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Capstone Projects

Assessment of Tree Planting Riparian Management along the Ausable and Boquet Rivers in New York State

Tue, 12/05/2017 - 14:28
Abstract: Ecological restoration is, in part, restoring degraded ecosystems. By adding riparian vegetation along degraded reaches of rivers and streams, ecologists can begin to restore the natural habitat and processes associated with that river or stream. Trees, shrubs and grasses can be very important in retaining stream bank soils, providing shade in the river and habitat for terrestrial species. Two programs called Trees for Tribs and Ausable River Association (AsRA), restore degraded riparian areas in the state of New York, including the Ausable and Bouquet Rivers in the Adirondack State Park. This study compared survival rates of the plantings in nine different locations along the Ausable River and one location along the Boquet River. The tree species, living status (survivorship), and stem density of the understory was recorded. The four AsRA planting sites and one U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service site planted saplings ranging from 6-8 feet in height, and the Trees for Tribs planted seedlings at the other five sites. It was found that there was no significant difference between the survival rates of the saplings in comparison to the survival rates of the seedlings (p-value = 0.37). In addition, there was no significant difference (p-value = 0.05) in the stem density measurements between sapling and seedling plots. It was also observed that records of tree plantings were either missing, incomplete or inaccurate from both Ausable River Association and Trees for Tribs.
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Major: Environmental Sciences
Year: 2017
Authors: Austin Tremblay

Living Machine ® Wastewater Treatment in Sólheimar

Tue, 12/05/2017 - 15:02
Abstract: As of 2014, Sólheimar Ecovillage in South Iceland began to experience inadequate sewage treatment. After a large earthquake, the community’s constructed wetland became damaged, freely expelling untreated wastewater into the surrounding watershed. After research, the Living Machine® system became the evident solution to help mitigate this issue. By using a case study of a Living Machine® system in South Burlington, Vermont, I was able to determine output estimates of individuals by gallons per day (GPD) and approximate a price for a Living Machine® with a greenhouse at $1,019, 694 USD. Different approaches Sólheimar could take to help make this project successful would be installing a flowmeter, applying for different grants, charging tourists to use the restrooms, and contacting the engineering company to discuss the current and future piping system in the village.
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Major: Environmental Sciences
Year: 2017
File Attachments: jsetter_final.pdf
Authors: Jessica Setter

A Comparison of Fall and Spring Minnow (Cyprinidae) Surveys to Assess Overwinter Changes in Community Composition in a Marshland of the Northern Adirondacks, NY

Wed, 12/06/2017 - 03:51
Abstract: Minnows are an integral component of a healthy aquatic ecosystem. However, minnows are very sensitive to habitat destruction and loss, changes in water quality, and over predation. As a result of its integral role, an unhealthy, or absent minnow population can wreak havoc on an ecosystem. The objectives are to compare minnow species richness and composition between spring and fall surveys for different regions in the marsh, compare minnow trap catch rates between fall and spring for each minnow species for different regions of the marsh, compare mean length of minnow species between fall and spring, and compare water temperature, dissolved oxygen, pH, and conductivity in the fall with that of late winter and post ice-out. The study location was Heron Marsh of New York’s Adirondack Park, which supports of variety of fish in the cyprinidae family. Water quality was collected using a YSI meter in all 4 seasons of the year, and minnows were sampled using galvanized steel minnow traps during the fall and spring. Nearly all sites saw an increase in cyprinid biodiversity and abundance. Long term monitoring should be established for more robust data that can in turn justify more solid conclusions.
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Major: Environmental Sciences
Year: 2017
File Attachments: Capstone Report
Authors: Brenden Blair

The Effects of pH on the Distribution of the Mink Frog (Lithobates septentrionalis)

Fri, 12/08/2017 - 14:41
Abstract: Amphibian decline is occurring at an alarming rate. The acidification of aquatic systems is contributing to the decline, affecting habitat viability which affects dispersal, breeding success and the mortality of young. Tolerances to the acidic conditions vary amongst species, but are not known for all amphibians. The mink frog (Lithobates septentrionalis) has scattered dispersals throughout the regions in which they are found. The goal of this study was to observe possible effects of pH on the distribution of the mink frog, which is native to the Adirondack Park. A call survey was completed in 40 Adirondack water systems to determine dispersal. The pH of the lakes in which the call survey was conducted were also recorded. This study documents the relationship between pH and distribution of the mink frog along with the variations between the lacustrine and deep water pH values for each water system. The mink frog was not found in lakes with pH <6.5. Evidence also showed that the pH between deep water and lacustrine regions had varying differences that may prove to be significant in regards to studying some species. It is recommended that lacustrine data be examined along with limnologic deep water data when studying lacustrine dwelling species.
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Major: Environmental Sciences
Year: 2017
File Attachments: final capstone.docx
Authors: Cheylynne Tyrrell

Does the presence of Malus spp. increase the fertility of the soil surface in pastures?

Mon, 05/01/2017 - 18:24
Abstract: Techniques to increase soil fertility in a pasture can benefit the system by combating soil degradation and increasing the health of vegetation. The use of apple trees (Malus spp.) may be particularly beneficial in achieving this due to reliable fruit yields, ease of management, and variety of suitable habitat. We hypothesized that soil directly under the canopy of apple trees would be higher in nutrients (C, Ca, K, Mg, N, & P) than soil in areas with no tree cover. Soil samples were taken from the top 15 cm of the soil surface under apple trees and in areas without trees at 14 sites in Massachusetts and New York. Samples were analyzed using spectrometry and color imagery to determine nutrient content. Potassium and magnesium concentrations were found to be significantly higher in under-canopy samples. Further research may expand these results and determine if the application of apple trees can be used to increase the health of pasture systems.
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Major: Environmental Sciences, Forestry
Year: 2017
File Attachments: capstone_gumbartpayson.pdf
Authors: Julia Payson, Ryan Gumbart

The Age and Origin of Lake Ejagham, Cameroon: 9,000-Year-Old Sediment Evidence Suggests Possible Bolide Impactor

Tue, 05/02/2017 - 15:18
Abstract: Lake Ejagham is a relatively small lake (54 hectares) located in the south-western region of Cameroon, Africa. Two sediment cores, EJ1 and EJ2, were extruded in 1987 by Dr. Dan Livingstone, preserved, and analyzed in 2016. Sediment and diatom analyses were performed in conjunction with radiocarbon dating, which suggests the maximum age of the lake itself is about 9,000 years old. The age of the lake was confirmed by both the radiocarbon dating of the sediment as well as the dating of wood fragments found at the base of the EJ2 core. The diatom analyses indicate that in recent times high percentages of planktonic diatoms were present, which suggests a relatively wetter hydroclimate than in the past. In the mid-section of EJ1 those planktonic diatom percentages were lower, which indicates drier climates or changes to the lacustrine environment. The consistency in the sediment and climate record suggest that Lake Ejagham has been uninterrupted by environmental catastrophes, which provided suitable conditions for endemic cichlids to evolve via sympatry, particularly Coptodon ejagham. Lake Ejagham has been thought to have formed as a solution basin, when water dissolves and carries away underground minerals forming a depression. Instead, the bedrock beneath the lake contains both soluble and insoluble layers, which prevent this from happening. Here we assert that the EJ1 and EJ2 cores support an alternative origin, possibly from a bolide impactor, however this is not conclusive.
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Major: Environmental Sciences
Year: 2017
Authors: Kenneth B. Alton

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.
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Major: Environmental Sciences, Forestry
Year: 2012
File Attachments: FINAL Capstone Report.doc
Authors: Brandon Ploss, Sean Ayotte

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.
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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

Managing for increased productivity and size of an American kestrel (Falco sparverius) population in northern New York

Mon, 05/07/2012 - 12:58
Abstract: American kestrel (Falco sparverius) populations have recently declined across most of the eastern states. As a result, managers and concerned citizens alike have installed nest boxes across large areas to increase productivity. Mr. Mark Manske has run one of these nest box programs in northern New York, across parts of St. Lawrence and Franklin counties, over the past ten years. Through the combination of his research and other long term management plans, the ideal future plan was developed. The focus of the new plan is to boost efficiency of resources, ease of expansion and sustain a steady or increasing population of kestrels. GIS software was used to analyze each nest boxes’ characteristics in order to develop a model that may predict areas of possible high productivity. Surveys and public outreach are emphasized to create a broader supporting base and possibly acquire future partners for land use, volunteers and advertising. The continued monitoring of the northern New York kestrel population will ensure the presence of this vital species for generations to come.
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Major: Environmental Sciences, Fisheries and Wildlife Science
Year: 2012
File Attachments: Sauca_Final_Submision.docx
Authors: Tonnie Sauca Jr.

Monitoring the Zebra Mussel Invasion Front: Use of New Technology

Thu, 02/09/2012 - 15:39
Abstract: Zebra mussels are invasive mollusks that are affecting the well-being of the water bodies in the United States. This study uses environmental DNA (eDNA) is a sensitive early detection system that may be useful in monitoring their spread. The purpose of this study is to determine the effectiveness of eDNA technology in identifying infested water bodies, to determine if zebra mussel DNA is in the Adirondack water bodies not known to be infested, if the water chemistry of these water bodies is favorable for zebra mussel establishment, and if the eDNA technology is transferable to an institution like Paul Smith’s College. Eighteen lakes, all in New York State were sampled, fifteen of which are located in the Adirondack Park. DNA was extracted from water and plankton samples and species specific primers were used for PCR amplification to determine if zebra mussel DNA was present. Of seven samples taken from sites known to be infested, five of these tested positive for zebra mussel eDNA. Four lakes not known to be infested within the Park also tested positive for zebra mussel eDNA. Based on zebra mussel risk parameters (water chemistry) applied to 1,469 Adirondack water bodies, less than 3% are at risk of zebra mussel establishment. However it is possible that established populations could occur at microsites that may have locally high levels of calcium and higher pH.
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Major: Biology, Environmental Sciences, Environmental Studies, Fisheries and Wildlife Science, Forestry, Natural Resources Management and Policy
Year: 2011
File Attachments: The Author has selected not to publish this complete work.
Authors: Alexandria Bevilacqua, John Bishop, Charles Cain, Tyler Clark, Seth Crevison, Robert Culyer, Ryan Deibler, Brian DeMeo, Jonathan Eckert, Kirsten Goranowski, Joelle Guisti, Alan Jancef, Korinna Marino, Michelle Melagrano, KaitlynNedo, Joseph Nelson, Aaron Palmieri, Cole Reagan, John Scahill, JohnathanStrassheim, Scott Travis, Sarah Van Nostrand and Sarah Vella