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Capstone Projects

Developing A Wildlife Teaching Collection

Wed, 12/06/2017 - 13:14
Abstract: Wildlife specimens hold significant scientific and educational value at Paul Smith’s College through the preservation of essential biological information. Specimens allow for the better understanding of the past and present conditions of a species, and are a valuable teaching tool for all-inclusive wildlife education. However important, it is apparent that the accumulation of wildlife specimens is insufficient due to a lack of education surrounding the preservation of specimens and methods pertaining to the development of a specimen collection. In response, the procedural framework surrounding standard specimen preparation practices was analyzed and adjusted in order meet the specific needs of the institution. A comprehensive procedural manual was created with the intention of making specimen preparation a more approachable task for interested students, as well as to ensure continual growth of the wildlife teaching collection at Paul Smith’s College.
Access: Yes
Literary Rights: On
Major: Environmental Sciences
Year: 2017
Authors: Jacob McCourt, Benjamin Wrazen

Comparison of Fine and Coarse Organic Matter Among Levels of Shoreline Impact: Implications for Ecological Restoration

Mon, 05/01/2017 - 15:24
Abstract: Human lake shoreline development has been shown to have impacts on the dynamics of the lakeshore. Such dynamics include the riparian and littoral zones interactions; the complexity, abundance, and residence time of large woody debris; organic matter/detritus, and food webs for fish, birds, and macroinvertebrates. Understanding such dynamics, and the impacts of human development, are important when attempting to restore the shoreline through the process of ecological restoration. The objectives of the study were, (1) to compare the amount of organic matter (smaller than sticks, branches, logs, and trees) among three levels of impact (impacted, minimally impacted, and benchmark), (2) to compare the amounts of CPOM and FPOM among the three levels of impact. The field data was collected using a modified design of sediment corer. A total of 63 samples were taken and the results clearly showed that the reference (benchmark) site had a much higher accumulation of organic sediment along the shoreline. Also, the data analysis also showed that there was virtually no measurable FPOM among the impacted and minimally impacted sites, but among the references sites it was more abundant than CPOM, which was opposite from the impacted and minimally impacted sites.
Access: Yes
Literary Rights: On
Major: Environmental Sciences
Year: 2017
File Attachments: Final_Morrill.docx
Authors: John Morrill

A Comparison of Leaf Litter in the Aquatic, Terrestrial, and Transitional Zones among Impacted, Minimally Impacted, and Benchmark Conditions of the Shorelines of the Lower St. Regis Lake and Black Pond

Mon, 05/01/2017 - 17:55
Abstract: Human development of shorelines impacts structure and functionality of the shoreline’s ecosystems. Ecological restoration projects can be used to rectify this impact, but first data must be collected to determine the extent of impact human development has had on the shoreline. The objective of this study was to compare the biomass (wet and dry weights) of deciduous and coniferous leaf litter among impacted, minimally impacted, and benchmark shorelines and between terrestrial and aquatic zones. Data was collected among the three impact levels on the Paul Smith’s College property along the shores of Lower St. Regis Lake (impacted and minimally impacted) and Black Pond (benchmark). Deciduous and coniferous leaf litter was collected in the aquatic and terrestrial zones of the shoreline and among the three impact levels using 0.7 m2 terrestrial and 0.25 m2 aquatic quadrats, and then compared using nonparametric statistical tests to determine differences among impact levels and between zones. The results of this study revealed that the relationship between deciduous and coniferous leaf litter was more nuanced than expected. The study supported the current body of scientific knowledge in that shoreline development decreases the overall amount of leaf litter accumulated in the shoreline of lakes. However, should future studies on variation between deciduous and coniferous leaf litter be conducted, the criteria for impact levels should be expanded to ensure the sites used are more comparable in forest type.
Access: Yes
Literary Rights: On
Major: Environmental Sciences
Year: 2017
Authors: Hannah Ashdown

The Application of Silvicultural Treatments to Establish and Maintain Early Successional Habitat in the Adirondack Forests of New York State

Sat, 04/29/2017 - 15:12
Abstract: Early successional habitat (ESH) in New York state can be described as young forests comprising trees, shrubs, grasses, and other herbaceous plants that form relatively open canopies with dense understories. ESH has decreased due to nearly ninety percent of the naturally occurring shrublands of North America having been destroyed. The destruction of this habitat is of top concern due to the threatened and endangered species whom rely on these sorts of habitats to thrive. Considering the future climate projections, population models, and theoretical species distribution, responsible stewardship is needed to manage in favor of ESH types. A meta-analysis of various journals and databases was performed to synthesize information into a general management plan for establishing ESH in the Adirondacks. Through combining methods and silvicultural management practices from past plans in the northeastern United States, as well as background knowledge of the area, this management plan has been tailored specifically for an Adirondack forest. These outlined silvicultural treatments may also be extended to a variety of other forest types in the eastern U.S.A. Re-establishing young forests throughout the region is the goal of this plan. In doing so, these practices will enhance the health, resiliency, and biodiversity of the Adirondack region, and New York State by creating critical ESH which the fauna and flora of this region depend upon.
Access: Yes
Literary Rights: On
Major: Integrative Studies, Natural Resources Management and Policy
Year: 2017
Authors: Nicole Morin, Ryan Baker, Ora Bice

Wildfire Probability of Paul Smith’s College Lands

Tue, 12/05/2017 - 13:07
Abstract: For centuries, wildfires have been seen as devastating natural disasters burning homes, property and forests. For many years, man has tried to fight these fires to mitigate the damage that they do. In recent years, climate change has increased both the number of fires and the intensity at which they burn. We have developed a GIS model that incorporates factors such as slope, aspect, and land cover to determine what areas of Paul Smith’s College lands are prone to wildfires. Our goal was to find areas within the Paul Smiths College land that have a high probability for an intense wildland fire. We gathered our GIS data from online resources such as Cugir, NYS Clearing House and Earth Explorer. We then reclassified each of the data layers based on criteria determined from other scholarly papers to then use that criteria to develop our model. After running the model, we found twenty-two areas of interest also known as hot spots. We then proceeded to check five of the twenty-two hot spot areas to double-check that the characteristics that our model depicted were true hazardous areas.
Access: Yes
Literary Rights: On
Major: Natural Resources Management and Policy
Year: 2017
File Attachments: CapstonePaper.pdf
Authors: Michael Sweet , Joey Morris

An Investigation of Soil Nutrient Concentrations and its Relations to the Possible Sugar Maple (Acer saccharum) Decline in the Paul Smith’s College Sugar Bush

Mon, 12/05/2011 - 11:50
Abstract: Sugar maple (Acer saccharum) is an abundant tree specie that can be found almost everywhere in New England. Sugar maples can be used as timber logs, but they are primarily a great source for producing maple syrup. These trees are a vast source of income for a lot of people. Paul Smith’s College annually produces range from $25,000-$30,000 from the syrup production at their sugar bush. There are currently 1400 taps out in the sugar bush. The purpose of this study is to determine if sugar maples are on a decline in the Paul Smith’s College Sugar Bush. There have been many tests and studies done on variables that affect sugar maple growth. Many different variables such as the effects of climate, nutrient concentrations, light, ozone, oxidative stress, elevated CO2, precipitation, other trees, invasive species and mycorrhizal fungi were studied to determine how they affect soil nutrient concentrations, which ultimately affects the ability of sugar maple to survive and thrive. These studies have shown that sugar maples in New England are on a steady decline. All of the studies I have found have focused on the big picture in regard to sugar maple decline, and none on the local level, like the Paul Smith’s College Sugar Bush. The purpose of my study is to determine whether or not the sugar maples in the sugar bush are on a decline and if they are will that information influence the college’s management plan for its sugar bush. This project collected and developed data that helped determine whether sugar maples in the sugar bush are on a decline. With this new information the college will be able to determine what they would like to do with the sugar bush in the future years to come.
Access: Yes
Literary Rights: On
Major: Forestry
Year: 2011
Authors: Mark Bouquin

Searching for the Emerald Ash Borer (Agrilus planipennis) in an Un-Infested Area While Interpreting the Effects of Educational Outreach to the Private Landowner

Mon, 12/05/2011 - 16:04
Abstract: Nonnative invasive insect pests can alter the habitat and transform the ecosystems they have invaded, leading to ecological and economical problems. The emerald ash borer (EAB) is an invasive insect that constricts nutrient and water transport in the cambium of ash trees. The EAB has no known eradication method to stop its potential spread across the landscape. The purpose of this study is twofold: 1) to educate the landowner about EAB and 2) to look for EAB in an un-infested area. Survey questionnaires were given before and after the study. The pre-study questions measured landowners’ background knowledge of EAB. The post-project questions gave insight to how the study helped the landowner learn more. A sentinel (girdled) tree survey was conducted at each of four study sites with two purple sticky traps installed and monitored bi-weekly. No emerald ash borers were found, but the public outreach component was successful. Landowners play an important role in being aware of invasive species and alerting natural resource professionals. The landowners gained knowledge about EAB. EAB outreach helped give land management advice to landowners, pertaining to the threat of EAB. The landowners felt confident in helping inform other members of the public and help identify EAB infestations. Keywords: Emerald ash borer (EAB), public outreach, Questionnaire, Sentinel/Girdled tree, purple sticky trap, Identifying Emerald ash borer, Questions Analysis, Educate the landowner, invasive, nonnative, pest
Access: Yes
Literary Rights: On
Major: Forestry
Year: 2011
File Attachments: capstone_final_proj.docx
Authors: Richard A. Silvestro

Forest Habitat Management for Creating Self Sustaining Populations of Ruffed Grouse on Tug Hill Plateau.

Mon, 12/05/2011 - 16:38
Abstract: The ruffed grouse (Bonasa umbellus) is a perhaps the most popular game bird in the northeast. According to locals, the populations of ruffed grouse in the Tug Hill Plateau region located in upstate New York have been on a steady downhill trend over the past several years. This study was focused on habitat, and meant to gain insight on what current habitat exists on Tug Hill Plateau. Two separate study areas were utilized during this project. The first was named the River Road Covert study area, and is part of the Lookout State Forest, located in Lewis county New York. The second was named the Montague Covert study area, and is located in Montague New York, on parker road 10 miles from Montague Inn. Within each study area habitats were classified by cover type. Using fixed plot habitat survey methods, and aerial photo interpretation each study area was subdivided into first quadrants and then stands. A transect style flush count was then implemented in each study area in order to determine which stand possessed the specific cover type most preferred by local populations of ruffed grouse. During the flush count, a more specific data collection pertaining to habitat was taken in areas where grouse were flushed, and consideration was given to the time of year the survey took place in regards to the seasonal habitat preferences of this species. The purpose of this study is to identify what habitats within each study area were most highly favored by grouse, and which habitats were less likely to be utilized given their current condition. After completion of the data analysis researched recommendations were made as to how to manage the less favorable areas for the scarce early successional habitat which ruffed grouse were found to typically associate with.  
Access: Yes
Literary Rights: On
Major: Forestry
Year: 2011
File Attachments: Capstone Report , Appendix A , Appendix B
Authors: Keith F McDonald

Silvicultural techniques for white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) habitat management

Tue, 12/06/2011 - 09:25
Abstract: White-tailed deer (Odocoileus virgianus) habitat is most commonly managed through forestry activities such as timber management. Sound silvicultural prescriptions and management scheduling can increase the lands carrying capacity of white-tailed deer through increased food availability and cover habitat. Biologists claim that white-tailed deer will eat an average of six to seven pounds of food daily, which makes food management a key factor when increasing deer densities. This study examined what silvicultural techniques are best used for increasing deer inhabitance on a family farm in west central Vermont. Currently, the study area is occupied by a large percentage of undesirable stand structures and plant species occupancy. Some of these stands were created through old pasture succession. The focal point of this study was to prescribe management tactics to better the habitat for white-tailed deer. Forest inventory through point sampling was used to make silvicultural prescriptions for six different stands within 163 acres of farm forest. Combinations of two-age and uneven-age treatments were suggested for the study area to increase species diversity and structural diversity. Uneven-age small group selections and single tree selections were recommended for the forest interior to promote cover habitat, and small patch cuts were recommended for bordering forest stands to promote a woody browse food source.
Access: Yes
Literary Rights: On
Major: Forestry
Year: 2011
File Attachments: capstone
Authors: Tyler Pelland

Ecological Education toward Environmental Responsibility: Envisioning and Implementing an Interpretive Trail System for an Adirondack Summer Camp

Tue, 12/06/2011 - 13:44
Abstract: In an age when children are increasingly cut off from the natural world, summer camps have the power to influence these formative years in a fundamental way. Summer camps, especially organized residential summer camps, have an inherent advantage over the school setting because the audience views itself as non-captive. Because grades and tests do not exist in the camp setting, environmental education is free to continue at its own pace, based on the interests and desires of the campers. The purpose of this project was to build, partly and also find and produce the most effective way in which to utilize an existing recreational trail as an educational resource at a summer camp in the Adirondacks. In determining the most effective format toward this purpose, an interpretive guide book was chosen. The goal was to fit this book into, and expand on, the core philosophy and values of the camp. It is meant to serve as a starting point, a tool to pique interest and obtain a broad understanding and appreciation for the local ecosystem, which will hopefully lead to a “land ethic” in the future.
Access: Yes
Literary Rights: On
Major: Forestry
Year: 2011
Authors: Tucker Culpepper