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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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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

Black Ash Seed Management: A Potential Partnership Project

Tue, 05/12/2020 - 09:06
Abstract: The Emerald Ash Borer beetle is currently decimating Black Ash populations, which is making the species increasingly difficult to find. With the Black Ash species becoming increasingly rare, some management plans have been created to protect the remaining populations of this species. The Akwesasne Mohawk Tribe has a management plan in place that is not only trying to protect the remaining Black Ash but is also harvesting their seeds and growing new trees. Partnering with the Akwesasne Mohawk Tribe to grow Black Ash Trees would be a massive step in the fight to keep this species alive. My research will analyze the challenges and possibilities associated with entering into a partnership with the Akwesasne Mohawk Tribe in a joint effort to secure the Black Ash’s future survival.
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Major: Environmental Studies
Year: 2020
Authors: Joel Caruso

Financial and Marketing Research for Alumni Campground

Sat, 05/09/2020 - 11:52
Abstract: The purpose of this capstone was to look at the financial plan for the Alumni Campground and make suggestions for marketing. Through interviews, surveys, and other research on the campground, we were able to see who uses the campground and areas of improvement for the physical site and marketing. Our recommendations are to help the campground prosper in the future
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Major: Environmental Studies, Natural Resources Conservation and Management
Year: 2020
File Attachments: Capstone Essay.docx
Authors: Margret Montag, Dallas Olsen

Soil moisture levels’ impact on variation in microhabitat selection and distribution between shrub species along the riparian zones of the St. Regis River in Northern New York

Sat, 11/28/2020 - 15:42
Abstract: Willows (Salix spp.) are commonly found along riparian zones of northern latitude water bodies and are often used in riparian restoration and bank stabilization. However, not much is known about willows on a species level, especially among thee shrubby species native to North America. This study seeks to better understand the variation in the distribution of three willows (Salix bebbiana, S. discolor, and S. petiolaris) and two other shrub species (Alnus incana and Viburnum nudum) on a species level based on soil moisture. To reach this goal this study analyzes their distribution at several points along the shore of the St. Regis River. The study analyzed vertical distance from the river as a proxy for soil moisture, saturation volume as a proxy for porosity, and bulk density. It was found that soil moisture, as approximated by vertical distance was statistically significantly linked to the distribution of different shrub species. Porosity, bulk density, and distance along the river had no statistically significant relationship. The results supported the hypothesis that willows had the highest soil moisture requirements. The sample sizes were very small and only one willow, a S. petiolaris, was found in the study sites.
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Major: Forestry
Year: 2020
File Attachments: G.Davis_Capstone_final.docx
Authors: Gregory Davis

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

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

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

Turning Points and the Ecological Conscience

Mon, 04/25/2016 - 08:15
Abstract: We live in a time when environmental crises seem to be overwhelming: global climate change, water crises, and mass extinctions, to name a few. Some people seek out ways to address environmental problems, while others remain ignorant or deny the existence of serious issues. Aldo Leopold’s land ethic calls those who help, people who feel “the stirring of an ecological conscience.” Many studies have looked at the psychology of environmentalism and the factors that instill an environmental ethic. Some studies look at early childhood, others at significant turning point events. Many factors foster an ecological conscience among people. I was interested in how the “stirring of an ecological conscience” was instilled in our own community here at Paul Smith’s College. The faculty and students all have a story to tell about what led them here and this project explored that. The sample studied here found that among faculty and students, experiences from childhood played a significant role in the development of an ecological conscience. These experiences most often influenced the path of each participants life journey. These findings provide us with information on ways we can look to help instill the ecological conscience in others, through education and daily life.
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Major: Environmental Studies
Year: 2016
Authors: Dominic Rickicki