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Capstone Projects

Lower St. Regis Lake Survey: A Comparative Study of Fish Population Structure and Function over Time

Thu, 12/13/2018 - 14:24
Abstract: Lake surveys are performed on bodies of water to provide a health analysis of fish populations over time. Lake surveys can be conducted in a variety of ways to attain specific data. Lower St. Regis Lake was surveyed to determine the fish community composition and to understand fish population traits. Using fyke nets placed at six predetermined locations for 24 hours, as well as fishing, we collected data for age, length (mm), weight (g), and parasites present. Data was analyzed in the lab using Excel to form graphs and tables to demonstrate our findings. Catch rates were lower compared to years before and comparing our data to New York State Department of Conservation data found that our length-at-age data was lower for the six-species sampled. Pumpkinseed and yellow perch were the only two species to have over twenty fish sampled. Decreased air temperatures brought in by a cold front during the week of our sampling may have been a reason for our lower number of fish caught. Mesh size is also a bias while using these nets as smaller fish can escape, and predatory fish can prey on smaller fish while in the net. Some species of fish such as black crappie may be more susceptible to capture due to its habit of associating with structure.
Access: Yes
Literary Rights: Off
Major: Biology, Environmental Sciences, Environmental Studies, Fisheries and Wildlife Science, Natural Resources Conservation and Management
Year: 2018
File Attachments: Capstone_Final.docx
Authors: Deacon Chapin, Jared Chlus, Louis Daversa, Jon Herrman, Robert Visicaro

A Comparison of Winter Wildlife Use of Minimally, Moderately and Highly Impacted Shorelines on Lower St. Regis Lake and Black Pond in the Adirondack Park, NY

Wed, 05/09/2018 - 10:51
Abstract: Continued development and human interference with freshwater shorelines creates a degraded environment and can negatively affect native wildlife along impacted areas. Throughout the Adirondack Park, shorelines have experienced substantial degradation with the development of lakeside summer homes. There tends to be a strong preference for the aesthetics that lakes offer, as well as the numerous recreational opportunities they provide. The increased human use of shorelines and the development of anthropogenic structures has directly resulted in the degradation of shorelines in the Adirondack Park. Likewise, the Paul Smith’s College shoreline along Lower St. Regis Lake has been subjected to degradation throughout the history of the campus. This highly impacted site was selected, alongside minimally and moderately impacted sites in the surrounding areas as representatives for different impact levels. Shoreline degradation includes a decline in the health and presence of natural vegetation, creating a decrease in available food source for native wildlife. The removal of natural vegetation creates a decline in shoreline stability with the removal of root systems, allowing for greater amounts of erosion to occur. Additionally, degradation decreases available canopy cover and increases exposure of wildlife to predation. The objective of this study was to determine the difference in wildlife activity and diversity between three levels of shoreline impacts: minimal, moderate, and high. It was expected that the minimally and moderately impacted shoreline sites would show a greater diversity and abundance of wildlife than highly impacted shorelines. Trail camera data was analyzed at three sites for each treatment on Paul Smith’s College property, along both the Lower St. Regis Lake and Black Pond. Although we detected no significant differences in either activity or diversity across the treatments, there was higher relative activity and diversity in moderately impacted shorelines than minimally or highly impacted. However, wildlife species that are more rare and/or area-sensitive, such as the fisher (Martes pennanti) and American marten (Martes americana), were only detected in the minimally impacted shorelines of Black Pond. A restoration of the highly impacted shoreline to reflect minimally and non-impacted shorelines of the surrounding region would allow for opportunities to improve habitat for native wildlife species.
Access: Yes
Literary Rights: Off
Major: Biology, Ecological Restoration, Environmental Sciences
Year: 2018
File Attachments: Shoreline Restoration
Authors: Tessa White, Caroline Matuck, Kasey Lane, Rosemary Bloodnick, Kyle Pasanen, Annalee Kraai

Paul Smith’s College Shoreline Restoration Conservation Plan

Fri, 12/14/2018 - 12:24
Abstract: A restoration plan was created for the Lower St Regis Lake shoreline of Paul Smith's College. To date, about 140 students have participated by way of studies and course work in surveys and assessments, which clearly indicate a much reduced level of biological diversity, ecosystem function, and human uses compared to other sites. The plan is designed based upon field assessments and with the intentions of using the shoreline as an on-site case study of experiential education – a tradition of at the core of Paul Smith’s College. The aim of the restoration plan is to increase biodiversity, ecosystem function, aesthetics, educational studies, and shoreline use.
Access: Yes
Literary Rights: Off
Major: Ecological Restoration
Year: 2018
Authors: Hunter Gaudette
, Joseph Hollner
, Jonathan Meadows
, Ryan Morr
, Sara Savoia, Cassandra Schrader

Wetland X: Wetland Mitigation Plan Amendment

Mon, 12/03/2018 - 17:56
Abstract: Wetland X is a wetland that is located in Western New York and has been converted to agricultural land. The goal of this study was to create a restoration plan for Wetland X that meets Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) standards. The study took place during June 2018 with the final plan being completed in August of 2018 and the data analysis report being completed in the fall of 2018. The focus of the study was on the woody vegetation of the site to document the species present and the density of vegetation on the site. Vegetation was sampled on four plots located at different areas of the site to provide the best representation of the sites overall conditions. The areas were sampled using zigzag transects and grid transect patterns; with one area being sampled using the zigzag pattern, two using the grid pattern and one using both transect methods as a comparison of the two methods. Sampling of the site found that an amendment was needed for Wetland X to ensure that the landowner remained in compliance with the Food Security Act Standards. The restoration plan focuses on planting and management techniques for the site that will allow proper growth of desired vegetation species and the eradication of the invasive species. The created restoration plan amendment has been implemented and will be completed by June of 2019 with five years of monitoring following completion.
Access: Yes
Literary Rights: Off
Major: Ecological Restoration
Year: 2018
File Attachments: Pratt_Capstone_2018.docx
Authors: Thomas Pratt

Assessing the Use of Backpack Electrofishing to Index Age-0 Fish Abundance in Woody Structure Adjacent to the Lakeshore

Fri, 12/14/2018 - 10:50
Abstract: The preservation and monitoring of age-0 fishes and their habitat is imperative to the overall health of a lake and its fishery. The effectiveness of backpack electrofishing at capturing age-0 fishes along shorelines with coarse woody structure was assessed by attempting to correlate electrofishing catch rates with known population sizes. A 60x2m controlled study area along the shoreline of Lower St. Regis lake was selected and blocked off through use of a net encompassing the perimeter. Known population sizes were stocked into the net and a three-pass electrofishing depletion was conducted within the study area. Results indicated that there was no significant correlation between the known population size and the population estimate generated through electrofishing (p = 0.172). The lack of correlation may have been due to failure of the block net encompassing the study area.
Access: Yes
Literary Rights: On
Major: Fisheries and Wildlife Science
Year: 2018
File Attachments: Full Report
Authors: Justin Rozema

Minnow Abundance in Heron Marsh: Spatial Variation, the Status of the Non-Native Fathead Minnow, and Hybridized Redbelly and Finescale Dace

Fri, 12/14/2018 - 09:27
Abstract: Due to their distinct influence on surrounding ecosystems and food web dynamics, minnow populations have been monitored in Heron Marsh, in the northern Adirondacks in New York, since fall of 2012. This study documented the presence of species known to predate on minnows, the hybridization between redbelly dace (Chrosomus eos) and finescale dace (Phoxinus neogaeus), and the presence of the recently documented fathead minnow (Pimephales prometas). To survey piscivores, two fyke nets were set around the marsh for one trap night. The fishes were then identified and measured. The collection of predators is part of a preliminary study to document the presence of predator fish species within Heron Marsh. Minnow data was collected via minnow traps set at long term study sites and one new site. The traps were set over night and collected the following day. The minnows were identified and measured to the nearest mm. When analyzing the data collected in the field, the data from previous years was compared to this years data. The findings indicate that hybrids of redbelly and finescale dace can be observed only at sites where both parent species exist. This 2018 study was the first one to document hybrid species though they have been observed in past years. The status of the fathead minnow is not significantly different from findings from 2017 however, their populations are noticeably smaller than previous years. Predator composition was primarily brown bullhead (Ameiurus nebulosus) and creek chub (Semtilus atromaculatus).
Access: Yes
Literary Rights: Off
Major: Fisheries and Wildlife Science
Year: 2018
Authors: Sarah LaLumiere and Patrick Nicholson

A USE VERSUS AVAILABILITY DIET STUDY OF AGE-0 FISHES IN NEAR SHORE WOODY STRUCTURE

Thu, 12/13/2018 - 14:09
Abstract: In 2014, the need for an ecological restoration program began at Paul Smiths College in attempt to restore or improve the shoreline along Lower St. Regis Lake. When restoring a shoreline, one must look at what organisms are using the area and how they are doing it. Invertebrates and fishes play a large role in distinguishing problems or changes in an environment, so we sampled both to add useful knowledge to the restoration program. Specifically, we looked to see if fishes were selecting for specific invertebrates (food), or if they did not have a preference. We used a backpack electrofishing unit to sample young of the year fishes near shore along three 60-meter segments, and a 100-foot bag seine to collect fishes offshore along the same segments. Invertebrates were sampled along the same segments and was done so by picking up all coarse woody debris and brushing the pieces off with our hands into a sieve bucket. Woody debris too large to pick up were scraped underwater using a standard kick net. Invertebrates were identified to order level, and fish stomach contents were also identified to the order so that we could conduct a comparison. After using a Chi Square test, we found that according to our p-value (0.2796) fishes were not selecting against any individual taxonomic group. Smallmouth bass were also the dominant present species along nearshore woody debris which could either suggest a higher recruitment than other species, a preference of use by the smallmouth bass, or human introduced capturing bias. Although we can’t indefinitely say fishes were selecting for Dipterans, data shows that dipterans made up just 4.5% of the total invertebrate composition on CWD but made up 9% of the fishes’ stomach contents suggesting fishes may be selecting for them.
Access: Yes
Literary Rights: Off
Major: Fisheries and Wildlife Science
Year: 2018
File Attachments: CompletedCapstone.docx
Authors: Adrian Forbes, Alexander Frank, Matthew D Simpson

Special Topic: An Investigation of Long Term Monitoring of Fishes in Two Aquatic Ecosystems

Fri, 05/11/2018 - 10:06
Abstract: Lower St. Regis Lake Abstract Long-term ecological research is important in understanding how fish communities change over time. The objective of this study was to determine how fish communities in Lower St. Regis Lake have changed. From 2004 - 2017 fisheries students at Paul Smith’s College have conducted lake surveys on Lower St. Regis Lake using standardized sampling protocols. This study showed shifts in fish community composition, changes in size structure, and variable body condition. As Lower St. Regis Lake changes, continued long-term ecological research will provide an opportunity for students monitor and study factors that may be effecting fish populations and communities. Smitty Creek Abstract Long term ecological monitoring of streams provides an effective means to evaluate changing habitat conditions on fish population dynamics. Our objective was to use long-term data from four tributaries in Smitty Creek Watershed to explore the relationship of age-0 brook trout densities to regional weather conditions. Catch data of age 0 brook trout was collected during the fall from 2004 to 2017. Average monthly precipitation and temperature data was taken from the Lake Clear regional weather station. Of four streams, Little Aldo showed correlation of age-0 brook trout with the precipitation and temperature data. Future work should include improved instrumentation within the reaches and the use of site-specific data.
Access: Yes
Literary Rights: On
Major: Fisheries and Wildlife Science
Year: 2018
File Attachments: Final Capstone West St. Cyr
Authors: Taylor West, Joe St. Cyr

Management Plan to Increase Nesting Success of Northern Pintails (Anas acuta) in the Prairie Pothole Region of North Dakota

Mon, 05/07/2018 - 17:36
Abstract: Once one of the most abundant ducks in North America, northern pintails have significantly declined since the 1960s when populations reached about 10 million. Over the past 40 years they have declined 78%, or about 2.4% per year between 1966 and 2015, due to expanding agricultural activity in their prairie pothole breeding grounds. In 2009 that the pintail population was estimated at 3.2 million, which is substantially below the 5.6 million population goal set by the North American Waterfowl Management Plan. The northern pintail population is substantially impacted by drought; and a loss of grasslands and wetland habitat in the prairie pothole region. Without proper breeding habitat pintails migrate further north to the Artic lowland tundra, where wetland conditions are more stable. However, when large numbers breed in these regions fewer young are produced. As a result, the prairies are where the fate of the pintail population lies. Throughout North America the northern pintail is listed as a migratory bird species where it is protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and receives some management under the North American Waterfowl Management Plan. In North Dakota, the northern pintail is listed as a level II species of concern and there it receives management under the State Wildlife Action Plan, but because it is only a level II species it does not receive the management until all actions are covered for level I species. However, due to the species large geographic range and large worldwide population estimate it is listed as a species of Least Concern with a declining population on the International Union for Conservation of Species (IUCN) Red List of threatened species. The goals of this plan are to increase the abundance and distribution of northern pintails in North Dakota over the next 10 years and to provide information that leads to greater public involvement for the management of the species in North Dakota. The objectives to achieve these goals include: mitigation of agricultural impacts on nests, reductions of egg, hatchling, and hen predation via predator exclusion, increase in nesting habitat via Farm Bill practices and State Wildlife Grants, and the education of the public about the nesting requirements of northern pintails and the potential impacts of agriculture as well management practices to avoid these impacts. Based on population modeling, egg, hatchling, and hen survival is the key factor to focus on when managing for this species. An increase of about 50% nest success (eggs) and reduced predation rate on hatchlings and hens should result in a positive population trend, yielding a population of 6.7 million in 10 years, with a greater than 50% increase being more favorable to the overall goals and objectives. Northern pintails are a game species that needs management action in breeding areas to ensure their survival and growth for the enjoyment of current and future generations.
Access: Yes
Literary Rights: On
Major: Fisheries and Wildlife Science
Year: 2018
Authors: Joseph K Roberts

Management Plan to Increase King Rail (Rallus elegans) Populations in the Northeastern United States (2019-2034)

Fri, 05/04/2018 - 19:00
Abstract: King rails (Rallus elegans) live in freshwater marshlands and rice field habitats. These habitats are often associated with food sources and nesting cover. Diet consists of 58% animal matter ranging from small crustaceans to fish and frogs. Nests are placed in large clumps of grass throughout dense vegetation, or in a tussock. Outside the nesting and breeding season, rails found in the northeastern United States migrate south in search of food opportunities. With only 10% of natural wetlands remaining from destruction and alterations in farming techniques, major threats associated with king rail populations have rose. King rails are listed as near threatened throughout the United States and under no protection aside from the Migratory Bird Act. The IUCN Red List reported that the current population trend is decreasing at rate of 30% over 14 years. Based on population models, survival within the fledgling stage is the key factor to focus on during conservation practices. The goal of this plan is to increase the population from its current state to a sustainable level for maximum viewing and ecological stability throughout the northeastern states of Maryland, Delaware and New Jersey within the next 15 years. The objectives to reach this goal include: find population estimates to better assess the species abundance of king rails, obtain lands for king rails species to inhabit, decrease the amount of selected marshland being restructured, and increase the fledgling stage survival rate of king rails. King rails are an understudied species that deserve conservation help to ensure survival.
Access: Yes
Literary Rights: Off
Major: Fisheries and Wildlife Science
Year: 2018
File Attachments: King_2018_05_03.docx
Authors: Kyle King