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Capstone Projects

Potential Impacts of Road Salt Applications on Wetland Vegetation in Franklin County, NY

Thu, 07/07/2022 - 09:46
Abstract: With long winters in the Adirondacks, roadside environments are subjected to extended periods of potential pollution from road salt applications. Wetlands support a wide variety of endemic species that are sensitive to chemical alterations in the soil due to extensive road salt applications. This study focuses on the potential impacts that road salt applications have on wetland vegetation within Franklin County in the Adirondack Park of New York. Three sites were located on roads receiving minimal to no road salt applications. The other three sites were located on roads receiving high road salt applications. Each site had three transects evenly spaced, running perpendicular from the road, 100m into the wetland, with plots located at 0m, 50m, and 100m. Measuring percent cover of Obligate (OBL) wetland plant species, Facultative (FACW) wetland plant species, and total wetland plant species between sites, there was no significant difference between the two groups for the percent cover of wetland species. No significant difference was reported for pH values between the two groups. The high road salt sites had significantly higher electrical conductivity values. High road salt sites had a significantly higher plant species richness of OBL plants. No road salt sites had a significantly higher plant species richness of FACW plants. There was no significant difference reported in total wetland plant species richness (both OBL and FACW) between the two different site groups. Relying on only one years’ worth of data, this study serves as a baseline for future projects related to wetland vegetation and road salt applications.
Access: Yes
Literary Rights: On
Major: Ecological Restoration
Year: 2021
Authors: Christopher Perrotta

A.P. Smith Rod and Gun Club-Workshop Curriculum

Thu, 07/07/2022 - 14:37
Abstract: A report centered around outdoor education workshops to be hosted by a proposed Fishing and Shooting Club. Pertaining to lesson plans centered around Trap Shooting, Bushcrafting, and Fishing. The use of the Kinesthetic Learning Model is heavily put to use in developing this curriculum.
Access: Yes
Literary Rights: On
Major: Ecological Restoration, Forestry, Natural Resources Conservation and Management, Recreations, Adventure Travel and Ecotourism, Recreation, Adventure Education and Leisure Management
Year: 2021
Authors: Eoghan Walsh, Daniel Klein, Drew Gleason, Kassie Kirkum, Erin Byrant

Paleoecological Study of Heart Lake in the High Peaks Region.

Thu, 07/07/2022 - 10:01
Abstract: Paleoecological techniques were used to reconstruct long-term changes in the watershed of Heart Lake in the High Peaks region of the Adirondacks Mountains of New York State. The primary sampling was for diatoms, “glassy” photosynthetic algae, that could provide long-term perspectives on ecological processes. The reconstruction of the chemical and biological history with various diatom species provides evidence of watershed acidification and productivity (aquatic systems health) throughout the past to recent time scales. A UWITECH gravity core was used to sample sediment in two of the deepest holes. As evident with diatom species taxa, Heart Lake may have experienced acidification that was interrupted by the effects of forest fire in the watershed. The lake became more productive in the last few decades following amendments to the Clean Air Act in 1990 and other anthropogenic effects. The disturbances to the watershed contradicted the “heritage” status of Heart Lake with variability in diatomic and fish communities, moving away from pristine and towards disturbed.
Access: Yes
Literary Rights: On
Major: Environmental Sciences
Year: 2021
Authors: Abigail Charlebois

The Ecology of Freshwater Sponges in the Headwaters of the St. Regis River

Thu, 07/07/2022 - 11:16
Abstract: Various ecological aspects of the marine sponges are well-known. However, sponges inhabiting freshwaters have been largely ignored despite having widespread distribution and possibly being water quality indicators. Basic information about their abundance, biomass, and preferred habitat remains unclear. Biomass of sponges in the headwaters of the St. Regis River was estimated to determine if they require certain habitat features. Data collection occurred before dormancy in autumn to acquire an accurate estimation of biomass. The average biomass for the entire study was 3.04 dry g/m2. Percent cover was visually estimated and recorded as a second measurement of freshwater sponge abundance. According to this scale, sponges were rare (<5%), occasional (6 to 15%) or present (16 to 25%) across the three study reaches. Freshwater sponges were found in velocities of 0 ft/sec to 2.4 ft/sec. Most freshwater sponges were found on submerged, large cobble (64 – 255 mm) and pebbles (2 - 64 mm). Despite this, percent cover, velocity, substrate type and percent canopy openness had no significant relationship with the biomass of freshwater sponges. Additionally, depth of the water and freshwater sponge biomass had a weak significant relationship. Keywords: freshwater sponges, ecology, distribution, habitat features, biomass
Access: Yes
Literary Rights: On
Major: Environmental Sciences
Year: 2021
Authors: Luz Rodriguez

Impacts of Minnow Species Composition on Marsh Feeding Ecology: A Look at Minnow Composition in Heron Marsh

Mon, 11/30/2020 - 16:07
Abstract: Minnows play an important role in marsh ecosystems as both predator and prey. The abundance of minnows in water systems makes them important tools for studying the feeding ecology of small prey fish. Minnow traps were set within specific regions and plots located in the Heron Marsh in the Adirondack Park, New York. These traps were baited and checked the next day, and minnows were identified by species then released. Trophic guilds were assigned to each minnow species based on literature and feeding habits. ANOVA tests were conducted to compare minnow species composition from the fall of 2020 in all regions of the marsh. Histograms were used to compare length-frequency over time and sites where minnows frequent. The composition of trophic guilds showed that carnivores were scarce, as creek chub only over 100mm were considered predatory, and they were not as frequent as smaller creek chub. Omnivorous generalist feeders were common but no specific site in the marsh had more omnivorous feeders than other sites. Finally, the abundance of insectivores was high in most sites, and highest in the forest ecology trail site. Length frequency of the two most caught fish, creek chub and finescale dace, were represented with histograms. Creek chub under 100mm were more abundant in every site than individuals larger than 100mm. Similarly, finescale dace 70mm and smaller were more common in every site.
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Literary Rights: On
Major: Biology
Year: 2020
Authors: Emily Schmeltz

An Ecological History of the Albany Pine Bush, Albany NY

Mon, 11/30/2020 - 15:45
Abstract: Paleoecology allows us to look backward in time thousands of years to see the long-term ecological history of an area. The main focus was to conduct the first exploratory investigations of the wetland located in the Albany Pine Bush Preserve (APBP) and Stump Pond deposits and the first directly dated ecological history of the pine bush. Irregular fire regimes and land development have caused a massive loss to the pine bush. Between 1940 and 1990 the pine bush has experienced an 81% change in land cover. Despite this, the APBP is home to many rare and endangered species in need of habitat restoration. Three samples (APB1-A, APB1-C, & APB2) were collected from a wetland within the boundaries of the APBP and one sample (Stump-1) was collected from a nearby pond. Cores were analyzed for pollen assemblages to reconstruct the tree community. APB cores revealed that Pinus and Quercus pollen grains made up the majority of all pollen found from Present – 6600 years ago Stump-1 pollen assemblages were dominated by Pinus and Picea indicating that between 6600 and 10,600 years ago the ecosystem transformed into the pitch pine- scrub oak ecosystem we see today. This information can help the APBP justify future preservation and restoration work.
Access: Yes
Literary Rights: Off
Major: Biology
Year: 2020
File Attachments: Capstone Paper Full.docx
Authors: Skylar Murphy

The Lawns at Paul Smith’s College: The Effects of Mowing on Root Biomass and Soil Compaction

Mon, 12/07/2020 - 17:41
Abstract: Lawns are a valuable aspect of real estate in the United States. Maintained lawns cover over 163,000 square kilometers of land, yet few people realize the impact mowing can have on the ecosystem. This study will be looking at the impact of mowing on the grassland ecosystem and the terrain grassland ecosystem at Paul Smith’s College, located in Paul Smiths, New York. This study will be testing two different factors that are impacted by constant mowing on campus: soil compaction and root biomass of flora found on the sites. Soil compaction is the compression of soil due to large amounts of pressure placed on the surface soil. This event will be tested by using a soil bulk density test. The root biomass is being investigated by the use of a scale to weigh root given from each area of the study site. The study goal is to find out how the disturbances of mowing affect the grassland ecosystem found at Paul Smith’s College using two different factors: soil compaction, root biomass. The results of the study show the site type that has the greatest soil bulk density and the lowest dry root biomass in G/〖cm〗^3 is the dry slope site on the campus. Keywords: lawn ecology, effect of mowing, soil compaction, root biomass, root depth
Access: Yes
Literary Rights: On
Major: Ecological Restoration
Year: 2020
Authors: Timothy I Murphy

Small Mammal Presence and Predation of Boreal Bird Nests in Forested vs. Open Peatlands in the Northern Adirondack Park, NY

Mon, 11/30/2020 - 16:07
Abstract: Recent declines of many boreal birds have been documented in the last decade and area attributed to changing climate and human development. One factor that has not been studied in the critical boreal peatland habitats in the Adirondack Park is the occurrence and influence of small mammals preying on passerine boreal bird nests. The hypotheses tested were (1) small mammals occupy forested peatlands in a higher abundance than open peatlands at the study sites and (2) boreal bird nests in forested peatlands are more likely to be preyed on by small mammals than nests in open peatlands. Baited track tubes were placed on transects within open and forested peatlands and activity was estimated from prints left on contact paper, and artificial nests and eggs were used to compare the difference in nest predation between open and forested peatlands. There was a difference in small mammal activity between forested and open bog at the Paul Smith’s VIC study area, but results were not significant at Shingle Shanty medium bog. 67% of artificial nests in the forested bog at the VIC were destroyed, and only 14% were destroyed in the open bog. At Shingle Shanty, 83% of the nests were destroyed in the forested bog and 0% of artificial nests were damaged in the open bog.
Access: Yes
Literary Rights: On
Major: Environmental Sciences
Year: 2020
Authors: Carly Beckstrom

Lower St. Regis Lake Survey: A Comparative Study of Fish Population Structure and Function over Time

Thu, 12/13/2018 - 14:24
Abstract: Lake surveys are performed on bodies of water to provide a health analysis of fish populations over time. Lake surveys can be conducted in a variety of ways to attain specific data. Lower St. Regis Lake was surveyed to determine the fish community composition and to understand fish population traits. Using fyke nets placed at six predetermined locations for 24 hours, as well as fishing, we collected data for age, length (mm), weight (g), and parasites present. Data was analyzed in the lab using Excel to form graphs and tables to demonstrate our findings. Catch rates were lower compared to years before and comparing our data to New York State Department of Conservation data found that our length-at-age data was lower for the six-species sampled. Pumpkinseed and yellow perch were the only two species to have over twenty fish sampled. Decreased air temperatures brought in by a cold front during the week of our sampling may have been a reason for our lower number of fish caught. Mesh size is also a bias while using these nets as smaller fish can escape, and predatory fish can prey on smaller fish while in the net. Some species of fish such as black crappie may be more susceptible to capture due to its habit of associating with structure.
Access: Yes
Literary Rights: Off
Major: Biology, Environmental Sciences, Environmental Studies, Fisheries and Wildlife Science, Natural Resources Conservation and Management
Year: 2018
File Attachments: Capstone_Final.docx
Authors: Deacon Chapin, Jared Chlus, Louis Daversa, Jon Herrman, Robert Visicaro

Paul Smith’s College Shoreline Restoration Conservation Plan

Fri, 12/14/2018 - 12:24
Abstract: A restoration plan was created for the Lower St Regis Lake shoreline of Paul Smith's College. To date, about 140 students have participated by way of studies and course work in surveys and assessments, which clearly indicate a much reduced level of biological diversity, ecosystem function, and human uses compared to other sites. The plan is designed based upon field assessments and with the intentions of using the shoreline as an on-site case study of experiential education – a tradition of at the core of Paul Smith’s College. The aim of the restoration plan is to increase biodiversity, ecosystem function, aesthetics, educational studies, and shoreline use.
Access: Yes
Literary Rights: Off
Major: Ecological Restoration
Year: 2018
Authors: Hunter Gaudette
, Joseph Hollner
, Jonathan Meadows
, Ryan Morr
, Sara Savoia, Cassandra Schrader