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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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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

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

Monitoring the Zebra Mussel Invasion Front: Use of New Technology

Thu, 02/09/2012 - 15:39
Abstract: Zebra mussels are invasive mollusks that are affecting the well-being of the water bodies in the United States. This study uses environmental DNA (eDNA) is a sensitive early detection system that may be useful in monitoring their spread. The purpose of this study is to determine the effectiveness of eDNA technology in identifying infested water bodies, to determine if zebra mussel DNA is in the Adirondack water bodies not known to be infested, if the water chemistry of these water bodies is favorable for zebra mussel establishment, and if the eDNA technology is transferable to an institution like Paul Smith’s College. Eighteen lakes, all in New York State were sampled, fifteen of which are located in the Adirondack Park. DNA was extracted from water and plankton samples and species specific primers were used for PCR amplification to determine if zebra mussel DNA was present. Of seven samples taken from sites known to be infested, five of these tested positive for zebra mussel eDNA. Four lakes not known to be infested within the Park also tested positive for zebra mussel eDNA. Based on zebra mussel risk parameters (water chemistry) applied to 1,469 Adirondack water bodies, less than 3% are at risk of zebra mussel establishment. However it is possible that established populations could occur at microsites that may have locally high levels of calcium and higher pH.
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Major: Biology, Environmental Sciences, Environmental Studies, Fisheries and Wildlife Science, Forestry, Natural Resources Management and Policy
Year: 2011
File Attachments: The Author has selected not to publish this complete work.
Authors: Alexandria Bevilacqua, John Bishop, Charles Cain, Tyler Clark, Seth Crevison, Robert Culyer, Ryan Deibler, Brian DeMeo, Jonathan Eckert, Kirsten Goranowski, Joelle Guisti, Alan Jancef, Korinna Marino, Michelle Melagrano, KaitlynNedo, Joseph Nelson, Aaron Palmieri, Cole Reagan, John Scahill, JohnathanStrassheim, Scott Travis, Sarah Van Nostrand and Sarah Vella

Refining Karner blue butterfly (Lycaeides melissa samuelis) restoration efforts by comparing captive rearing and release methods used in the Albany Pine Bush

Mon, 12/05/2011 - 18:36
Abstract: With this research, the release efforts of the endangered Karner blue butterfly (Lycaeides melissa samuelis) of the Albany Pine Bush (APB) in New York State at two different stages of the butterfly’s life cycle were compared. Survival success rates were determined and environmental factors were measured to assess captive rearing methods and improve restoration efforts in the APB Preserve. Captive rearing efforts have been used in the past in this area, releasing Karner blue butterfly pupae into the wild; however, this year in 2011, pupae were allowed to eclose from their chrysalides in the lab and were released into the wild as adult butterflies. The analysis of the information gathered showed that the release of Karner blue butterflies in the adult stage offered a greater survival rate over release in the pupal stage. The average daily maximum temperatures increased each year during the summers of 2009-2011. Information from this research is important to help prevent the extirpation of this species from the Albany Pine Bush Recovery Unit and may be helpful to organizations such as the US Fish and Wildlife Services and the Nature Conservancy.
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Major: Environmental Sciences
Year: 2011
File Attachments: CapstoneFINAL.doc
Authors: Chelsea Sendzik

Promoting Conservation of Biodiversity in the Adirondack Park Through Understanding and Engaging Stakeholders

Thu, 02/09/2012 - 11:31
Abstract: Anthropogenic disturbance of natural environments has led to the widespread loss of native biodiversity and degradation of ecosystems. It is increasingly recognized that addressing this “biodiversity crisis” entails understanding the societal drivers of unsustainable patterns of use. Conservation psychology is a new discipline that specifically focuses on understanding the linkages between human behavior and action and promoting a healthy and sustainable relationship between humans and nature. In this project, we employed principles of conservation psychology with the goal of improving the efficacy and efficiency of conservation of biodiversity in the Adirondack Park (AP). To meet this goal we employed three specific strategies. The first of these strategies was the use of surveys to assess the values, attitudes, and actions different stakeholders have in regards to conservation of biodiversity in the AP. These surveys were disseminated via both direct mailings and online, and included 30 questions. Our second strategy was to use discourse analysis to create a dictionary of terms and phrases employed in a positive, neutral, and negative light in regard to conservation of biodiversity. This entailed analysis of 30 emic accounts derived from opinion articles written by stakeholders in the AP, as well as analysis of a number of etic accounts drawn from online sources. Our third strategy was to use conservation psychology literature to assess ways in which the presentation of information and peer-dynamics influenced the responses of stakeholders towards conservation of biodiversity. Using the combination of these three strategies, we were able to provide a holistic understanding of how different stakeholders in the AP perceive and act towards biodiversity conservation; identify language that can be used to illicit a more positive response from these stakeholders; and identify specific tools based on principles of psychology that can encourage more active and effective engagement in conservation of biodiversity by different stakeholders. Our research findings will allow groups focusing on promoting conservation of biodiversity in the AP to be more effective and efficient in their work in the future.
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Major: Environmental Sciences, Fisheries and Wildlife Science, Forestry, Natural Resources Management and Policy, Recreations, Adventure Travel and Ecotourism
Year: 2011
Authors: Christopher Critelli, John Ghanime, Derek Johnson, Samantha Lambert, Justin Luyk, Matthew Parker, Robert Vite, Heather Mason, Jesse Warner, Ethan Lennox, Sarah Robbiano, David Mathis, David A. Patrick