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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

The Effects on Soil Caused by Garlic Mustard (Alliaria petiolata) in a Northern Hardwood Forest in the Northern Adirondack Mountains

Mon, 12/02/2013 - 10:54
Abstract: Plant invasions are thought to be among the worst causes of biological extinction and biodiversity loss in the modern world. With the United States spending upward of thirty four million dollars a year in attempts to control and repair the damages caused by invasive plants, not only are we feeling the biological effects, but we financially cannot afford to keep combating these invasive species (Barto and Cipollini, 2009). Garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata) can invade multiple types of sites whether the soil is sandy or if a site has been disturbed. This invasive species will take over the understory and alter soil chemistry (Morris, McClain, Anderson and McConnaughay, 2012). This study aimed to look at how garlic mustard is affecting soils in the northern Adirondack Mountains in New York State. Although currently scattered and not very prevalent, there have already been changes to the soil chemistry. This study was conducted by setting up multiple plots within areas where garlic mustard was present and gathering soil to be used to test for nutrient values. It was found in this study that calcium, phosphorous, magnesium, potassium, sodium, aluminum and soil pH values changed due to the presence of garlic mustard.
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Major: Biology, Forestry
Year: 2013
File Attachments: Capstone Final.docx
Authors: Kyle Dash

A Paleolimnological study of precipitation variability in the Adirondacks over the last thousand years

Mon, 12/02/2013 - 20:40
Abstract: At present, most regional climate models anticipate wetter conditions by the end of this century, but a few models anticipate drier conditions. This study uses foresight to test these models, as well as describe the relationship between the dominant climate system in the region and past precipitation in the Adirondacks. Precipitation was inferred from diatom assemblages observed along a lake sediment core extending into the 1000 years. This study shows that abrupt, extreme wet events were common during the last 1000 years, and a relationship between the dominant climate system (North Atlantic Oscillation) and precipitation was irregular during the cool Little Ice Age but negatively associated during the warm Medieval Climate Anomaly. With temperatures in the Northeast projected to increase by 2-5 degrees C by 2100 AD, our study suggests the region may become more arid rather than wetter, opposite of what models currently suggest.
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Major: Biology, Environmental Sciences
Year: 2013
File Attachments: regalado.serwatka.docx
Authors: Sean A. Regalado, W. Martin Serwatka

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

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.

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

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