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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

An examination of sustainable agricultural practices of small scale dairy farms in the Adirondack North Country of Upstate New York

Mon, 05/01/2017 - 09:14
Abstract: This study examines the sustainable practices of small scale dairy farms in the Adirondack North Country of Upstate New York. The results of this study can assist farmers in developing and implementing sustainable agriculture practices specific for small scale dairy farms in the North Country. Methods for research include farm tours as well as in person interviews with the farmers which will provide an understanding of what farming practices are currently being implemented as well as identifying what potential practices may be implemented. The information that is gathered can also be helpful with legislative processes. It may provide law makers and various agencies with valuable information that can help create guidelines and regulations that support sustainable farming methods as well as assist farmers in understanding their challenges and successes in reaching both economic and environmental sustainability
Access: Yes
Literary Rights: Off
Major: Natural Resources Management and Policy
Year: 2016
Authors: Steven Vincent

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.
Access: Yes
Literary Rights: Off
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

The Distribution of Northern Harriers (Circus cyaneus) in Northern New York State in Relation to the Availability of Habitat Types

Mon, 04/16/2012 - 18:55
Abstract: Northern Harriers (Circus cyaneus), a bird of prey species, are widely distributed throughout the United States generally at low densities. Harriers are found in New York State, although they are less common than in the Midwest. As the harrier is a species of concern in some regions, it is important to understand how land cover types can affect the distribution of Northern Harriers over time, within a given area. Specifically, this study investigated whether the distributions of Northern Harriers are dependent upon habitat type, and if the frequency of habitat types significantly affects the abundance of Northern Harriers. The area selected for this study includes the majority of New York State to the North and East of Watertown. This region was selected because data indicates that harrier populations have declined from 1980 to 2005. In addition, this region encompasses mountainous areas as well as lower, relatively flatter land outside of the Adirondacks which represents most of New York State. Remote Sensing and Geographic Information Systems were utilized to determine land cover types for the region. These land cover types were then combined with New York State Department of Environmental Conservation’s Breeding Bird Atlas survey blocks. Dominant cover types for each survey block were determined, and the region as a whole was compared to survey blocks within which harriers were present. This process was completed for the years 1984 and 2005, two years in which the Breeding Bird Atlas data were collected for New York State. By using Remote Sensing and GIS, a clearer understanding of the relationship between cover type frequency and harrier presence was possible. Results indicate that Northern Harriers are significantly selecting habitat from land cover types in a proportion different to that which is available. Land cover in this region has shifted throughout the time covered in this study. In addition, a trend of open habitat being chosen over closed canopy habitat is evident. Understanding harrier selection of land cover types can greatly affect management strategies, practices and funding, as the specie is listed as threatened in New York State. The results of this study support much of the available scientific literature on harriers, which state that harriers require a combination of open canopy habitats, including early successional habitat with low vegetative cover.
Access: Yes
Literary Rights: Off
Major: Forestry, Natural Resources Management and Policy
Year: 2012
Authors: Kelly Hoffman

An Analysis of Possible Forest Type Shifts due to Asian Longhorned Beetle Invasion in the Northern Hardwood Forest of Hebron, NY

Mon, 04/16/2012 - 18:10
Abstract: The Asian Longhorned beetle (Anoplophora glabripennis) is an invasive alien insect that poses a severe threat to forests of the northeastern United States. If this insect is allowed to run rampant through our forests there will be huge economic and ecological implications. This study hopes to provide a better understanding of these potential implications and provide potential policies for managing and controlling this insect that has potentially devastating effects on the hardwood forests of the northeast. The study on hand will explore the effects on current forest types in Hebron, NY and what future regeneration may look like in the aftermath of an ALB infestation. ALB has the potential to completely change not only the landscape but also alter current markets based around the northern hardwood stand type. This study was designed to attempt to grasp the magnitude and effects of an infestation by ALB. Current policies were reviewed to attempt to create a possible set of management strategies that could be used to minimize the effects of the ALB. Possible forest type shifts were predicted for the area based upon species range and soil types present in the study area. It is important to understand not only what ALB is capable of but also what can be expected to happen if or when it does move through the area.
Access: Yes
Literary Rights: Off
Major: Forestry, Natural Resources Management and Policy
Year: 2012
File Attachments: Complete Project.docx
Authors: Leonard Jenkins, Robert Bell, Schuyler VanAuken

Sharing the John Dillon Park Experience with More Visitors: A marketing and management strategy, to increase visitor usage concentrating on organizations for people with disabilities and Veterans

Mon, 04/16/2012 - 17:54
Abstract: International Paper John Dillon Park (JDP) is a fully accessible campground managed by Paul Smith's College (PSC). Fully accessible means it was designed so anyone, regardless of the presence of a disability, can utilize the facility. The campground has not been near full capacity since it was opened in 2006. PSC wishes to increase those visitor numbers concentrating on Veterans and organizations for people with disabilities. A survey was conducted of the current park visitors to obtain information needed to help define the desired demographic and other information needed for the marketing strategy of JDP. These visitor responses showed that PSC needs to concentrate its marketing efforts into better contact with its current users to stimulate return users, make a few changes to the facilities themselves, and advertise within magazines, Veteran organizations, organizations for people with disabilities and Fort Drum. Also, the responses informed PSC that it needs to provide for the recollection phase of the recreational experience by selling JDP souvenirs. With an increase in the visitor usage of JDP, more people will be able to appreciate the serenity of nature and the camping experience JDP offers to all people.
Access: Yes
Literary Rights: Off
Major: Forestry, Natural Resources Management and Policy
Year: 2012
File Attachments: Jeffrey T. Bellaire.pdf
Authors: Jeffrey T. Bellaire

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
Access: Yes
Literary Rights: Off
Major: Natural Resources Management and Policy
Year: 2012
Authors: William R. Martin, Michael J. Cerasaro

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.
Access: Yes
Literary Rights: Off
Major: Natural Resources Management and Policy
Year: 2012
Authors: Cory Campbell, Kyle Wagner