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Capstone Projects

Forest Structure and Composition in the Smitty Creek Watershed

Wed, 12/14/2016 - 09:56
Abstract: The 2016 Smitty Creek CFI (Continuous Forest Inventory) study addressed the issue of creating a reliable and repeatable inventory design to examine general forestry trends and their relationships with the watershed itself. Identifying these trends and their consequences is important when considering factors linked to climate change, such as carbon storage and allocation. The objective of this project were as follows: establish 10 new CFI plots, monitor and record for signs of disease and insects, tree mortality, and overstory wildlife habitat, accurately estimate forest carbon sequestration, record understory composition in a 1/50th acre area around each plot center, and suggest methods and reasons for application in Paul Smith’s College CFI capstone projects. The study was conducted within the Smitty Creek watershed in Paul Smiths, NY with the plots falling on a transect that runs north and south. At each plot, trees within the radius were assigned numbered aluminum tags, trees were measured at diameter at breast height, and other features, such as snags, were recorded. Upon completing the project, 10 CFI plots had been created and their locations were recorded, several diseases and forest health concerns were identified, as well as, tree mortality and wildlife habitat considerations, carbon sequestration for the watershed was modeled over the next century, and a CFI project was designed for the Paul Smith’s College land compartments. The Smitty Creek watershed CFI project is repeatable and has an accurate baseline of information for future studies, and the Paul Smith’s College land compartments CFI plot design is ready for implementation.
Access: Yes
Literary Rights: On
Major: Environmental Sciences, Fisheries and Wildlife Science, Forestry
Year: 2016
Authors: Gregg Slezak, Leonard Johnson, William O'Reilly, Jake Weber, Charlie Ulrich, Collin Perkins McCraw, Jake Harm, Nick Georgelas

Alpine Ecosystems on Ski Area Summits in the Northeast: A Best Management Practices Manual

Mon, 12/01/2014 - 15:19
Abstract: Over the past half a century, anthropogenic climate change has triggered temperatures in the northeastern United States to rise. This increase has led to decreased winter precipitation and a longer annual growing season. Species found in upland/montane habitats on the southern edge of their range limits are particularly threatened by these changes. Warmer temperatures have allowed larger woody plants to advance up mountain slopes, entering the habitat of these fragile species. In the next decade, we will witness a complete disappearance of alpine flora from several locations across the northeast including Whiteface in New York, Sugarloaf in Maine and Mount Mansfield in Vermont. Managers of ski resorts can therefore play an important role in promoting the continued persistence of high-altitude flora and fauna through carefully considered management decisions can also serve to promote the reputation of the ski industry as stewards of mountaintop ecosystems. Doing so will allow for continued study of the species that exist within these communities, the protection of biodiversity, and increased revenue for the resort itself through elevated public image and mountain-top tourism. To help begin these conservation efforts, we have created a best management practice (BMP) manual to guide ski area managers in making these developments. It includes techniques for sustainable slope, soil, vegetation and wildlife management, erosion control, artificial snow production, and ski slope construction and design. Also included are marketing techniques and an overview of the economic viability of the practices outlined in this manual.
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Major: Forestry, Natural Resources Management and Policy
Year: 2014
Authors: Pali Gelsomini, Dylan Randall

Forest Succession's Effect on Soil Physical and Chemical Properties after Agriculture Abandonment

Mon, 12/01/2014 - 11:00
Abstract: Landscapes have been significantly altered by humans and replacing forests with agricultural crops is a major alteration humans have made. This landscape change has affected soils significantly. Agriculture practices can potentially have detrimental effects on soils. However, through the 20th century forest cover drastically increased in the United States through the recruitment of second growth forests as a result of agriculture abandonment. Forests reclaiming farm lands through forest succession can have a significant effect on recoveries in soil physical and chemical properties such as bulk density, soil strength, porosity and fertility. Therefore, the goal of this study was to investigate forest successions effect on soil physical and chemical properties after agriculture abandonment. Three specific hypotheses were tested: 1) Bulk density and soil strength will decrease while micro and macro porosity will increase as forests reclaim farm lands. 2) Soil carbon and available nitrogen will increase over time. 3) Soil pH will decrease and electrical conductivity will increase over time. These hypotheses were explored on abandoned agriculture fields in a chronosequence study on coarse loamy Inceptisols in upstate New York across a 60 year temporal scale. Data showed that total porosity, total carbon and available nitrogen increase while soil pH, bulk density, soil strength and electrical conductivity decline over time. These results support all three hypotheses except for the latter half of hypothesis number three. The findings of this study suggest that although agriculture may disturb soil properties, time coupled with forest succession can result in significant recoveries.
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Major: Forestry
Year: 2014
File Attachments: Final Report.docx
Authors: Nathan Piché

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

A Land Management Plan for the Gottemoeller Family Farm

Thu, 12/06/2012 - 09:58
Abstract: Private landowners own property that is used for a variety of purposes. A management plan can help them realize their goals. This management plan focuses on two main goals. One is to maximize the sustainable out put of black walnut and other quality hardwoods. The other is creation of quail habitat to increase the carrying capacity of bobwhite quail on the farm. Using aerial photos and field visits, the property was divided into ten different management units. Some units have a forestry focus and others have a quail habitat focus or both. A Wildlife Habitat Appraisal Guide was used to evaluate the existing habitat and to identify which elements need to be improved. Peer reviewed research and agency technical expertise were used to identify which practices will improve the limiting elements for quail habitat. A Forest Plan developed by a professional forester with the Missouri Department of Conservation was incorporated into the farm Management Plan.
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Literary Rights: On
Major: Environmental Sciences
Year: 2012
Authors: Adam Gottemoeller

The Effect of Temperature and pH on the Growth of Variable-leaf Milfoil (Myriophyllum heterophyllum)

Tue, 12/04/2012 - 18:03
Abstract: A fundamental part of invasion biology is the prediction of the potential spread of nonindigenous species (NIS). This is due to the negative ecological, economic and human-health effects that NIS may cause. Variable-leaf Milfoil (Myriophyllum heterophyllum), a highly invasive NIS to the Northeast, is native to southern U.S. states from Florida to New Mexico, and has since spread to North Dakota and southwestern Quebec without becoming invasive to those areas. Variable-leaf milfoil is invasive to the Adirondacks in northern New York State and is spreading at a rapid pace. This study questions whether temperature and pH have an effect on the growth of Variable-leaf milfoil. In this laboratory experiment, the growth of 80 Variable-leaf Milfoil fragments was examined in warm (33.1275°C) and cold (23.135°C) temperatures, combined with 10 pH treatments. Fragments showed increased growth in cold water when compared to the warm temperature treatment, and no relationship was shown between temperature and pH treatment in relation to growth.
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Literary Rights: On
Major: Environmental Sciences
Year: 2012
File Attachments: CapstoneDeliverable.docx
Authors: Claire Baker

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

Distribution of Native & Non-native Ground Flora in Upstate New York in Relation to Nearby Forest Roads

Fri, 12/07/2012 - 17:26
Abstract: Plant distribution and diversity are affected by disturbances in forested landscapes. Disturbances such as forest roads including skid trails and haul roads are among those which affect plants. The introduction and spread of invasive species is a big concern with these types of roads because of the damage these species cause to the ecosystem. The goal of this study is to determine the effect these forest roads have on distribution and diversity of plants relative to the distance from the road. I wanted to find out how non-native and invasive species were distributed, as well as native protected species. Transects in two separate regions were set up perpendicular to the roads at the sites chosen, and each transect contained 16 – 1m x 1m plots in which all plants were surveyed. This study showed that distance away from forest roads does not appear to significantly affect the number of plant species, distribution of native or non-native plants, or distribution of protected species in New York. Based on the findings in this study, forest managers may not need to be overly concerned with the effects of forest roads on plant populations, but they should consider management of invasive species since Japanese barberry (Berberis thunbergii) was found well beyond the disturbed area in this study. Since it was found near the forest interior, it may be causing damage to the ecosystem.
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Literary Rights: Off
Major: Forestry
Year: 2012
File Attachments: capstone_complete.docx
Authors: Travis Lowe

Evaluation of Current Old Growth Classification System Applied to Northern Hardwood Forests of Western New York State

Fri, 12/07/2012 - 17:08
Abstract: A study of four old growth stands in Western New York was conducted to document the ecological complexities and characteristics of these isolated pockets of protected forests. These stands were compared to stands in a study, Selected Nova Scotia old-growth forests: Age, ecology, structure, scoring (Stewart et.al, 2003). Using techniques and sampling of Stewart et al., data included estimated age structure, species composition, basal area, density, coarse woody debris, volumes, heights, and snags. All of the stands were uneven-aged, as were the stands in the comparison study. All stands displayed low varying basal area ranges and lower stand density than those stands in Stewart et al. The comparison study had basal areas ranging from 32.5 to 55.5 m^2/ha, but the collected basal area of this study ranged from 14.5 to 29 m^2/ha. Volumes of dead wood ranged from 2 to 60 m^2/ha, which again was significantly less than dead wood volumes in Stewart et al. Most of the dead wood volume was derived from coarse woody debris, with few snags throughout the stands. Six attributes were rated on a 100 point system according to age, primal value, diameters, lengths of dead wood, canopy structure and understory structure. The scores of this study ranged from 52 to 70, which were significantly less than the scores in the comparison study. The Nova Scotia stands were dominated by softwood species and were larger in acreage. The western New York stands were dominated mostly by hardwood species and were smaller in acreage. Due to these differences, the western New York stands fell short of the Nova Scotia stands in two important criteria: ‘Primal Forest Value’ and ‘Bole Length of Snags and CWD.’ The protocols of Stewart et al. were generally adequate for evaluating the old growth characteristics. However, this study suggests that some of the criteria could be adapted to capture characteristics found in smaller, isolated pockets of hardwood dominated old growth forests.
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Major: Forestry
Year: 2012
Authors: Catherine Veress

Silviculture Prescription and Regeneration Analysis: An Investigation of the Creighton Compartment of the Paul Smith’s College Forest Management Plan

Wed, 12/05/2012 - 10:31
Abstract: Paul Smith’s College, being an environmental college, has a unique opportunity to explore the newest research to find the best methods of silviculture treatments to meet regeneration goals while sustaining forest structure. This study investigated the Creighton Compartment of the PSC forest management plan specifically examining the silviculture prescriptions and regeneration. Seedling and sapling regeneration data was compared with the management plan to determine whether regeneration goals were met. Overall, the hardwood stands were regenerating in vast amounts of undesired American beech (Fagus grandifolia) and not meeting the preferred goal of red maple (Acer rubrum), sugar maple (Acer saccharum), black cherry (Prunus serotina) and yellow birch (Betula alleghaniensis). The softwood stands were regenerating in vast amounts of undesired balsam fir (Abies balsamea) and not meeting the preferred goal of eastern white pine (Pinus strobus) and red spruce (Picea rubens). Based on extensive research, it has been determined that a variable sized group selection harvest was the best solution to regenerate the preferred hardwoods and a two-cut shelterwood system with at least 40 percent light scarification should be conducted to favor regeneration of preferred softwoods.
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Major: Forestry
Year: 2012
File Attachments: Day_Final_Capstone.pdf
Authors: Nicholas Day