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Capstone Projects

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.
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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

Effects of Silvicultural Treatments on Wildlife Communities at the Paul Smith's College Forest Research Demonstration Areas

Fri, 05/11/2018 - 16:15
Abstract: Logging has drastically altered North American forest ecosystems for centuries. While extensive studies have been done to determine the impacts of different silvicultural practices on plant communities, minimal research has evaluated the impacts on wildlife communities, particularly in the Adirondack Mountains. Silvicultural practices may significantly impact wildlife communities due to the disturbances it causes, as well as the way it alters the habitat. We monitored winter wildlife communities in the Forest Ecosystem Research Demonstration Area owned by Paul Smith’s College in the Northern Adirondack Park. By analyzing the data collected by trail cameras, tracks and measuring percent browse, we compared the abundance and diversity of wildlife in three silvicultural treatments (i.e., clearcut, group selection, control). We also collected data regarding the physical aspects of the silvicultural treatment plot (i.e. canopy cover and snow depth) to indicate the kind of available habitat. We found that despite there being the highest average relative activity in group selection, there is no significant relationship between average relative activity and harvest treatment type. Using the Shannon-Weiner Diversity Index, we found that the highest diversity was in control/reference. Due to our limited treatment sample size, we did not have conclusive findings in most areas of our study. However, the highest total tracks and relative activity were found in the clearcuts. We suggest that more research be done on this study in order to eventually make forest management plans that properly account for both plant and wildlife species.
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Literary Rights: On
Major: Biology, Environmental Sciences, Natural Resources Conservation and Management
Year: 2018
Authors: Jacob Adams, Caitlin De Bellis, Tyler Fisk, Hyla Howe, Mark McHugh, Daniel Sutch

Influence of Slope on Soil Organic Carbon on Costa Rican Coffee Farms.

Mon, 05/07/2018 - 10:21
Abstract: Soil management is an important factor on agroforestry farms that help with soil fertility and carbon storage. Coffee agroforestry farms in Central Valley Atenas, Costa Rica were analyzed between November 2008 and May 2017. The objective of this study was to see if there is a relationship between mean slope and annual soil organic carbon sequestration (Mg/ha), and mean slope and soil organic carbon storage (Mg/ha), from samples taken on November 2008/May 2009 and November2016/ May 2017. Sample were taken on five farms with twenty 0.05 ha plots. Many coffee farms in the central valley are assembled on steep slopes or sides of mountains. Steep slopes are susceptible to erosion affecting the amount of soil organic carbon sequestration and storage. There was not a significant relationship found between mean slope and loss of carbon sequestration annually in November 2016/ May 2017 (Mg/ha). Mean slope and soil organic carbon storage from November 2016/May 2017 were compared by testing the effects of slope with carbon storage and there was no relationship. Whereas a statistically significant positive relationship was found between mean slope and soil organic carbon storage from November 2008/ May 2009. Additional data was examined to look at annual carbon sequestration loss on conventional and organic farms. However there was not a significant difference between the two. When all farms were compared for their annual carbon sequestration loss, marginally significant difference was found, but reasons for these differences remain a hypothesis. Further research to examine these differences may include practices of the farmers and erosion steeper slopes before erosion implications were taken by the farmers.
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Literary Rights: On
Major: Environmental Sciences
Year: 2018
File Attachments: JMcLaughlin_Capstone.docx
Authors: Jessica McLaughlin,

An Assessment of Heavy Metal Concentrations in Adirondack Waterfowl

Thu, 04/28/2016 - 22:53
Abstract: We analyzed heavy metal concentrations in waterfowl liver and breast tissue from ducks harvested within the Adirondack Park from October 3 to November 13, 2015. Interspecific, intersex, and feeding behavior variation in heavy metal concentrations were assessed. Waterfowl from two feeding behavior groups (diving and dabbling) were harvested from the watershed within a 50 mile radius of Paul Smith’s, New York. Harvested waterfowl species included mallard (Anas platyrhynchos), American black duck (Anas rubripes), common merganser (Mergus merganser), ring-necked duck (Aythya collaris), bufflehead (Bucephala albeola), and hooded merganser (Lophodytes cucullatus). Legal harvest of these species during regulated New York State duck hunting season allows for permissible use of internal organs for heavy metal determination. Dry weight (mg/kg) of digested liver and breast tissue samples were analyzed using atomic absorption spectroscopy. Due to unknown laboratory error, absolute concentration values were inaccurate, thus, rendering accurate analyses unfeasible. However, relative observable trends were able to be assessed given our data’s high precision. Analyte concentrations were significantly greater in liver tissues and there were significant differences between species. Variation in mercury, lead, bismuth, cadmium, chromium, and zinc concentrations in waterfowl serve as an indicator of the presence, cycling, bioaccumulation, and temporal trends of these metals in northeastern aquatic habitats.
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Major: Environmental Sciences, Fisheries and Wildlife Science
Year: 2016
File Attachments: Final2.docx
Authors: Brandon Snavely, Lewis Lolya

Rooted Education: learning from aquaponics

Sat, 04/30/2016 - 15:02
Abstract: Aquaponics is the integration of soil-less agriculture (hydroponics) within closed-loop aquaculture systems to reduce the toxic accumulation of nutrient waste from aquatic animals. Bacteria naturally establish to purify water by oxidizing the ammonia secreted by fish, which reduces the toxicity of effluent while creating a usable nitrogen source for plants. The conversion of ammonia and nitrite into nitrate by living bacteria communities is called a biological filter, or biofiltration (FAO 2014). Aquaponics would not be possible without biofiltration; the slightest amount of ammonia would be fatally toxic to fish, and plants wouldn't receive the nitrates they need to grow. There are unique opportunities offered by an aquaponics system to learn about ecological and human communities. 1.1. Aquaponics enables users to grow fish and agricultural plants with limited space and resource use (water, soil, and time). This enables an aquaponics user to invest less physical energy and time into expanding sustainable food resources for their household use. 1.2. A small aquaponics system could promote cultural values of self-sufficiency, energy consciousness, and connection to food systems. It could inspire individual efforts to produce food for one’s household, to build healthier and more resilient systems, and a greater appreciation for farming. Therefore, this project aims to actualize a mobile and functional aquaponics system for the educational benefit of the Paul Smith's College community. I will provide the background knowledge needed to maintain an aquaponics system, as well as describe the general concept of aquaponics design.
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Literary Rights: On
Major: Environmental Sciences, Natural Resources Sustainability Studies
Year: 2016
File Attachments: The Author has selected not to publish this complete work.
Authors: Brian Jason Kohan

Turning Points and the Ecological Conscience

Mon, 04/25/2016 - 08:15
Abstract: We live in a time when environmental crises seem to be overwhelming: global climate change, water crises, and mass extinctions, to name a few. Some people seek out ways to address environmental problems, while others remain ignorant or deny the existence of serious issues. Aldo Leopold’s land ethic calls those who help, people who feel “the stirring of an ecological conscience.” Many studies have looked at the psychology of environmentalism and the factors that instill an environmental ethic. Some studies look at early childhood, others at significant turning point events. Many factors foster an ecological conscience among people. I was interested in how the “stirring of an ecological conscience” was instilled in our own community here at Paul Smith’s College. The faculty and students all have a story to tell about what led them here and this project explored that. The sample studied here found that among faculty and students, experiences from childhood played a significant role in the development of an ecological conscience. These experiences most often influenced the path of each participants life journey. These findings provide us with information on ways we can look to help instill the ecological conscience in others, through education and daily life.
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Major: Environmental Studies
Year: 2016
Authors: Dominic Rickicki

Presence and Abundance of Microplastics within Flowing Waters of Private, Wilderness, and Other Forest Preserve Lands of the Northern Adirondack Park

Mon, 04/28/2014 - 16:26
Abstract: Microplastic sampling was conducted at thirteen locations throughout the water bodies of the Northern Adirondack Region. Plastics were found at all thirteen sites, which were categorized by the impact level of human development. Any particle less than 5mm can be defined as a microplastic particle. Microscopic plastics can be found in a variety of chemical cleaners, clothing fabrics, and concrete solutions. Storm water drainage systems and wastewater treatment plants are confirmed sources of microplastic pollution, which carry pollutants into our rivers, lakes, and streams. Ingestion of microplastic particles can lead to many distinctive threats, including biological and physical abnormalities, while possibly leading to bioaccumulation and biomagnification throughout the food web. Future practices for management and prevention of microplastic pollutants in the Adirondacks is critical for environmental protection, while also portraying a worldly view of an overlooked human induced issue.
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Major: Environmental Sciences, Natural Resources Management and Policy
Year: 2014
Authors: Patrick Colern, Sinjin Larson

Environmental Values Represented in Successful Green Building; LEED vs. Passive House

Mon, 04/28/2014 - 12:02
Abstract: In a society struggling to synchronize human development with environmental quality, the construction sector is often the target of sustainability initiatives. The purpose of this research is to investigate the environmental values and themes that influenced the design process of two successful green building projects. The two buildings at the focus of the study are new residential construction in the state of Maine; one with LEED Platinum certification and one with Passive House certification. Both buildings were found to exemplify themes of energy performance, practicality, and bioregionalism and included a collaborative design effort. A better understanding of these themes and values that guided these project teams to construct paradigm-shifting structures can help form a model for mainstream applications of a sustainable built environment.
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Major: Environmental Studies
Year: 2014
File Attachments: The Author has selected not to publish this complete work.
Authors: Heather Coleates