ability to hide food in small caches and retrieve them hours later with great precision using physical features of the surrounding area as guides. This capacity for learning spatial information may be able to translate to other forms of learning, such as association. Black-capped chickadees are also able to see in the near ultraviolet range (~370nm), theoretically to allow for more vibrant plumage during the breeding season. I hypothesized that black-capped chickadees have the ability to associate an ultraviolet marker with a food source. If they can, perhaps birds can be 'taught' to go towards or away from things like wind turbines, windows, and other hazardous objects. I tested my hypothesis by counting the number of chickadees that landed on two different feeders, one with an ultraviolet marker and food and one with neither. I found that there was no significant trend, either within or between days, that would indicate that the birds learned (χ2 test and Student’s t-test). As a management use, researchers propose that ultraviolet markers on wind turbines could decrease the collision rate of birds with turbine blades.
Access: Yes
Literary Rights: On
Major: Fisheries and Wildlife Science
Year: 2012
File Attachments: Eck_Capstone_Final.doc
Authors: Benjamin Eck

Neo-homesteading in the Adirondack-North Country

Mon, 12/03/2012 - 16:15
Abstract: This study was an exploration of the values and behaviors of Adirondack-North Country neo-homesteaders and how such unique traits shape and influence community integrity and resilience. The use of the prefix neo is indicative of the new or emerging homesteading trend within recent decades as differentiated from similar cultural movements of the past. The purpose of the study was to synthesize the motivation behind the current cultural migration of populations toward a rural lifestyle; the cohesiveness of neo-homesteading communities in the Adirondack-North Country; the importance of ecological and regional socio-economic relationships; and how the flux of thoughts and behaviors promote the crafting of an alternative future. Analysis of the stated-values and observed behaviors of current homesteading populations in the Adirondack-North Country compared with those cited in primary literature sources provided insight into the back-to-the-land progression and regression from the mid-1800s to the 2000s. This research also compared and contrasted the diverse individual values that Adirondack neo-homesteaders display in regards to the current constructs of American society. Using grounded theory as a paradigmatic lens and ethnographic methodologies, the research process yielded organically developed emergent themes as influenced by economics, bioregionalism, place-based connections, religion, history, and the environment, which provided a multi-dimensional insight into homesteader choices and decision-making processes. Data was collected and interpreted using survey data as a means to provide a theoretical framework for more in-depth, subjective participant observation ethnographies. The data revealed that geographical place, community cohesion, and security with regard to family, food, and finances were the dominant drivers of the neo-homesteading movement in the Adirondack-North Country
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Major: Natural Resources Management and Policy
Year: 2012
Authors: William R. Martin, Michael J. Cerasaro

A Cost-Benefit Analysis of Allowing All-Terrain Vehicles on Vermont State Land

Sat, 12/01/2012 - 12:35
Abstract: Our capstone project is a cost-benefit analysis of allowing ATVs (All-Terrain Vehicles) on Vermont State land. This issue is controversial among Vermont outdoor enthusiasts. We wanted to know if the allowance of ATVs on Vermont state land is economically feasible. This study explored the current economic impacts and damages of ATV-related activities in Vermont, willingness to pay to use state land, and the possible economic benefits of allowing ATVs on state land compared to the trail construction and maintenance cost. We surveyed members of Vermont’s ATV community and conducted interviews of private and public landowners and private and public companies. Our results showed that on average most ATV users were willing to pay to use state land, the Vermont ATV community contributes to Vermont’s economy, and trail construction and maintenance is a legitimate factor when considering the construction of building sustainable trails on public land. Our study concluded that on a small scale, ATV trails on Vermont state land appears to be economically sustainable.
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Major: Natural Resources Management and Policy
Year: 2012
Authors: Cory Campbell, Kyle Wagner

Risk on the Rocks: A study of risk as related to self efficacy in rock climbing

Mon, 12/03/2012 - 15:50
Abstract: Self efficacy is being confident in ones skills or ability to perform a task and may be directly linked to risk in relation to rock climbing. Risk is exposing oneself to danger that can cause you threat loss or harm. The purpose of this project is to see if there is a direct correlation between the risks that rock climbers take and their experience level. A goal sample of 100 rock climbers will partake in a survey asking questions that will help to estimate confidence, age, gender and risk taking behaviors in climbers. This study hopes to show that climbers are more willing to take risks when they are more confident in their experiences. The significance of this study will be useful to the climbing community as a whole because very little research has been conducted on this specific area of climbing.
Access: Yes
Literary Rights: Off
Major: Recreations, Adventure Travel and Ecotourism
Year: 2012
File Attachments: Risk on the Rocks Capstone
Authors: Matthew Baer