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Capstone Projects

The Lower St. Regis Lake Shoreline: Understanding the Past, Analyzing the Present, and Recommendations for the Future

Sat, 05/09/2020 - 11:54
Abstract: Continuing shoreline research and restoration planning will help Paul Smith’s College adhere to their own missions and visions including experiential learning, improving students' lives, and maintaining an ecological conscience as a community.
Access: Yes
Literary Rights: On
Major: Ecological Restoration, Environmental Sciences
Year: 2020
Authors: Zoe Plant, Thomas Firkins, Julie Capito, and Benjamin Marshall

The Influence of Microtopography on the Spatial Distribution of Peatland Plants

Mon, 04/27/2020 - 13:01
Abstract: Microtopography in peatlands creates structural patterns within the environment that, if understood, could allow for more comprehensive wetland management and restoration plans to be constructed. The objectives of this study are to determine: 1) the spatial scale at which microtopography occurs on in Adirondack peatlands; 2) if hummock size changes in relation to the distance from the forested wetland edge; and 3) if individual plant species respond to, or vary, in relation to microtopography and abiotic factors. To determine the influence of microtopography on peatland plants, data were collected on the surface area and height distributions of hummocks, the distance between hummocks and the abiotic soil characteristics. Plant species richness, and percent cover data were collected on hummocks only. The spatial scale of microtopography was determined to be regularly distributed across the sampling area. There was no significant correlation between the distance from the coniferous-edge and the relative size of hummocks. Plant species richness was found to be higher on hummocks as opposed to hollows. Using a combination of correlation and multiple regression analysis we determined that leather leaf (Chamaedaphne calyculata), lowbush blueberry (Vaccinium angustifolium), and common cranberry (Vaccinium macrocarpa) were correlated to individual abiotic variables. The variability of the percent cover of leather leaf was explained by increasing surface area, lower soil temperatures, and lower pH; the variability of the percent cover of lowbush blueberry was explained by increasing oxidation-reduction potential (ORP) and lower pH; and the variability of the percent cover of common cranberry was explained by lower hummock height alone. Only three of the common plants identified were correlated with the abiotic variables measured. Further research should be done to continue to determine the primary influence of the elevational gradients on the plant species composition and to determine the resilience of these systems to changing climate.
Access: Yes
Literary Rights: Off
Major: Ecological Restoration
Year: 2020
Authors: Joshua T. Young

Developing a Bird Integrity Index (BII) for Use as an Indicator of Stream Condition in the Northern Adirondack Park

Mon, 04/27/2020 - 12:50
Abstract: The primary goal of this research was to create a Bird Integrity Index (BII) to be used for the ecological integrity analysis of streams and their related riparian zones in the northern Adirondack Park based on frameworks provided by previous research in Oregon. Fifty-eight metrics were tested from avian survey (point count) data along fifteen stream reaches of 0.5km in length. These metrics represented aspects of avian taxonomic richness, dietary preferences, foraging techniques, tolerance or intolerance to human disturbance, and nesting strategies. To evaluate the responsiveness of each metric, they were plotted against an index of stream condition based on sampling of benthic macroinvertebrates according to the outline provided by the stream biomonitoring research unit of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. Five of the fifty-eight candidate metrics remained after removing metrics that had an R2 value of less than .2 or were highly correlated. Individual avian metric scores ranged from 0-10 and BII scores were set on a scale of 0-100. While the BII presented here was successful in responding to varying conditions based on disturbance levels (R2= .64), due to multiple unexpected relationships between avian metrics and stream condition, it is proposed that more in-depth and comparative research be completed before an Adirondack specific BII is presented for field usage.
Access: Yes
Literary Rights: On
Major: Ecological Restoration
Year: 2020
File Attachments: Jesse Rock Capstone.pdf
Authors: Jesse Rock

RAELM and PACM Program Analysis: Does the Online Presence Match the Experience?

Thu, 05/14/2020 - 10:52
Abstract: This is a research-based project that analyzes the Recreation, Adventure Education, and Leisure Management (RAELM) and Parks and Conservation Management (PACM) programs at Paul Smith’s College. The purpose of this research is to determine if there is a gap between the current advertised representation of the RAELM and PACM programs on the official Paul Smith’s College website and social media, and the experiences that current students within these programs have. The research includes an analysis of the programs’ current representation on the Paul Smith’s College website and social media, data collected from interviewing faculty involved in the program and surveying current students, and a literature synthesis of similar research projects and academic curriculums.
Access: Yes
Literary Rights: On
Major: Recreations, Adventure Travel and Ecotourism, Recreation, Adventure Education and Leisure Management
Year: 2020
File Attachments: Final Draft.edited.docx
Authors: Rowan McBurney, Will Lord

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.
Access: Yes
Literary Rights: On
Major: Biology, Forestry
Year: 2013
File Attachments: Capstone Final.docx
Authors: Kyle Dash

Determining Habitat Suitability for Ruffed Grouse (Bonasa umbellus) in Five Forest Harvest Method Plots on the Paul Smith’s Visitors Interpretation Center Land to Promote Long Term Suitable Habitat.

Sun, 04/28/2013 - 11:42
Abstract: Ruffed grouse (Bonansa umbellus) populations are in a steady decline due to the loss of early successional forests. Our study focused on the suitability of ruffed grouse habitat which is considered an area with adequate food and cover in. We used a habitat suitability index designed for ruffed grouse in Colorado that included average height of woody stems, percent conifers, density of mature yellow birch, and total equivalent stem density as the variables that indicate whether an area has suitable cover and food for ruffed grouse. Using the habitat suitability index we measured the vegetation in five forest harvest methods including: single tree selection, two-age cut, shelter-wood cut, clear-cut, and a control plot to determine if a habitat suitability index developed in Colorado can be used to assess habitat suitability for ruffed grouse in New York. These plots are located in the Adirondacks in Northern New York State at the Paul Smith’s College Visitors Interpretation Center (VIC). Our results suggested that 14 years after harvest a single tree selection harvest method has the highest overall habitat suitability (0.95) for ruffed grouse. This is different from other studies we found that indicated clear-cut was the most suitable forest harvest method for ruffed grouse. We also projected the change in habitat suitability for height of woody stems over time for the clear-cut based on the yearly growth rate of 0.656 feet. Based on our findings from the study we made recommendations to land owners and land managers to develop and promote short term and long term suitable habitat for ruffed grouse. These recommendations included using a variety of forestry practices that included: single tree selection, shelterwood, and clear-cut because ruffed grouse require a variety of different cover types and habitat over their lifetime.
Access: Yes
Literary Rights: On
Major: Fisheries and Wildlife Science, Forestry
Year: 2013
File Attachments: Final_Draft.doc
Authors: Jeremy Anna, Jake Baulch

Draft Horse Sustainability Presentations: The effectiveness of presentations on draft animal power at the Adirondack Rural Skills and Homesteading Festival

Fri, 12/06/2013 - 12:53
Abstract: Paul Smith’s College has been putting on draft horse presentations for the public for many years but until now it was unknown how effective these were in education of the audience in topics of the interest. During the 2013 Adirondack Rural Skills and Homesteading Festival, a series of demonstrations and presentations were conducted for the public. Surveys of those in attendance have now given us information on how far people are traveling, what their prior experience is, what they want to learn, and how they want to learn it. From this information we wish to gauge attendees’ response to draft animals and their uses.
Access: Yes
Literary Rights: On
Major: Forestry, Natural Resources Management and Policy, Recreations, Adventure Travel and Ecotourism
Year: 2013
Authors: Alexandria Barner, Jacob Shultz

Current State of the Black Ash Stand on Heaven Hill

Fri, 12/06/2013 - 01:06
Abstract: This study was conducted to assess the health and current state of the rare black ash (Fraxinus nigra) tree species on Heaven Hill property located in Lake Placid, New York. Little is known about black ash trees ecologically, it is mainly known solely for its cultural significance in basket making by the indigenous. Therefore, to learn more about the intricacies of black ash twenty fixed area plots were used to characterize the overstory in the 4 acre black ash stand. Diameter at Breast Height (DBH), crown class, crown condition, bark depth, and basket quality were measured. One black ash tree and one tree of another species were cored in each plot to analyze annual growth rings. Age of black ash trees was derived from the rings along with average ring growth per decade. Using the computer program, NED-2, basal area per acre (sq. ft) and stems per acre were calculated for the black stand. There was found to be a drop in stems per acre and basal area per acre after the seven inch diameter is met. Poor crown condition was found to be very low in black ash trees and even lower with an increase in DBH; 0% of the black ash trees between 11.5” and 17.5” DBH had Poor crown condition. Basket quality was assessed for each black ash tree and was based solely on physical features observed in the field. Basket quality for the stand was nine percent which represents the range in DBH classes from 5” to 15”. Only sixteen black ash trees were found to be potential basket quality trees.
Access: Yes
Literary Rights: On
Major: Forestry
Year: 2013
File Attachments: Black_Ash.docx
Authors: Alexis Bancroft

Developing a Log Rule for Portable Sawmill Operators in Vermont

Fri, 04/26/2013 - 10:30
Abstract: Since the beginning of the 19th century, American lumbermen have been vexed by one of the unique questions of their trade; how do you estimate the yield of squared lumber to be cut from a round log? Since 1825, answers to this question have come in the form of log rules; a table or formula that estimates the yield of logs. These tables are in no way universal, and in some cases are crudely inaccurate. The shortcomings of these log rules have manifest differently in the various geographic locales and industry sectors where they are used. This study sought to identify such shortcomings as they pertain to a specific group of lumbermen; portable sawmill operators. These sawyers utilize modern bandsaw technology and have unique business practices, yet they estimate outputs based on century old log rules created for traditional sawmills. Through the use of semi-structured open ended interviews, technical and socioeconomic information was gathered from 7 sawyers in Vermont. Among other concerns, five of the sawyers expressed the need for a better way to estimate log yield. Based on their collective suggestions and technical approaches, a new log rule was created here to address sawyers’ needs.
Access: Yes
Literary Rights: Off
Major: Forestry
Year: 2013
File Attachments: CAPSTONE_HAIGH.pdf
Authors: Ben Haigh

Green Roof Technologies in Adirondack Wilderness Areas

Fri, 04/26/2013 - 11:01
Abstract: Wilderness is qualified by two main characteristics: naturalness and solitude. To enhance these characteristics, many things are excluded from wilderness areas including roads, motorized vehicles and human-made structures of any kind. However some argue there needs to be greater consideration to structures that are a regional legacy and hold considerable historical significance. The Adirondack lean-to is a well-known entity associated with the Adirondack Park but much debate exists over whether or not such structures should be allowed in wilderness areas. The addition of green roofs to lean-tos can possibly mediate the humanness of these structures and produce a three-fold benefit. First, green roofs increase the naturalness of the lean-to. Second, they provide a model for naturalness and sustainability. Third, green roofs on lean-tos provide an additional benefit by lowering, however modestly, the impact of these structures on the natural environment. This qualitative study conducted a series of interviews to examine the feasibility and gauge the receptivity of stakeholders to this idea. Identified themes included the maintenance required to keep up the roofs, the cost and labor of installation and their longevity. Additional themes included the perceived lack of benefits, cultural and historical significance as well as the possibility of green-roofed lean-tos to provide an educational benefit. The data suggest that the benefits associated with green roofs on lean-tos may outweigh the cost of their installation. The naturalness of the green roof on the lean-t may thus offset the “unnaturalness” of the structures themselves to the degree that lean-tos may be perceived as more conforming to wilderness areas. This study concludes that further research is needed into the technical aspects of green roof construction including the amount of maintenance required and the use of wilderness compliant materials. The interest in green-roofed lean-tos appears to exist and with additional technical data it may be possible to take the next step.
Access: Yes
Literary Rights: Off
Major: Recreations, Adventure Travel and Ecotourism
Year: 2013
Authors: Alison Liedkie