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Capstone Projects

A MULTI-SCALE EVALUATION OF THE EFFECTS OF FOREST HARVESTING FOR WOODY BIOFUELS ON MAMMALIAN COMMUNITIES IN A NORTHERN HARDWOOD FOREST

Fri, 02/01/2013 - 16:19
Abstract: Forest harvesting and subsequent effects on forest structure have been shown to influence mammalian community assemblages and the abundance of individual species, however less attention has been paid to the implications of how harvested timber is used. This is particularly relevant in the Northern Forest, where a considerable portion of the forest harvesting is used to produce biofuels. Biofuels harvesting typically involves the process of whole-tree chipping which may lead to a dramatic reduction in the amount of woody material in the form of slash and coarse woody debris (CWD) left in harvested stands. The goal of our study was to assess the effects of biofuels harvesting on forest structure and subsequent effects on mammalian community structure and abundance. To address this goal, we focused on a ~35 Ha area of partially-harvested northern hardwood forest in the northern Adirondacks, New York. To sample mammals we used a combination of Sherman traps and track plates established at two scales across stands within this area. Our results showed that the response of small mammals to changes in forest structure is both species and scale specific. At the individual trap scale, CWD, slash, and understory cover were important drivers of the occurrence of individual species of small mammals. At the larger “grid” scale, small mammal relative abundance was driven by canopy cover and the density of woody stems. Our results indicate that the current harvesting practices used for biofuel production in the Adirondacks are unlikely to result in declines in abundance of common small mammal species. However, the retention of some slash post-harvest may be beneficial to some species, thus foresters may want to include slash retention when developing silvicultural prescriptions.
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Major: Environmental Sciences, Fisheries and Wildlife Science, Natural Resources Management and Policy
Year: 2012
Authors: Cody Laxton, Alisha Benack, Danielle Ball, Scott Collins, Sam Forlenza, Richard Franke, Stephanie Korzec, Alec Judge, Connor Langevin, Jonathan Vimislik, Elena Zito

A Cost-Benefit Analysis of Allowing All-Terrain Vehicles on Vermont State Land

Sat, 12/01/2012 - 12:35
Abstract: Our capstone project is a cost-benefit analysis of allowing ATVs (All-Terrain Vehicles) on Vermont State land. This issue is controversial among Vermont outdoor enthusiasts. We wanted to know if the allowance of ATVs on Vermont state land is economically feasible. This study explored the current economic impacts and damages of ATV-related activities in Vermont, willingness to pay to use state land, and the possible economic benefits of allowing ATVs on state land compared to the trail construction and maintenance cost. We surveyed members of Vermont’s ATV community and conducted interviews of private and public landowners and private and public companies. Our results showed that on average most ATV users were willing to pay to use state land, the Vermont ATV community contributes to Vermont’s economy, and trail construction and maintenance is a legitimate factor when considering the construction of building sustainable trails on public land. Our study concluded that on a small scale, ATV trails on Vermont state land appears to be economically sustainable.
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Major: Natural Resources Management and Policy
Year: 2012
Authors: Cory Campbell, Kyle Wagner

Neo-homesteading in the Adirondack-North Country

Mon, 12/03/2012 - 16:15
Abstract: This study was an exploration of the values and behaviors of Adirondack-North Country neo-homesteaders and how such unique traits shape and influence community integrity and resilience. The use of the prefix neo is indicative of the new or emerging homesteading trend within recent decades as differentiated from similar cultural movements of the past. The purpose of the study was to synthesize the motivation behind the current cultural migration of populations toward a rural lifestyle; the cohesiveness of neo-homesteading communities in the Adirondack-North Country; the importance of ecological and regional socio-economic relationships; and how the flux of thoughts and behaviors promote the crafting of an alternative future. Analysis of the stated-values and observed behaviors of current homesteading populations in the Adirondack-North Country compared with those cited in primary literature sources provided insight into the back-to-the-land progression and regression from the mid-1800s to the 2000s. This research also compared and contrasted the diverse individual values that Adirondack neo-homesteaders display in regards to the current constructs of American society. Using grounded theory as a paradigmatic lens and ethnographic methodologies, the research process yielded organically developed emergent themes as influenced by economics, bioregionalism, place-based connections, religion, history, and the environment, which provided a multi-dimensional insight into homesteader choices and decision-making processes. Data was collected and interpreted using survey data as a means to provide a theoretical framework for more in-depth, subjective participant observation ethnographies. The data revealed that geographical place, community cohesion, and security with regard to family, food, and finances were the dominant drivers of the neo-homesteading movement in the Adirondack-North Country
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Major: Natural Resources Management and Policy
Year: 2012
Authors: William R. Martin, Michael J. Cerasaro

Monitoring the Zebra Mussel Invasion Front: Use of New Technology

Thu, 02/09/2012 - 15:39
Abstract: Zebra mussels are invasive mollusks that are affecting the well-being of the water bodies in the United States. This study uses environmental DNA (eDNA) is a sensitive early detection system that may be useful in monitoring their spread. The purpose of this study is to determine the effectiveness of eDNA technology in identifying infested water bodies, to determine if zebra mussel DNA is in the Adirondack water bodies not known to be infested, if the water chemistry of these water bodies is favorable for zebra mussel establishment, and if the eDNA technology is transferable to an institution like Paul Smith’s College. Eighteen lakes, all in New York State were sampled, fifteen of which are located in the Adirondack Park. DNA was extracted from water and plankton samples and species specific primers were used for PCR amplification to determine if zebra mussel DNA was present. Of seven samples taken from sites known to be infested, five of these tested positive for zebra mussel eDNA. Four lakes not known to be infested within the Park also tested positive for zebra mussel eDNA. Based on zebra mussel risk parameters (water chemistry) applied to 1,469 Adirondack water bodies, less than 3% are at risk of zebra mussel establishment. However it is possible that established populations could occur at microsites that may have locally high levels of calcium and higher pH.
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Major: Biology, Environmental Sciences, Environmental Studies, Fisheries and Wildlife Science, Forestry, Natural Resources Management and Policy
Year: 2011
File Attachments: The Author has selected not to publish this complete work.
Authors: Alexandria Bevilacqua, John Bishop, Charles Cain, Tyler Clark, Seth Crevison, Robert Culyer, Ryan Deibler, Brian DeMeo, Jonathan Eckert, Kirsten Goranowski, Joelle Guisti, Alan Jancef, Korinna Marino, Michelle Melagrano, KaitlynNedo, Joseph Nelson, Aaron Palmieri, Cole Reagan, John Scahill, JohnathanStrassheim, Scott Travis, Sarah Van Nostrand and Sarah Vella

Promoting Conservation of Biodiversity in the Adirondack Park Through Understanding and Engaging Stakeholders

Thu, 02/09/2012 - 11:31
Abstract: Anthropogenic disturbance of natural environments has led to the widespread loss of native biodiversity and degradation of ecosystems. It is increasingly recognized that addressing this “biodiversity crisis” entails understanding the societal drivers of unsustainable patterns of use. Conservation psychology is a new discipline that specifically focuses on understanding the linkages between human behavior and action and promoting a healthy and sustainable relationship between humans and nature. In this project, we employed principles of conservation psychology with the goal of improving the efficacy and efficiency of conservation of biodiversity in the Adirondack Park (AP). To meet this goal we employed three specific strategies. The first of these strategies was the use of surveys to assess the values, attitudes, and actions different stakeholders have in regards to conservation of biodiversity in the AP. These surveys were disseminated via both direct mailings and online, and included 30 questions. Our second strategy was to use discourse analysis to create a dictionary of terms and phrases employed in a positive, neutral, and negative light in regard to conservation of biodiversity. This entailed analysis of 30 emic accounts derived from opinion articles written by stakeholders in the AP, as well as analysis of a number of etic accounts drawn from online sources. Our third strategy was to use conservation psychology literature to assess ways in which the presentation of information and peer-dynamics influenced the responses of stakeholders towards conservation of biodiversity. Using the combination of these three strategies, we were able to provide a holistic understanding of how different stakeholders in the AP perceive and act towards biodiversity conservation; identify language that can be used to illicit a more positive response from these stakeholders; and identify specific tools based on principles of psychology that can encourage more active and effective engagement in conservation of biodiversity by different stakeholders. Our research findings will allow groups focusing on promoting conservation of biodiversity in the AP to be more effective and efficient in their work in the future.
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Major: Environmental Sciences, Fisheries and Wildlife Science, Forestry, Natural Resources Management and Policy, Recreations, Adventure Travel and Ecotourism
Year: 2011
Authors: Christopher Critelli, John Ghanime, Derek Johnson, Samantha Lambert, Justin Luyk, Matthew Parker, Robert Vite, Heather Mason, Jesse Warner, Ethan Lennox, Sarah Robbiano, David Mathis, David A. Patrick

Food Plots for White-tailed Deer: Effects on the Browse Intensity of Commercial Tree Species in Western New York

Mon, 12/05/2011 - 10:09
Abstract: Throughout North America high densities of white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) are creating problems that affect humans as well as the natural environment; such as property damage (ex. deer/car accidents), crop damage due to browse, changes in forest species composition, as well as the creation of alternate stable states throughout the northeastern forests of the U.S. This study examined whether food plots for white-tailed deer are increasing, decreasing or having no effect on the browse intensity of commercial tree species in the northern hardwood/coniferous forests of western New York. Spring and summer browse intensity was determined at six sites throughout Wyoming, Cattaraugus, and Erie counties; three forested sites with food plots and three forested sites without food plots that were similar in species composition. The study found that food plots were causing an increase in browse intensity on commercial tree species to areas immediately adjacent (0-2 meters) to the food plots. However, further analysis that excluded measurements taken for subplots one at both food plot and non-food plot sites showed that non-food plot sites had a significantly greater proportion browsed. The findings suggest that if food plots are used as a management option for white-tails in western New York a buffer zone of at least 2 meters outside the food plot should be incorporated to account for the overflow of deer browse.
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Literary Rights: On
Major: Natural Resources Management and Policy
Year: 2011
Authors: Mike Domagalski

Designing a Multiple-Use Winter Recreation Trail System at the Paul Smith’s College Visitor Interpretive Center

Mon, 12/12/2011 - 10:13
Abstract: The purpose of this study is to investigate the interests and conflicts that arise between snowshoers, dogsledders, skijorers and cross country skiers. This study will be guided by interviews as well information from prior research performed on these types of users. Data will be collected by using interviews to determine the interests and conflicts of these users. This project will help give VIC managers recommendations andto provide information for a revised version of the winter trails map. The study and research that was done on user interests and conflicts to provide a higher level of enjoyment and safety for winter recreation trail users of the VIC for current and future generations. Results were collected by identifying recreational users of cross country skiing, snowshoeing, dog sledding and skijoring. Managers of recreational areas were also interviewed. The Paul Smith’s VIC would meet the needs of cross country skiers and snowshoers. The majority of the trails are suitable for cross country skiing and all of the trails would be suitable for the snowshoers depending on the type of snowshoer (secluded or controlled users). Dog-sledding and skijoring would not be suitable for the VIC due to the number of conflicts that are brought up when you bring dogs into the picture. Very few trails remain suitable for these two activities as well.
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Major: Natural Resources Management and Policy
Year: 2011
File Attachments: Capstone.docx
Authors: Matthew Piper