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Capstone Projects

Analysis of Forage Quality in Adirondack Macrophytes: Implications for Waterfowl Nutrition

Fri, 04/29/2016 - 14:48
Abstract: To understand the relative nutritional value of macrophyte food sources for Adirondack waterfowl, the forage quality of four common Adirondack macrophytes were assessed. An analysis of two native pondweeds (Potamogeton) and two invasive watermilfoil (Myriophyllum) was conducted to deduce how invasive and native macrophytes compare in their relative concentrations of nitrogen and mineral content; important indicators of forage quality for waterfowl. Nitrogen content is used as a metric for relative concentration of protein. Macrophyte species were sampled from four Adirondack lakes of the same trophic status to account for effects of lake nutrient characteristics on plant nutrient uptake and synthesis. Total nitrogen was determined with the Kjeldahl procedure using flow injection analysis. Ash (mineral) content was acquired through high-heat burning in a muffle furnace. The invasive watermilfoil species had a higher percentage of nitrogen than the native species. There was no significant difference in the ash content between the species. It is critical to understand the ecological function of these species in relation to wildlife populations. The nutritional value of these aquatic macrophytes may have implications for the fitness and distribution of breeding herbivorous waterfowl in Adirondack lakes. These results may indicate that invasive plants will serve as a viable food source for herbivorous waterfowl as watermilfoil continues to spread across Adirondack aquatic systems.
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Major: Biology
Year: 2016
Authors: Bianca Fournier

Walden Pond: Ecological and Anthropological History Reflected in the Sedimentary Record

Tue, 05/03/2016 - 23:13
Abstract: This study examined environmental changes reflected in the microfossil record of a sediment core taken in August 2015 from Walden Pond, Massachusetts spanning the last 600 years. In particular changes in the eutrophication status, inorganic sediment deposition due to land use, lake water depth and temperature were examined using phytoplankton indicator species—diatoms and chrysophytes— to reconstruct environmental conditions. The study site was a basin shallower and closer to the source of anthropogenic N and P inputs than the site of previous studies at Walden’s deepest basin, allowing for finer detection of changes in water level and organic content of sediment. A gravity corer was used to collect the sediment core to preserve topmost sediment layers for analysis, as more than a decade has passed since the last published study of this kind at Walden Pond by Köster et. al. (2005). Results show a significant increase in indicators of eutrophic lake conditions since European settlement ca. 1630, and especially since the 20th century. However, relative Asterionella formosa and Synedra nana abundances had not changed significantly in the last decade since Köster et. al.’s 2005 study, and have in fact decreased somewhat, suggesting water treatment efforts by the Massachusetts Dept. of Environmental Protection (DEP) have had some success. Loss on ignition (LOI) of organic content shows a precipitous decline from the mid 19th century from 37% to 22%, representing intensive land clearance and development until the 1970’s when DEP management began. After that point, LOI rose, perhaps due to increased lake productivity, and has fluctuated around 25%. Relative Discostella stelligera abundance, while used in the WAl-3 piston core as a proxy for water depth, could not be used in the WAL-1 gravity core from this study as eutrophication has significantly impacted their abundance. Chrysophyte scale:diatom ratios corroborate an observed trend of increasing abundance in lakes globally since the 20th century, perhaps in response to rising global temperatures over the same period.
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Major: Biology
Year: 2016
File Attachments: Capstone Paper.docx
Authors: Erik Yankowsky

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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Literary Rights: On
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

An Assessment of Heavy Metal Concentrations in Adirondack Waterfowl

Thu, 04/28/2016 - 22:53
Abstract: We analyzed heavy metal concentrations in waterfowl liver and breast tissue from ducks harvested within the Adirondack Park from October 3 to November 13, 2015. Interspecific, intersex, and feeding behavior variation in heavy metal concentrations were assessed. Waterfowl from two feeding behavior groups (diving and dabbling) were harvested from the watershed within a 50 mile radius of Paul Smith’s, New York. Harvested waterfowl species included mallard (Anas platyrhynchos), American black duck (Anas rubripes), common merganser (Mergus merganser), ring-necked duck (Aythya collaris), bufflehead (Bucephala albeola), and hooded merganser (Lophodytes cucullatus). Legal harvest of these species during regulated New York State duck hunting season allows for permissible use of internal organs for heavy metal determination. Dry weight (mg/kg) of digested liver and breast tissue samples were analyzed using atomic absorption spectroscopy. Due to unknown laboratory error, absolute concentration values were inaccurate, thus, rendering accurate analyses unfeasible. However, relative observable trends were able to be assessed given our data’s high precision. Analyte concentrations were significantly greater in liver tissues and there were significant differences between species. Variation in mercury, lead, bismuth, cadmium, chromium, and zinc concentrations in waterfowl serve as an indicator of the presence, cycling, bioaccumulation, and temporal trends of these metals in northeastern aquatic habitats.
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Major: Environmental Sciences, Fisheries and Wildlife Science
Year: 2016
File Attachments: Final2.docx
Authors: Brandon Snavely, Lewis Lolya

Rooted Education: learning from aquaponics

Sat, 04/30/2016 - 15:02
Abstract: Aquaponics is the integration of soil-less agriculture (hydroponics) within closed-loop aquaculture systems to reduce the toxic accumulation of nutrient waste from aquatic animals. Bacteria naturally establish to purify water by oxidizing the ammonia secreted by fish, which reduces the toxicity of effluent while creating a usable nitrogen source for plants. The conversion of ammonia and nitrite into nitrate by living bacteria communities is called a biological filter, or biofiltration (FAO 2014). Aquaponics would not be possible without biofiltration; the slightest amount of ammonia would be fatally toxic to fish, and plants wouldn't receive the nitrates they need to grow. There are unique opportunities offered by an aquaponics system to learn about ecological and human communities. 1.1. Aquaponics enables users to grow fish and agricultural plants with limited space and resource use (water, soil, and time). This enables an aquaponics user to invest less physical energy and time into expanding sustainable food resources for their household use. 1.2. A small aquaponics system could promote cultural values of self-sufficiency, energy consciousness, and connection to food systems. It could inspire individual efforts to produce food for one’s household, to build healthier and more resilient systems, and a greater appreciation for farming. Therefore, this project aims to actualize a mobile and functional aquaponics system for the educational benefit of the Paul Smith's College community. I will provide the background knowledge needed to maintain an aquaponics system, as well as describe the general concept of aquaponics design.
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Major: Environmental Sciences, Natural Resources Sustainability Studies
Year: 2016
File Attachments: The Author has selected not to publish this complete work.
Authors: Brian Jason Kohan

Roots of Paul Smith’s - Interpreting Our Past to Inspire Our Future : A conceptual design for an interpretive trail guide exhibit on Paul Smith’s College campus

Tue, 05/10/2016 - 13:17
Abstract: It is a pivotal time for Paul Smith’s College (PSC) where many of those directly involved with its inception are no long with us. PSC history was shaped by the Adirondack wilderness and together they influence how the college is run today. This project aimed to create the conceptual design for an interpretive trail exhibit on PSC campus. I worked with a professional exhibit designer to develop artistically inspired signage using archival photos to bring to life the heritage and natural history of the Paul Smith’s. Extensive research, input from stakeholders, and professional design guidance were utilized to create the content for six interpretive signs, a conceptual design, two formative evaluations, an estimated budget, and two campus sustainability fund proposals. These signs are meant to engage and inspire the current and future members of the Paul Smith’s College community, to build a deeper appreciation for the heritage that makes us unique.
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Major: Integrative Studies
Year: 2016
Authors: Leanne Ketner

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

Impacts of Maple Syrup Production Programming at the Paul Smith’s College Visitor Interpretive Center

Tue, 04/29/2014 - 12:37
Abstract: Education and interpretation provides strategies and techniques to successfully communicate natural resource and environmental concerns. This research addresses the effectiveness of a community education project at the Paul Smith’s College (PSC) Visitor Interpretive Center (VIC) in the Adirondacks of New York State. Educational programs regarding maple syrup production were designed and evaluated to determine their impact on the local community. The objectives were to offer skills education, raise awareness on a local resource, foster a connection to the land, and offer involvement in the VIC’s community maple project. The goal of maple education at the VIC is to educate the community in an attempt to encourage the growth of an underutilized sustainable local resource that community members can become involved in without degradation of Adirondack forests. Determinations were made using a survey questionnaire provided before and after the programs were performed. Based on the data collected the determination made is that the majority of participants that attended ultimately were interested in becoming involved in maple sugaring using to VIC as a gateway for maple sugaring, primarily as a hobby and outdoor activity. This research has aided in the determination that effective programming at the VIC results in encouraging the community to be involved in maple syrup production. With this determination the VIC will continue to perform the designed educational programs as a service to the community.
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Major: Integrative Studies, Recreations, Adventure Travel and Ecotourism
Year: 2014
Authors: Thomas Manitta

Maintaining the Population of Thornicroft Giraffes (Giraffa camelopardalis thornicroftt)

Sun, 05/04/2014 - 13:12
Abstract: There is a lack of information on the Thornicroft giraffe’s population size and of the amount of poaching taking place on the giraffes with in the Southern Luangwa Valley National Park. As of right now the giraffes population appears to be stable but there are a lot of factor unknown pertaining to the threats to the population and to their habitat. The goal of this management plan is to maintain the Thornicroft Giraffes population which is exclusively found in Luangwa Valley in Zambia Africa, the management plan is focused on the Southern Luangwa Valley National Park. With this management plan the objectives is to establish the population size within the park, maintain the preferred habitat of the giraffes, determine if poaching is taking place within the park and the potential effects poaching could have on the population. Once the population is known and stable then a harvest management strategy will be implemented for the locals. There will be pamphlets handed out in villages in the area; along with a survey used to access on poaching and the importance that giraffe based products have on their culture.
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Major: Integrative Studies
Year: 2014
File Attachments: Managment rough draft.docx
Authors: Emily Williams

Changes in aquatic communities resulting from interactions between climate change and invasive aquatic plants in the Adirondacks.

Thu, 02/09/2012 - 11:26
Abstract: Global climate change can act synergistically with invasive species leading to shifts in ecosystem structure and function. We assessed how a rise in water temperature influenced the potential competitive advantage of an invasive aquatic plant, Eurasian watermilfoil, (Myriophyllum spicatum) over a co-occurring native species northern watermilfoil (M. sibiricum). We also examined the interrelationship between water temperature, watermilfoil, and the aquatic ecosystem including periphyton growth and zooplankton abundance. The study was conducted using replicated mesocosms (3785-liter), with water heaters used to provide a range of temperatures. We found that increasing water temperature promoted the likely competitive advantage of the invasive species, M. spicatum: Survival of M. sibiricum plants was lower than that of M. spicatum across all temperature treatments with a mean survival rate of 24% and 96% respectively. M. sibiricum also showed significantly slower rates of plant growth (mean growth of 3.3 cm compared to 7.6 cm for M. spicatum) and reduced vigor compared to M. spicatum, with an average of less than half the number of growing meristems. Zooplankton densities averaged over 20 times higher in mesocosms with M. sibiricum compared to those with the invasive M. spicatum. Periphyton biomass was best explained by water temperature with an increase in growth in warmer water. Our study confirms that in the face of global climate change, the invasive M. spicatum will continue to exert dominance over its native counterpart. Our results also provide compelling evidence that the combined effects of climate change and invasive aquatic plants can dramatically alter aquatic ecosystems.
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Major: Environmental Sciences, Fisheries and Wildlife Science, Forestry, Natural Resources Management and Policy
Year: 2010
Authors: Nicholas Boudreau, Zachary Bozic, Geoffrey S. Carpenter, David M. Langdon, Spencer R. LeMay, Shaun M. Martin, Reid M. Mourse, Sarah L. Prince, Kelli M. Quinn, David A. Patrick