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Capstone Projects

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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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

Growth of Black Spruce and Tamarack in Response to Abiotic Variables

Tue, 05/03/2016 - 12:46
Abstract: The growth of black spruce (Picea mariana) and tamarack (Larix laricina) was examined in relation to the potential influences of pH, dissolved oxygen, conductivity, water temperature, proportion of canopy closure and depth to ground water in a northern Adirondack peatland ecosystem. 42 plots were constructed in a sphagnum dominated wetland and sampled for the above abiotic variables throughout the summer and fall of 2015. Heights, ages and periodic annual increment of 26 tamarack and 23 black spruce samples were determined in February and March of 2016. An age to height ratio and periodic annual increment for each species was then regressed against the above abiotic variable data in order to determine any influence of these data on growth rates of the conspecifics. Results show that depth to water table and increased exposure to light had a significantly positive relationship with the age to height ratio of tamarack. Periodic annual increment of tamarack had a significant positive relationship with decreasing light exposure. Black spruce’s age to height ratio had a significant positive relationship with dissolved oxygen (mg/L).
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Major: Forestry
Year: 2016
Authors: Robert DeSotle

Mycoremediation Potential of Pleurotus ostreatus in Logging Operations

Mon, 05/02/2016 - 10:43
Abstract: The unintentional spillage of diesel and hydraulic fluid is an unfortunate part of forestry operations and the traditional cleanup methods can be costly. Many studies have shown that white rot fungi (WRF) are capable of breaking down a wide variety of environmental pollutants, including diesel fuel. The purpose of this study is to evaluate the ability of a WRF, Pluerotus ostreatus, to breakdown hydraulic fluid. Soil and sawdust were mixed at a 1:1 ratio and jars had, 0%, 3%, 5% and 10% of their volume added in hydraulic fluid. All jars were fully colonized within two weeks and after 30 days the concentration of residual hydrocarbon was analyzed with an extraction. The results showed that the maximum degradation of hydraulic fluid occurred at 5%. In addition sawdust spawn was dehydrated at different temperatures, in order to assess possible field application. The only dehydration test that grew was the air dried sample.
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Major: Forestry
Year: 2016
Authors: Peter Murphy, Kirklyn Denis

Silvicultural Analysis of Northern Hardwood Regeneration at the Paul Smith’s College FERDA Plots

Mon, 05/02/2016 - 10:20
Abstract: In the northeastern forests most regeneration comes from natural regeneration that occurs after a disturbance. The Forest Ecosystem Research Demonstration Area (FERDA) plots located on the Paul Smith’s College VIC in the Adirondack Park are set up as an experiment to test different harvest methods in northern hardwood forests and see the results of each. We analyzed tree and sapling size class inventory data from clearcut, single-tree selection, and control treatments to compare regeneration present 14 years after the first harvests occurred. The clearcut treatments were the only treatments analyzed where American beech (Fagus grandifolia) was not the most abundant tree regeneration present. Both single-tree selection and control treatments were dominated by American beech with few other species present. Our results suggest that creating larger canopy openings, may allow species other than American beech, such as red maple (Acer rubrum) and yellow birch (Betula alleghaniensis) to become the most abundant species present.
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Literary Rights: On
Major: Forestry
Year: 2016
File Attachments: Capstone.pdf
Authors: Zachary McLellan, Justin Saville

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

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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Literary Rights: On
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

Differences in soil fertility along roadsides between state and locally managed roadways in Franklin County, New York

Thu, 05/08/2014 - 20:30
Abstract: Techniques for managing roadways often incorporate use of sodium chloride, or roadsalt. Use of this substance can vary greatly depending on whether state or local municipalities are prescribing management for particular roadways. Roadsalt has the potential to affect the chemical composition of roadside soils. This study sought examine relationships between winter management techniques and soil chemical properties as distance increased from roadsides. Transects were set up perpendicular to 5 roads managed by the State of New York, and 5 roads managed by towns in Franklin County, New York. 10 samples were removed from the soil surface at each transect, every two meters back from each roadside from 2 to 20 meters. pH, conductivity, abundances of Ca, Na, K, Mg, Cl, % Na on CEC, & % Ca on CEC were determined for each sample. Using ANOVA equations pH, % Na, and Cl concentration were found to have significant relationship with distance while %Na, % Ca, and Na concentration had significant relationships with regards to management. It was concluded that Na is displacing large amounts of Ca on exchange near state managed roads, decreasing soil fertility specifically in those areas. Results follow trends found in other studies that cite increasing concentrations of both Na and Cl on watershed scales.
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Literary Rights: On
Major: Forestry
Year: 2014
File Attachments: Actually Done.docx
Authors: Dylan Kirk