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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

Lower St. Regis Lake Survey: A Comparative Study of Fish Population Structure and Function over Time

Thu, 12/13/2018 - 14:24
Abstract: Lake surveys are performed on bodies of water to provide a health analysis of fish populations over time. Lake surveys can be conducted in a variety of ways to attain specific data. Lower St. Regis Lake was surveyed to determine the fish community composition and to understand fish population traits. Using fyke nets placed at six predetermined locations for 24 hours, as well as fishing, we collected data for age, length (mm), weight (g), and parasites present. Data was analyzed in the lab using Excel to form graphs and tables to demonstrate our findings. Catch rates were lower compared to years before and comparing our data to New York State Department of Conservation data found that our length-at-age data was lower for the six-species sampled. Pumpkinseed and yellow perch were the only two species to have over twenty fish sampled. Decreased air temperatures brought in by a cold front during the week of our sampling may have been a reason for our lower number of fish caught. Mesh size is also a bias while using these nets as smaller fish can escape, and predatory fish can prey on smaller fish while in the net. Some species of fish such as black crappie may be more susceptible to capture due to its habit of associating with structure.
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Literary Rights: Off
Major: Biology, Environmental Sciences, Environmental Studies, Fisheries and Wildlife Science, Natural Resources Conservation and Management
Year: 2018
File Attachments: Capstone_Final.docx
Authors: Deacon Chapin, Jared Chlus, Louis Daversa, Jon Herrman, Robert Visicaro

Effects of Silvicultural Treatments on Wildlife Communities at the Paul Smith's College Forest Research Demonstration Areas

Fri, 05/11/2018 - 16:15
Abstract: Logging has drastically altered North American forest ecosystems for centuries. While extensive studies have been done to determine the impacts of different silvicultural practices on plant communities, minimal research has evaluated the impacts on wildlife communities, particularly in the Adirondack Mountains. Silvicultural practices may significantly impact wildlife communities due to the disturbances it causes, as well as the way it alters the habitat. We monitored winter wildlife communities in the Forest Ecosystem Research Demonstration Area owned by Paul Smith’s College in the Northern Adirondack Park. By analyzing the data collected by trail cameras, tracks and measuring percent browse, we compared the abundance and diversity of wildlife in three silvicultural treatments (i.e., clearcut, group selection, control). We also collected data regarding the physical aspects of the silvicultural treatment plot (i.e. canopy cover and snow depth) to indicate the kind of available habitat. We found that despite there being the highest average relative activity in group selection, there is no significant relationship between average relative activity and harvest treatment type. Using the Shannon-Weiner Diversity Index, we found that the highest diversity was in control/reference. Due to our limited treatment sample size, we did not have conclusive findings in most areas of our study. However, the highest total tracks and relative activity were found in the clearcuts. We suggest that more research be done on this study in order to eventually make forest management plans that properly account for both plant and wildlife species.
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Literary Rights: On
Major: Biology, Environmental Sciences, Natural Resources Conservation and Management
Year: 2018
Authors: Jacob Adams, Caitlin De Bellis, Tyler Fisk, Hyla Howe, Mark McHugh, Daniel Sutch

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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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

Examination of Potentially Ectoparasite-driven Behavior in Burrowing Owls: Tests of Alternative Hypotheses

Thu, 05/07/2015 - 19:06
Abstract: Burrowing Owls (Athene cunicularia) and their nests harbor at least 39 species of arthropods from 21 different families. Among the ectoparasites on Burrowing Owls are fleas, which are primarily Pulex irritans (Family Pulicidae), the human flea. Fleas can number in the hundreds on individual Burrowing Owls. Thus, we hypothesized that flea infestation has shaped Burrowing Owl behavior to avoid the costs of ectoparasitism. As part of experiments using infrared trail cameras deployed at Burrowing Owl nests in southern Idaho ¬¬during 2012-2013, we noticed apparent sunning behavior in both adult and nestling Burrowing Owls. Camera images captured owls lying on the ground with wings outstretched and flat. We only observed this behavior during daylight hours, although cameras were active for 24 h/day. Sunbathing in birds is often associated with ectoparasite reduction, although sunning has not previously been examined in relation to flea infestation. During 2014 we conducted an experiment that included fumigating some nests with a flea removing insecticide and examined the prediction that sunbathing would occur more frequently in control nests where ectoparasites remained. As sunning was not during the coolest parts of the day, it did not appear to function for warming. Also, we ultimately found no difference in the frequency of sunning in fumigated and control nests, and there was no relationship between sunning and abundance of fleas on owls. Thus, the evidence is not consistent with the ectoparasite hypothesis, as owls sunned irrespective of flea load. We also evaluated the alternative hypotheses that sunning was related to thermoregulation, anting, drying or feather degrading bacteria. The first three we were able to reject, and the last will need future research.
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Major: Biology
Year: 2015
File Attachments: The Author has selected not to publish this complete work.
Authors: Skyler Wysocki

The Effects of Varying Wavelengths of Light on Diatom Movement

Wed, 05/06/2015 - 16:18
Abstract: Diatoms were studied in order to determine in which wavelength of light they would be most active. It was surmised this knowledge would allow easier testing of future diatom movement hypotheses. This knowledge could, in turn, allow control over diatom movement in order to prevent or circumvent hazardous diatom blooms. Specimens were studied using a Parco scientific microscope in a dark room. They were studied both with and without cover slips to ensure the cover slips did not hinder movement. Sheets of high quality color transparency paper were laid over the microscope light, producing a single, strong color. In the end, the diatoms didn’t move at all, no matter the circumstances. The diatoms could have had no reason for movement or have been restricted by the small amount of water on the microscope slide due to the vast difference between the slide and the diatoms’ natural environment.
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Literary Rights: On
Major: Biology
Year: 2015
File Attachments: Diatoms.docx
Authors: Eric Swiecki

White-tailed Deer Browse Preference: A Comparative Study of the Catskill and Adirondack Mountain Regions, New York State

Tue, 05/05/2015 - 14:23
Abstract: Abundant white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) in New York State, United States, affect forest regeneration and stand composition through feeding (browse) pressure. White-tailed deer browse preference of six different hardwood tree species in two mountain ranges, the Catskill and Adirondack Mountains, within New York State were compared in order to determine the extent of browse selection by deer. There were no statistically different browse selection by white-tailed deer within the Catskills or Adirondack study area or between each study site. Visual analysis of the study areas after concluding the study revealed that red maple (Acer rubrum) was the preferred browse species at each study site.
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Major: Biology, Natural Resources Management and Policy
Year: 2015
File Attachments: Title, abstract, TOC , Report
Authors: John MacNaught, Blaine Kenyon, Mark Staats, Travis Boucher, Noah Finlayson-Gesten

Would an underpass/tunnel on Keese Mills Road decrease the percentage of amphibian mortality due to road mortality?

Wed, 04/29/2015 - 18:09
Abstract: Road Mortality has had a huge impact on Amphibian populations worldwide. Several options are available to help maintain and preserve migrating populations across roadways. One method that is looked at during this study is underpass and fencing. In this study, I assessed the need for an underpass and if it could help reduce the amount of amphibian’s mortality by traffic and, if an underpass is necessary, properly predict a location. I also looked at if underpasses alone could reduce the mortality of amphibians. I constructed arrays and pitfall traps to simulate an underpass on Keese Mills Road at Paul Smiths and Santa Clara, Franklin County New York. I predicted that underpass would decrease the amount of amphibian being slayed. I also predicted that certain locations would have more usage then others. The results showed that there was no significant difference between the location of the sites and whether they would be used by the amphibians. The results also showed that there was no correlation between the species that were captured and the species that were killed.
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Literary Rights: On
Major: Biology
Year: 2015
File Attachments: The Author has selected not to publish this complete work.
Authors: Jorge Velazquez