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Capstone Projects

Riparian log gardens: examination of vascular plant communities and moss on logs in waterbodies

Tue, 12/05/2017 - 19:51
Abstract: Microsites can play a major part in facilitating plant diversity. Specific physical characteristics of microsites can create favorable conditions for certain species by isolating them from competition or protecting them from herbivory. Plant communities and woody debris can also facilitate the growth of other plants. I examined relationships between moss and vascular plants on log gardens in waterbodies to determine correlations between these organisms. I hypothesized that riparian log gardens, large woody debris in lakes and ponds supporting mats of terrestrial vegetation, serve as sites that may harbor rare species or have high plant species diversity. I also examined the relationship between bryophytes and plant communities based on the idea that bryophytes influence microsite characteristics. Knowing where rare species are harbored and what microsites encourage high diversity are important for preserving species. I surveyed plants on large woody debris in lakes and ponds in the northern Adirondacks and calculated the richness and diversity of the communities in relation to the presence of mosses. I found that logs that supported moss mats had more plants. The mean species richness of the riparian log gardens was 8.6 for all plants and 6.3 for herbaceous species. Some significant positive correlations were found for log area, log hardness, mat area, mat depth, and vascular plant diversity.
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Major: Biology
Year: 2017
Authors: David R. Lampman

Lyme Disease in the Adirondacks: Using Domestic Canines as Sentinels for Human Risk

Tue, 12/05/2017 - 14:46
Abstract: Lyme disease (Borrelia burgdorferi) is the most prevalent zoonotic disease in the United States. With an increase of cases every year in new areas, it is crucial that researchers and veterinarians use sentinels, such as canines, to determine the prevalence of Lyme disease in emerging areas where tick density may be low. The main objective of this study was to determine the annual infection rate of Lyme disease in canines in Franklin and Essex County. An immunologic assay was performed to determine percent of canines exposed to Lyme bacteria as well as timing of exposure. Thirty-four random blood samples were collected from a local veterinary office during routine health screenings, and analyzed for Borrelia burgdorferi antibodies. Out of the thirty-four samples, two canines were positive for OspC antibodies (indicator of early infection) and three were positive for OspF (indicator of chronic infection). The annual infection rate for the 2017 year was 5.9%.
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Major: Biology
Year: 2017
Authors: Ashley G. Hodge

Creating Universal Use for the Glenview Preserve

Fri, 12/15/2017 - 20:40
Abstract: The Adirondack Land Trust recently purchased 238 acres along Route 86 in Harrietstown. This tract of land is called the Glenview Preserve. The Adirondack Park Agency has already designated a scenic vista of Whiteface Mountain and the High Peaks. Along the back of the property is the Bloomingdale Bog, which is the third largest boreal peatland in New York. Vista like the Glenview Preserve, which doesn’t involve a climb and is also accessible to all. This poses the perfect opportunity to establish universal trails for all to enjoy. Conservation of land is made possible by connections that people make to the land. If there is no connection to nature, it could be destroyed without anyone speaking up. The location of this tract of land makes it ideal for accessible trail since there is no mountain to hike to get the view. Hiking is one of the oldest pastimes of the world. People can experience beauty every season of the year. It strengthens our bodies and minds at no cost. Hiking is a wonderful chance to feel the earth below your feet and get up close and personal with nature. Installing trails would not only open up recreational opportunities such as hiking, running, and bird watching, skiing and snowshoeing but also build community.
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Major: Forestry, Natural Resources Sustainability Studies
Year: 2017
File Attachments: Capstone_Final.docx
Authors: Valerie Hoffman

Creating a Reliable Surveying Network: Does Adding New Survey Control Points to Paul Smith’s College Campus Enhance its Current Network?

Tue, 12/05/2017 - 18:48
Abstract: The goal of the project was to improve the current geometry of the Paul Smith’s College surveying network. Four new survey control points were added to the current network allowing for new connectivity to old control points. Previously, there was a Westside network and an Eastside network that were not connected and by connecting these two networks, it has expanded the current network further into the campus. Two different methods were used to help identify the new network. A traditional survey method, a closed traverse, was used to connect the old control points to the new control points by utilizing a Nikon DTM-352 series total station. A X90 OPUS GPS unit was used to connect the new control points into a geodetic network. After the data was collected a least squares adjustment was done to the closed traverse to correct for error within the traverse. The GPS data was processed by Topcon Tools utilizing a Continuously Operating Reference System (CORS) to obtain a better level of accuracy for the network it produced. The two different techniques used produced different results in the overall survey networks and supplied different coordinates than what has been previously used by students at the college. These results gained from the project are not of a consistent level of precision and are not recommended for use without conducting more closed traverses to increase precision within the network.
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Major: Forestry, Natural Resources Management and Policy, Surveying Technology
Year: 2017
Authors: Frederick C. Petzoldt, Michael S. Thompson

Alpine Ecosystems on Ski Area Summits in the Northeast: A Best Management Practices Manual

Mon, 12/01/2014 - 15:19
Abstract: Over the past half a century, anthropogenic climate change has triggered temperatures in the northeastern United States to rise. This increase has led to decreased winter precipitation and a longer annual growing season. Species found in upland/montane habitats on the southern edge of their range limits are particularly threatened by these changes. Warmer temperatures have allowed larger woody plants to advance up mountain slopes, entering the habitat of these fragile species. In the next decade, we will witness a complete disappearance of alpine flora from several locations across the northeast including Whiteface in New York, Sugarloaf in Maine and Mount Mansfield in Vermont. Managers of ski resorts can therefore play an important role in promoting the continued persistence of high-altitude flora and fauna through carefully considered management decisions can also serve to promote the reputation of the ski industry as stewards of mountaintop ecosystems. Doing so will allow for continued study of the species that exist within these communities, the protection of biodiversity, and increased revenue for the resort itself through elevated public image and mountain-top tourism. To help begin these conservation efforts, we have created a best management practice (BMP) manual to guide ski area managers in making these developments. It includes techniques for sustainable slope, soil, vegetation and wildlife management, erosion control, artificial snow production, and ski slope construction and design. Also included are marketing techniques and an overview of the economic viability of the practices outlined in this manual.
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Major: Forestry, Natural Resources Management and Policy
Year: 2014
Authors: Pali Gelsomini, Dylan Randall

Forest Succession's Effect on Soil Physical and Chemical Properties after Agriculture Abandonment

Mon, 12/01/2014 - 11:00
Abstract: Landscapes have been significantly altered by humans and replacing forests with agricultural crops is a major alteration humans have made. This landscape change has affected soils significantly. Agriculture practices can potentially have detrimental effects on soils. However, through the 20th century forest cover drastically increased in the United States through the recruitment of second growth forests as a result of agriculture abandonment. Forests reclaiming farm lands through forest succession can have a significant effect on recoveries in soil physical and chemical properties such as bulk density, soil strength, porosity and fertility. Therefore, the goal of this study was to investigate forest successions effect on soil physical and chemical properties after agriculture abandonment. Three specific hypotheses were tested: 1) Bulk density and soil strength will decrease while micro and macro porosity will increase as forests reclaim farm lands. 2) Soil carbon and available nitrogen will increase over time. 3) Soil pH will decrease and electrical conductivity will increase over time. These hypotheses were explored on abandoned agriculture fields in a chronosequence study on coarse loamy Inceptisols in upstate New York across a 60 year temporal scale. Data showed that total porosity, total carbon and available nitrogen increase while soil pH, bulk density, soil strength and electrical conductivity decline over time. These results support all three hypotheses except for the latter half of hypothesis number three. The findings of this study suggest that although agriculture may disturb soil properties, time coupled with forest succession can result in significant recoveries.
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Major: Forestry
Year: 2014
File Attachments: Final Report.docx
Authors: Nathan Piché

Soil and Vegetation Characteristics of High Elevation Wetlands in the Adirondack Park

Mon, 12/03/2012 - 17:14
Abstract: Wetland ecosystems are finally being understood for their true importance. Wetlands in the past were misunderstood and thought to be disease carrying burdens on our way of life; however this mentality changed during the mid-19thcentury. These ecosystems are important for biodiversity and act as natural water purification systems. This study was undertaken to help understand, the high elevation wetland characteristics. Our goals were to analyze the soils and describe the vegetation in high elevation wetlands. The soil and vegetative surveys helped define the characteristics of these ecosystems and create a better understanding of them. The combination of vegetation species that are wetland indicators were found in each site, the soil pH, and nutrients show that each site had signs of being a wetland community.
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Major: Environmental Sciences, Forestry
Year: 2012
File Attachments: FINAL Capstone Report.doc
Authors: Brandon Ploss, Sean Ayotte

Distribution of Native & Non-native Ground Flora in Upstate New York in Relation to Nearby Forest Roads

Fri, 12/07/2012 - 17:26
Abstract: Plant distribution and diversity are affected by disturbances in forested landscapes. Disturbances such as forest roads including skid trails and haul roads are among those which affect plants. The introduction and spread of invasive species is a big concern with these types of roads because of the damage these species cause to the ecosystem. The goal of this study is to determine the effect these forest roads have on distribution and diversity of plants relative to the distance from the road. I wanted to find out how non-native and invasive species were distributed, as well as native protected species. Transects in two separate regions were set up perpendicular to the roads at the sites chosen, and each transect contained 16 – 1m x 1m plots in which all plants were surveyed. This study showed that distance away from forest roads does not appear to significantly affect the number of plant species, distribution of native or non-native plants, or distribution of protected species in New York. Based on the findings in this study, forest managers may not need to be overly concerned with the effects of forest roads on plant populations, but they should consider management of invasive species since Japanese barberry (Berberis thunbergii) was found well beyond the disturbed area in this study. Since it was found near the forest interior, it may be causing damage to the ecosystem.
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Major: Forestry
Year: 2012
File Attachments: capstone_complete.docx
Authors: Travis Lowe

Evaluation of Current Old Growth Classification System Applied to Northern Hardwood Forests of Western New York State

Fri, 12/07/2012 - 17:08
Abstract: A study of four old growth stands in Western New York was conducted to document the ecological complexities and characteristics of these isolated pockets of protected forests. These stands were compared to stands in a study, Selected Nova Scotia old-growth forests: Age, ecology, structure, scoring (Stewart et.al, 2003). Using techniques and sampling of Stewart et al., data included estimated age structure, species composition, basal area, density, coarse woody debris, volumes, heights, and snags. All of the stands were uneven-aged, as were the stands in the comparison study. All stands displayed low varying basal area ranges and lower stand density than those stands in Stewart et al. The comparison study had basal areas ranging from 32.5 to 55.5 m^2/ha, but the collected basal area of this study ranged from 14.5 to 29 m^2/ha. Volumes of dead wood ranged from 2 to 60 m^2/ha, which again was significantly less than dead wood volumes in Stewart et al. Most of the dead wood volume was derived from coarse woody debris, with few snags throughout the stands. Six attributes were rated on a 100 point system according to age, primal value, diameters, lengths of dead wood, canopy structure and understory structure. The scores of this study ranged from 52 to 70, which were significantly less than the scores in the comparison study. The Nova Scotia stands were dominated by softwood species and were larger in acreage. The western New York stands were dominated mostly by hardwood species and were smaller in acreage. Due to these differences, the western New York stands fell short of the Nova Scotia stands in two important criteria: ‘Primal Forest Value’ and ‘Bole Length of Snags and CWD.’ The protocols of Stewart et al. were generally adequate for evaluating the old growth characteristics. However, this study suggests that some of the criteria could be adapted to capture characteristics found in smaller, isolated pockets of hardwood dominated old growth forests.
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Major: Forestry
Year: 2012
Authors: Catherine Veress

Silviculture Prescription and Regeneration Analysis: An Investigation of the Creighton Compartment of the Paul Smith’s College Forest Management Plan

Wed, 12/05/2012 - 10:31
Abstract: Paul Smith’s College, being an environmental college, has a unique opportunity to explore the newest research to find the best methods of silviculture treatments to meet regeneration goals while sustaining forest structure. This study investigated the Creighton Compartment of the PSC forest management plan specifically examining the silviculture prescriptions and regeneration. Seedling and sapling regeneration data was compared with the management plan to determine whether regeneration goals were met. Overall, the hardwood stands were regenerating in vast amounts of undesired American beech (Fagus grandifolia) and not meeting the preferred goal of red maple (Acer rubrum), sugar maple (Acer saccharum), black cherry (Prunus serotina) and yellow birch (Betula alleghaniensis). The softwood stands were regenerating in vast amounts of undesired balsam fir (Abies balsamea) and not meeting the preferred goal of eastern white pine (Pinus strobus) and red spruce (Picea rubens). Based on extensive research, it has been determined that a variable sized group selection harvest was the best solution to regenerate the preferred hardwoods and a two-cut shelterwood system with at least 40 percent light scarification should be conducted to favor regeneration of preferred softwoods.
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Major: Forestry
Year: 2012
File Attachments: Day_Final_Capstone.pdf
Authors: Nicholas Day