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

Generating Visitor and Nordic Ski Revenue at The VIC

Wed, 05/27/2020 - 16:16
Abstract: This project encompasses a comprehensive media and advertising plan to generate revenue for the Nordic ski season at the Paul Smith’s College Visitors Interpretive Center (VIC). The VIC is an environmental education and winter sports center owned and operated by Paul Smith’s College. This plan is designed to be useful in generating Nordic Season revenue for the VIC for years to come.
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Major: Communication
Year: 2020
Authors: Jill Marie Henderson

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

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

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.
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Literary Rights: On
Major: Ecological Restoration
Year: 2020
File Attachments: Jesse Rock Capstone.pdf
Authors: Jesse Rock

south island kaka managment plan

Mon, 05/04/2020 - 22:29
Abstract: The south island kaka (Nestor meridionalis meridionalis) is a large olive brown parrot endemic to the low to mid elevation forests of New Zealand. Their historic range spanned all 3 large islands and many of the smaller offshore islands as well. Unfortunate in the past century human involvement has caused these birds to be listed by the IUCN. In 1988 they were listed as near threatened with a continual decreasing population leaving them as endanger with less than 1000 individuals left in the wild in 2019 with a thin fragmented forest prone to die back and full of invasive species. To combat this, we have come up with a management plan to restore a 1000 acre plot of land on Stewart Island west of Half Moon Bay where their historic population was estimated to be the most concentrated on the island. To do this we plan on removing invasive white-tailed deer by using the local hunters to decrease their population supplemented with contraceptive bait piles to decrease their fecundity. On this plot we will manage and monitor the growth of this forest to help it develop into an even aged stand that is less prone to die off and with high productivity that is suitable breeding ground for south island kaka. After 50 years of managing for native plant species and trapping and poisoning of invasive mammals such as stoats, rats and bush tailed possum most if not all invasive will be removed. We will then release 100 kaka into the management area. We will monitor their movement and use of the habitat to better protect them from invasive species in hope to increase their survival closer to their historical percentages (90%). Once this is accomplished we will continue to monitor the area until their population becomes stable and no sign of invasive mammals are impacting their survivability.
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Literary Rights: Off
Major: Fisheries and Wildlife Science
Year: 2020
File Attachments: The Author has selected not to publish this complete work.
Authors: Keith Ahrens

Ten Year Management Plan on Jaguar (Panthera onca) Populations in Brazil

Sun, 05/03/2020 - 11:27
Abstract: Jaguars (Panthera onca) are the world’s third largest big cat and are found throughout Latin America and small parts of the United States of America. They are solitary, elusive carnivores that serves an ecological role as a keystone species throughout their distribution by maintaining populations of herbivorous species which provides more habitat availability and suitability for other wildlife species. Their populations are going through a decline and now 173000 individuals are currently inhabiting about half of their historical range. The factors that endanger jaguar populations are habitat destruction, illegal hunting, and loss of prey. The increase in ranching and the need for more communities for the growing human population are the reasons for the continuation in habitat destruction and the confrontations between people and jaguars. The goal for this management plan is to increase the jaguar populations by 10-15% within 10 years and maintain the populations throughout the country of Brazil. There are currently 86,800 individual jaguars in Brazil and reaching the goals in maintain populations will require improving their habitat and prey availability while reducing the factors that are the direct cause in their decline. The objectives include focusing conservation efforts on certain age classes to increase the survivability of individuals and the chances of reproduction to add individuals to a population. They also include mitigating human and jaguar conflicts, making environmental protections and wildlife management a bigger priority in the public, politics, and laws, and reducing the rate of habitat fragmentation by 20% throughout the country of Brazil. Some actions to make these objectives successful include conducting further research on the life cycle and natural behaviors on jaguars to support conservation efforts needed to benefit the populations and continuing current methods that are used to reduce human and jaguar conflicts. To monitor the success and failures of this management plan, public surveys for the residents’ perspective on the jaguars will be conducted yearly along with some population counts on the jaguars in each region of Brazil. Jaguars are currently listed as near threatened by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) red list and due to the population declines and the continuation of factors effecting the populations, they will mostly likely be listed as vulnerable in 30 years. If there is an increase in conservation efforts and a reduction in conflicts between jaguars and human communities, then the jaguars will have a smaller chance of reaching extinction.
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Literary Rights: On
Major: Fisheries and Wildlife Science
Year: 2020
File Attachments: Jaguar Management Plan .pdf
Authors: Joshua Staquet

Fifty-year Bicknell’s Thrush (Catharus bicknelli) Management Plan for the Adirondack Park, New York

Fri, 05/01/2020 - 10:40
Abstract: Bicknell’s Thrush (Catharus bicknelli) is a Nearctic-Neotropical migrant passerine found in southeast Canada from the Maritime providences and Quebec down into the Northeastern United States at high elevations of 900 m and above. Their difficult to access habitat and recent acknowledgement of being a distinct species, has resulted in a small body of knowledge and data pertaining to the species. Conservation issues of concern include nest depredation by Eastern red squirrels (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus), montane development, and potential impacts of climate change (i.e. habitat loss and the “Push” hypothesis from Swainson’s Thrush (Catharus ustulatus)). This management plan aims to increase juveniles and breeding populations of Bicknell’s Thrush in the Adirondack Park, New York, by at least 1% yearly, or by at least 50% total through 2070 to allow for the species to subsist. Objectives to reach the goal include increasing juvenile survival by 17% within 15 years and to conserve and increase suitable habitat in the Adirondack Park by silviculture practices such as increasing balsam and spruce-fir habitat (10% by 2040, 20% by 2050, 30% by 2070) and regenerating clear cuts of 5 to 15 years old. To increase the survival of juveniles, Eastern red squirrel populations would be reduced by hiring individuals prior and during Bicknell’s Thrush breeding season to shoot and trap Eastern red squirrels in known Bicknell’s Thrush habitat in the Adirondack Park. Throughout the 50-year management period, a population dynamic study will be initiated for Bicknell’s Thrush along with a population monitoring study for Eastern red squirrels. The studies would be used to determine if management actions have been successful and will be used to collect population dynamics for Bicknell’s Thrush. The studies will collect and provide currently unknown or not well studied data for Bicknell’s Thrush, such as data pertaining to their high natal dispersal and survival rates. Havahart #745 traps will be used to reduce Eastern red squirrel populations. Trapped Eastern red squirrels will be transferred in cages to not allow for escapees and taken to a facility out of public view. The species will then be euthanized by the CO2 method. After inspection, the trapped Eastern red squirrels will be taken to avian rehabilitation facilities to be utilized. To increase suitable habitat for Bicknell’s Thrush, partnerships with timber companies will be created to develop and implement best management practices for the species. Best management practices are even-aged methods, such as the variable-retention and partial-harvest systems, and constant state of afforestation stands of 5 to 15 years old. This action will improve and provide suitable nesting habitat and allow for no net loss of the Bicknell’s Thrush current habitat. Forest interior will be increased, and the creation of edges will increase suitable nesting and foraging habitat. Surveys will be released to the public to strike a balance between Bicknell’s Thrush and human dimensions, along with determine the public’s opinion and knowledge on the species and the management techniques to support the species. Based off the survey, montane activities occurring in Bicknell’s Thrush habitat will be halted during their breeding season to decrease disruption of nests and other behaviors. The species will be proposed to be listed as threatened or endangered to gain protection under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The species is not well known, and the creation and implementation of a successful management plan will increase Bicknell’s Thrush populations while also gaining beneficial information on the species.
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Literary Rights: On
Major: Fisheries and Wildlife Science
Year: 2020
Authors: Falon Cote