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Capstone Projects

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.
Access: Yes
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.
Access: Yes
Literary Rights: Off
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.
Access: Yes
Literary Rights: On
Major: Forestry
Year: 2014
File Attachments: Actually Done.docx
Authors: Dylan Kirk

A Genetic Comparison of Two Populations of American Beech (Fagus grandifolia) Impacted by the Invasive Disease Complex Causing Beech Bark Disease

Mon, 04/28/2014 - 23:35
Abstract: Many mature American beech trees have died due to beech bark disease throughout the northeastern United States. However, there are many pockets of beech trees throughout its native range that show resistance to the disease. This study will be focused on comparing specific genetic markers in a variety of American beech trees which have been categorized by the levels of severity of beech bark disease per individual tree. Leaf and bud samples were taken in October 2013 from 30 individual trees with varying degrees of disease severity. DNA will be purified from these soft tissue samples in order to use PCR and focus on 5 microsatellite locations for a comparison between all individuals being sampled. These loci will help to determine the genetic differences and similarities between American beech trees with and without signs of resistance to beech bark disease. The results of this study will set the stage for a landscape level study in the future, as well as further studies on finding genetic markers for resistance.
Access: Yes
Literary Rights: Off
Major: Forestry
Year: 2014
File Attachments: Complete Project.docx
Authors: Emily Malick

A Forest Management Plan For Lynn Woods Reservation

Sun, 04/27/2014 - 18:49
Abstract: Lynn Woods Reservation located in Lynn, MA (42°29' N, 70°59’ W) is a 2,200 acre municipal park under the joint management of the Lynn Parks Department and the Lynn Water and Sewer Department. Since 1881, there has been little management on the lands of the reservation. This project developed a forest management plan for the Reservation. A forest inventory took place in January 2014 utilizing SilviaTerra’s Plothound data collection app. Data was then processed in NED-2 and ArcGIS to create final data used in the creation of this plan. The tract was divided into three compartments based on location and access. Multiple stands are inaccessible or do not contain merchantable timber but most of this tract is harvestable. Based on the data collected, suggested silvicultural prescriptions were developed along with other management suggestions for the tract. This plan was submitted to the park ranger, Dan Smalls, for review and final implementation.
Access: Yes
Literary Rights: Off
Major: Forestry
Year: 2014
File Attachments: St_John_Final_Draft.pdf
Authors: M. Dalton St. John

Impacts of Maple Syrup Production Programming at the Paul Smith’s College Visitor Interpretive Center

Tue, 04/29/2014 - 12:37
Abstract: Education and interpretation provides strategies and techniques to successfully communicate natural resource and environmental concerns. This research addresses the effectiveness of a community education project at the Paul Smith’s College (PSC) Visitor Interpretive Center (VIC) in the Adirondacks of New York State. Educational programs regarding maple syrup production were designed and evaluated to determine their impact on the local community. The objectives were to offer skills education, raise awareness on a local resource, foster a connection to the land, and offer involvement in the VIC’s community maple project. The goal of maple education at the VIC is to educate the community in an attempt to encourage the growth of an underutilized sustainable local resource that community members can become involved in without degradation of Adirondack forests. Determinations were made using a survey questionnaire provided before and after the programs were performed. Based on the data collected the determination made is that the majority of participants that attended ultimately were interested in becoming involved in maple sugaring using to VIC as a gateway for maple sugaring, primarily as a hobby and outdoor activity. This research has aided in the determination that effective programming at the VIC results in encouraging the community to be involved in maple syrup production. With this determination the VIC will continue to perform the designed educational programs as a service to the community.
Access: Yes
Literary Rights: On
Major: Integrative Studies, Recreations, Adventure Travel and Ecotourism
Year: 2014
Authors: Thomas Manitta

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.
Access: Yes
Literary Rights: Off
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.
Access: Yes
Literary Rights: Off
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.
Access: Yes
Literary Rights: Off
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.
Access: Yes
Literary Rights: Off
Major: Forestry
Year: 2012
File Attachments: Day_Final_Capstone.pdf
Authors: Nicholas Day