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Capstone Projects

The Conservation and Management of Wolverine (Gulo gulo) Populations in Northern Idaho to Help Prevent Human Caused Extirpation from the Contiguous United States

Thu, 05/02/2013 - 11:21
Abstract: Wolverines (Gulo gulo) were once a thriving species in the North Western United States, but large scale trapping and poison programs in the early 1900s lead to the species near extinction. Since then, populations in the United States have been struggling to maintain a strong presence in Idaho. Its current listing as threatened on the Endangered Species Act prohibits hunting and trapping, but more management is needed to sustain populations. Human development and recreation activities have caused wolverines to disperse from its nature range. Using habitat preservation techniques on current and historical wolverine habitat, increase availability and connectivity will improve dispersal. Close relationship with state officials will provide protection regarding land use, recreation, hunting, trapping and harassment. Public education will teach residents ways they can help prevent wolverine populations from further decline. Extensive research and population monitoring are needed due to the currently declining populations and the low fecundity of the species.
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Major: Biology, Fisheries and Wildlife Science
Year: 2013
Authors: Danielle E. Ball

No Known Antidote: Quantification of a deadly toxin, tetrodotoxin, in red efts (Notopthalamus viridescens; Rafinesgue, 1820)

Mon, 04/29/2013 - 17:42
Abstract: Tetrodotoxin (TTX) in found in taxa worldwide including the eft life stage of the eastern newt (Notopthalamus virisdescens). Previous studies have shown that there is variability of TTX concentrations within efts and newts, and it is not known if the presence of TTX in these efts is common among populations. Our objective was to determine the distribution of TTX within the body N. viridescens efts. We hypothesized that the skin would have the highest concentrations of TTX as it is the area of the body that will likely come into contact with a predator. If certain regions of the skin come into contact with a predator more often than others, there may be significant differences in the dorsal, abdominal and pectoral regions of skin. Further, we hypothesized that the ova would have the second highest concentration of TTX as they are vital to reproduction yet vulnerable to predation. Through HPLC analysis we determined the concentrations of TTX within different tissues of N. viridescens efts including the: dorsal, pectoral, and abdominal skin; ovaries; testes; liver; pancreas; and alimentary canal. The concentrations of TTX between the different tissue types are not significantly different, nor were individuals significantly different in concentration of TTX from one another. Toxicity levels were high in comparison to other N. viridescens efts and more similar to the toxicity of highly toxic Taricha newts. The high toxicity of N. viridescens could be contributed to strong predation pressure by the slightly resistant garter snake (Thamnopsis sirtalis) and eastern hognose snake (Heterodon platirhinos).
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Major: Biology
Year: 2013
Authors: Kimberly M. Forrest

Compaction of Hiking Trails Located in the Northeastern Area of the Adirondack State Park, New York

Mon, 04/29/2013 - 12:19
Abstract: With continued increases in outdoor recreation in the United States, the physical impact of that use needs to be monitored for its effects. The purpose of this study was to explore whether a relationship exists between traffic numbers and soil strength of trails in the High Peaks Region of New York’s Adirondack state park. Soil strength was used as a measure of compaction because of its ability to indicate certain aspects of soil physical properties like bulk density, and hydrological condition (Mirreh & Ketcheson,1972), which are also soil physical properties that are effected by compaction (Hanna & Al-Kaisi,2009). These physical properties are important factors which influence a soils ability to carry out its biotic and abiotic processes (Kozlowski,1999). Initially the relationship between average soil strength of trails and traffic was insignificant. Upon further analyzing the data we found a significant relationship between on-trail and off-trail soil strength and used this relationship to create on-trail residual soil strengths. This was done to remove the influence that off-trail soil strength was having on the traffic vs. soil strength relationship. With the on/off-trail relationship influence removed, the relationship between on-trail residual soil strength and traffic was significantly improved. Literature discussed showed how the soil strengths collected could be used to infer possible effects on the sites tested. Relations between soil strength and bulk density, root elongation, root penetration, and trail recovery were all reviewed to provide insight on the quality of the soil at sample sites.
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Major: Biology
Year: 2013
File Attachments: The Author has selected not to publish this complete work.
Authors: Karl Van Osch

New York State Feral Hog (Sus scrofa) Management Plan: Species Eradication and Public Education

Thu, 04/25/2013 - 11:22
Abstract: Feral hogs, also referred to as feral swine, Eurasian or Russian wild boar, and wild pigs, are the same species Sus scofa. They are an aggressive invasive species introduced to the United States in the 1500s and have spread over most of the country in the last few decades (Gipson et al. 1998). Due to their unique life history feral hogs are a persevering ungulate species capable of causing extensive economical and ecological damage while causing a threat to human health and safety. They are considered one of the world’s worst invasive species (Lowe et al. 2000). Extinction of native species and loss of biodiversity due to this widely invasive species has been documented worldwide (Wolf and Conover 2003). This management plan describes the life history of feral hogs, the need for management in New York State, several action plans to address the need for management, and assessment protocol for each action plan. Also included in this plan is a grant request to fund the educational objectives in order to achieve more awareness and cooperation with the public, promoting higher probability of management success.
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Major: Biology
Year: 2013
File Attachments: Feral Hog Management Plan
Authors: William Schmieder Jr.

Tardigrade Abundance in Green Shield Lichens on Different Tree Species

Wed, 04/24/2013 - 18:43
Abstract: Many studies have been done on tardigrades, a microscopic, aquatic organism that feeds on plant cell fluid, bacteria, algae, protozoa, and other small invertebrates. Most of these studies have addressed their ability to survive extreme environments and not their preferred living habitats. Virtually no studies have been done investigating the ecology of tardigrades. This study focuses on which species of tardigrade live on a species of lichen (Common Greenshield Lichen, Flavoparmelia caperata) found on three species of trees; Red Maple (Acer rubrum), Black Cherry (Prunus serotina), and White Pine (Pinus strobus). Five trees of each species were chosen and five samples of the Common Greenshield Lichen were taken from all 25 trees during each of the fall and winter seasons. From every lichen sample processed, five slides were looked at, each containing two drops of the water that the lichen was suspended in for 2 hours. The samples were looked at underneath a compound microscope and a dichotomous key was used to identify tardigrades that were found. Due to the fact that liquid water is less available in winter, samples were taken during the fall and winter to look at the differences in species diversity and abundance. The greatest abundance of tardigrades was found on Red Maple, during both fall and winter. Black Cherry had the lowest abundance of tardigrades during both fall and winter. White Pine had an abundance less than that of Red Maple but greater than that of the Black Cherry. There were more tardigrades found on the lichen in fall than in winter. This implies that they find Red Maple a more suitable habitat than the Black Cherry and White Pine, may be related to acidity of the Black Cherry and White Pine being greater than that of Red Maple. Throughfall and stemflow on the trees may also contribute to habitat preference of the tardigrades.
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Major: Biology
Year: 2013
File Attachments: Capstone Report.docx
Authors: Heather Cooner

Paul Smith's College & International Learning: A Small Scale Assessment of Student Perceived Personal & Academic Gains

Mon, 04/22/2013 - 22:16
Abstract: Many students who participate in a study abroad experience during their college or university career experience positive gains on personal and academic levels. This growth can be gained directly from the sojourn while it is taking place, and/or upon individual reflection of the experience once the student returns home. Currently, Paul Smith’s College (PSC) students are able to participate in a variety of international experiences, including short-term (minimum of ten days) tours, faculty-led service learning practicums and semester-long study abroad programs, personally organized by individual students. Since there has been no central Paul Smith's College entity that examines how students may be making gains from these experiences, there exists an unmet need to discover how students believe they have benefited from study abroad. This study used grounded theory methodology and mixed qualitative research methods to investigate whether PSC students benefited personally and academically from their individual international learning experiences. This research has revealed the majority of students interviewed believed themselves to have been positively affected on both levels. These students are also more open to continuing traveling, either for personal enjoyment or career advancement. This perceived growth occurred despite, and perhaps, as a result of having experienced culture shock during their sojourns or upon their return to the U.S.
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Major: Environmental Studies
Year: 2013
File Attachments: Mckenney_FinalCapstone.docx
Authors: Sarah McKenney

A Meta-Analysis of the Impacts of Professional Bass Fishing Tournaments

Mon, 04/29/2013 - 19:28
Abstract: Professional black bass (Micropterous spp.) fishing tournaments have significant economic benefits associated with them; however concerns about various negative ecological effects are being raised. Fish mortality has the potential to be critically high following release of the fish, whether it be from stress, hooking injuries, heat exposure, disease, or a lack of sufficient oxygen. Mortality can occur prior to release, or it can occur several days to even weeks after release. The vast majority of organized tournaments release all of the fish in one specific location once the weigh-in process has been completed. The lack of dispersal among bass once they are released back into the water is another key issue. Utilizing 17 different studies on mortality and 8 studies on dispersal, this meta-analysis study looks at how tournaments can affect the bass population in lakes and rivers across the country. It also examines the variables that affect mortality and dispersal such as season, water temperature, location, and species of bass. The potential ways for the survival rate to be improved is also discussed. The results of the meta-analysis showed that water temperature had a significant impact on mortality, as did the time of year the tournaments were held. Mortality was highest from a period of 1-10 days following the tournaments, but was still occurring up to one month after. Dispersal was highest for Largemouth Bass, and for Spring-held tournaments. The study concludes that there are several ways to potentially lower the tournament associated mortality rate for black bass.
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Major: Natural Resources Management and Policy
Year: 2013
File Attachments: The Author has selected not to publish this complete work.
Authors: Brett Leidner

Remote Sensing for Forest Change Detection in Afghanistan

Fri, 04/26/2013 - 08:41
Abstract: Abstract: Afghanistan’s forests are one of the country’s most important natural resources. Afghanistan has faced conflicts that have plagued the country for more than 25 years and resulted in rapid deforestation and environmental despoliation. Forested lands need to be preserved in order for Afghanistan to revamp social and economic livelihoods and control the environmental degradation. This study will analyze Landsat satellite imagery using Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and ERDAS DeltaCue change detection software to assess forest deviations in Afghanistan between 1998 and 2010. Areas in Nangarhar Province identified significant change in vegetation cover in terms of both deforestation and reforestation. Deforestation occurred more frequently around the city edges of Jalalabad, whereas reforestation occurred farther from settlements. The Tasseled Cap process produced a final output change detection layer which represented the combined detection of all significant change between the three images. Determining where deforestation is occurring through Remote Sensing is a critical first step towards rehabilitating Afghanistan’s forest productivity.
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Major: Natural Resources Management and Policy
Year: 2013
Authors: David Lattuca

A COPAR Report of Ethnographic Inquiry Addressing Issues of Water Availability and Hygiene Mathare Valley, Nairobi, Kenya

Wed, 04/24/2013 - 21:30
Abstract: I conducted a cyclical ethnographic inquiry in the Mathare Valley informal settlement of Nairobi, Kenya, during the months of May and June 2012. My question was: How do Mathare residents interact with and access water and what are the technological and environmental restrictions limiting or preventing adequate water supply? The goal of this study was to create environmental and social change by improving access to water for consumption and bathing. As both a researcher and technical advisor, I adopted and used Community Oriented Participatory Action Research (COPAR). This research approach required my immersion into the Kenyan culture where I lived, ate and slept in the informal settlement of Mathare Valley, interviewing a total of 49 families on communal issues of water and hygiene. While in Mathare, I recorded quantitative and qualitative data comparing wet and dry seasons; distance to water sources; amount of water used; cost of water; and prevalence of disease (represented by potability) as well as issues regarding the Nairobi City Council, communal water availability, and hygienic conditions. A potential solution to water conservation and hygiene was construction of a bucket shower (several liter metal bucket with handle and valve to control water flow) to conserve bathing water reducing overall consumption. Through analysis of seven major, quantitatively and qualitatively determined themes, this paper presents anecdotal evidence in the context of empirical data through temporal revelation of thematic constraints. I found that during the dry season: family members in Mathare travel significantly farther to gather water, spending more money while consuming less water presenting complex issues among livelihoods within an informal settlement environment.
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Major: Natural Resources Management and Policy
Year: 2013
File Attachments: Anderson_Ian_Capstone.docx
Authors: Ian Anderson

The Distribution of Northern Harriers (Circus cyaneus) in Northern New York State in Relation to the Availability of Habitat Types

Mon, 04/16/2012 - 18:55
Abstract: Northern Harriers (Circus cyaneus), a bird of prey species, are widely distributed throughout the United States generally at low densities. Harriers are found in New York State, although they are less common than in the Midwest. As the harrier is a species of concern in some regions, it is important to understand how land cover types can affect the distribution of Northern Harriers over time, within a given area. Specifically, this study investigated whether the distributions of Northern Harriers are dependent upon habitat type, and if the frequency of habitat types significantly affects the abundance of Northern Harriers. The area selected for this study includes the majority of New York State to the North and East of Watertown. This region was selected because data indicates that harrier populations have declined from 1980 to 2005. In addition, this region encompasses mountainous areas as well as lower, relatively flatter land outside of the Adirondacks which represents most of New York State. Remote Sensing and Geographic Information Systems were utilized to determine land cover types for the region. These land cover types were then combined with New York State Department of Environmental Conservation’s Breeding Bird Atlas survey blocks. Dominant cover types for each survey block were determined, and the region as a whole was compared to survey blocks within which harriers were present. This process was completed for the years 1984 and 2005, two years in which the Breeding Bird Atlas data were collected for New York State. By using Remote Sensing and GIS, a clearer understanding of the relationship between cover type frequency and harrier presence was possible. Results indicate that Northern Harriers are significantly selecting habitat from land cover types in a proportion different to that which is available. Land cover in this region has shifted throughout the time covered in this study. In addition, a trend of open habitat being chosen over closed canopy habitat is evident. Understanding harrier selection of land cover types can greatly affect management strategies, practices and funding, as the specie is listed as threatened in New York State. The results of this study support much of the available scientific literature on harriers, which state that harriers require a combination of open canopy habitats, including early successional habitat with low vegetative cover.
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Major: Forestry, Natural Resources Management and Policy
Year: 2012
Authors: Kelly Hoffman