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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

The influence of a common parent on sap sweetness among open pollinated sugar maple (Acer saccharum Marsh.) offspring

Wed, 05/08/2019 - 15:08
Abstract: Beginning in the 1950s, the United States Forest Service began to look into the ability to predict and control the heritability of sap sweetness in sugar maples (Acer saccharum Marsh.). A search for genetically superior (sweeter) trees was conducted across 6 states, testing 21,000 trees. Only 53 trees were chosen to be parental stock for the “Super Sweet” sugar maple improvement program. These trees, cloned through rooted cuttings and scion wood grafting, were planted in the Grand Isle, VT clonal bank. One of the five progeny tests of open pollinated offspring from the clonal bank was established in Lake Placid, New York. These trees had their first evaluation at age ten. Each tree had its diameter and height measured, as well as its sap sweetness tested. Now, 35 years after planting, the trees were evaluated again. An inventory was conducted with diameter at breast height, tree height, and live crown ratio measurements. Of the 725 trees planted, only 396 trees remain. Only 258 trees were of size and quality to handle a 5/16” tap. Their sap sweetness was measured at multiple times though out the season. Knowing one of the two parents of each tree allowed for the comparison of the sap sweetness of the different common-parent groups. The data collected did not support that the knowledge of only one parent could be used to predicts a tree’s sweetness relative to any other parent’s offspring. The bigger picture progeny evaluations will continue the “Super Sweet” sugar maple improvement program.
Access: Yes
Literary Rights: Off
Major: Forestry
Year: 2019
Authors: Eric Mance

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

Drying Firewood in the Adirondacks: Development and Evaluation of Four Firewood Drying Systems for Use with the Solar Kiln at Paul Smith's College

Fri, 05/11/2018 - 05:59
Abstract: Four firewood drying system designs have been constructed for future use in the solar kiln drying process. A series of test were compared looking at structure and movement limitations to ensure the structure can withstand placement in the solar kiln. The comparison for each design was made in terms of key performance indicators such as air flow and circulation between the pieces of firewood. Proper moisture content in seasoned firewood is between 15-20%, while green wood when a tree is harvested is between 30-50%. Specific requirements were discussed in more detail, these being overall building, stacking, and drying rates with the over encompassing issue of mobility restraints. Moisture content levels were checked and measured by a moisture meter every day since the beginning of mid-April. All designs were created with respect to the solar kiln that is at Paul Smith's College for future use in promotional and fundraiser events.
Access: Yes
Literary Rights: On
Major: Forestry
Year: 2018
Authors: Nico Petrella, Grant Putnam

Recommendations for Extending the Winter Use of Dillon’s Sawmill at Paul Smith’s College

Thu, 05/10/2018 - 17:35
Abstract: This paper proposes a three-phase plan to update the Dillon’s Sawmill at Paul Smith’s College in the northern Adirondacks of New York State for extending winter use. The current issues are excessive airflow, hydraulic warmup time and potential damage, and safety of students and workers. Solutions were researched and compiled into a logical three phase plan. The first phase will be immediately within one year of proposal approval. Phase I will include installation of an added structure over log deck, two overhead doors, vinyl strip door, and two Wolverine Heaters. The second phase is from years one to five. This phase will include the installation of Ecofoil insulation in the walls and under the new roof. Phase III is the final phase and is from five to ten years after the update has begun. During this phase, closed cell spray foam insulation will be applied over the existing Ecofoil and an outdoor wood boiler will be installed. The total estimated cost for the updates to Dillon’s Sawmill is $57,264.70.
Access: Yes
Literary Rights: On
Major: Forestry
Year: 2018
File Attachments: CAPSTONE_Ray_DeYoung.docx
Authors: Emily DeYoung, Heather Ray

Improvements and Operation of the Solar Lumber Kiln at Paul Smith’s College

Thu, 05/10/2018 - 14:45
Abstract: This paper aims to discuss improvements and operation of the solar lumber kiln in operation at Paul Smith’s College. It discusses what solar kilns are, the functions of a solar kiln, the types of solar kilns, and the basic principles of how each type operates. By understanding the functions and workings of a solar kiln, improvements for operation can be made to the existing kiln to increase effectiveness and efficiency. Subjects to be examined include preparation of wood for solar kiln drying, air flow within the kiln, the solar collector portion of Paul Smith’s College’s kiln, methods to make the kiln more air tight, and damages and malfunctions that have occurred within the first year of operation. Proposed improvements for both the operation of the kiln and preparation of lumber prior to drying in the kiln are provided, along with operating and construction information from Wood-Mizer, the company that designed Paul Smith’s College’s solar lumber kiln.
Access: Yes
Literary Rights: On
Major: Forestry
Year: 2018
Authors: Wyatt Blanchard, Timothy Volo

Comparison of 5 Firewood Storage Structures for Most Efficient Drying of Acer rubrum in Northern NY

Thu, 05/10/2018 - 12:47
Abstract: Worldwide over 2 billion people use firewood to heat their homes. The cultural relevance of the act of stacking firewood means that there are many different recommended methods of stacking and storage. For this study we tested five structures for the drying of firewood, and measured change in moisture content over five weeks to determine which method was the most efficient. Red maple (Acer rubrum L.) and Black cherry (Prunus serotine L.) trees were felled in the Creighton Hill Tract and hauled 1.2 miles to the study site behind the Paul Smith’s College John Dillon Sawmill in Paul Smiths, New York. There they were split and stacked into the five different methods, which included a heap, uncovered stack, covered stack, shed, and stack wrapped in plastic. Moisture content readings were taken from nine red maple pieces within each stack three times a week for a total of five weeks. Uncovered firewood was most susceptible to changes in moisture content in response to precipitation. Covered stacks of wood had the greatest decrease in moisture content over the course of the study, and also proved to be less vulnerable to precipitation events. Firewood wrapped in plastic maintained significantly higher moisture content than the other methods consistently throughout the study.
Access: Yes
Literary Rights: Off
Major: Forestry
Year: 2018
Authors: Talia Stewart, Scott Seelbach

The effects of different users on tree height measurements in two mixed hardwood stands in northern New York: A comparison of three measuring instruments.

Tue, 05/08/2018 - 20:23
Abstract: Height measurement in the forestry industry is one of the most important measurements that is needed for forest inventories but also one the most difficult to accurately obtain. There are many different types of tools that industry professionals use to measure tree heights. Those tools that are used vary greatly in price and quality which is considered by companies when deciding what tool to purchase. There has been little information on these different instruments and how accurate they are considering their price. This study looked at the Suunto Clinometer, Nikon Forestry Pro Rangefinder and the HagLof Vertex IV Hypsometer. These instruments were tested in different stand conditions that these tools would be used in. This study was done to help give more information to professionals about these measuring instruments and what instrument is better to use when considering their cost. The hypsometer was found to be the most accurate in both sites. The clinometer and range finder were found to be less accurate.
Access: Yes
Literary Rights: On
Major: Forestry
Year: 2018
Authors: Leland Helms, Scott Sidney, Kyle Tallman