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Capstone Projects

Benefits of Experiential Learning on Students in University Level Classes with Proposed Feasibility of Additional Outdoor Classrooms at Paul Smith’s College.

Mon, 05/02/2022 - 20:05
Abstract: Learning does not come to some as easy as it does for others but what if there were ways to make it easier. The spring 2022 sustainability class was tasked with exploring and researching different benefits and options of outdoor classrooms. This paper revolved around the benefits one can receive when learning through experience and outdoors opposed to indoors. Studies from previous research as well as a multi-tiered survey were used to determine the benefits of learning outside on memory retention and mental/ physical health of students. Correlations were found between learning outside and memory retention as well as the benefit on overall health from spending time in natural settings.
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Major: Natural Resources Sustainability Studies
Year: 2022
Authors: Steven Donnelly

Forest Health Assessment: Kate Mountain Farm

Fri, 07/08/2022 - 11:17
Abstract: Disturbances that degrade forested ecosystems can have significant impacts on forest health. These impacts should be of great concern for forest landowners. Natural disturbances such as insect and disease agents, and human caused disturbances such as logging, soil compaction, and pollution can have substantial economic and environmental impacts. It is of great importance for landowners to be given the right knowledge and tools to deal with these disturbances in order to avoid any large-scale losses of timber productivity, degraded water yields, depleted nutrient cycling, and/or decreased biodiversity. Forestland can provide many harvestable natural resources and ecosystem services for very long periods of time if they are managed sustainably and responsibly. This of course entails a forest being composed of healthy thriving trees.
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Major: Biology, Environmental Sciences, Forestry
Year: 2021
Authors: Matthew R. Wedge, Erin Reilly

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.
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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.
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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

An Analysis of Invertebrate Richness with Designated Pollinator-Plots on Paul Smith's College Campus

Thu, 07/07/2022 - 15:35
Abstract: Anthropogenic grasslands, areas which have been manipulated by humanity to be species homogenous and are composed primarily of turf-grass species, have been a key fixture in the American landscape for over a hundred years, but little is known about the ecological impacts of these lawn-scapes. Paul Smith’s College has established meadow restoration zones, also referred to as “Pollinator Plots”, in areas that were previously anthropogenic grasslands to collect data regarding various components of meadow restoration and to document successional changes within the sites over several years. This study is the first assessment of invertebrate assemblages within these pollinator plots. Invertebrate assemblages were examined in two meadow restoration groups which include dry-slope plots and moist flat plots. Reference meadows, meadows that have been established for several years and have not been anthropogenically disturbed, were used as a baseline to which the other meadow groups were compared to. Specimens were collected using sweep nets and pitfall traps. Invertebrates were counted and identified to the lowest taxonomic level. Invertebrate richness was highest in reference sites, which are well-established meadows, and moist-flat locations whereas dry-slope locations had the least overall invertebrate richness. The restoration plots had lower invertebrate richness and abundance overall, however, the differences were not large enough to be statistically significant. The data obtained from this assessment is a baseline that can be compared to in future studies in these plots throughout time. Keywords Invertebrate - Pollinators - Grasslands - Lawns - Meadow – Restoration
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Major: Ecological Restoration
Year: 2021
Authors: Savannah Hoy

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.
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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
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Major: Environmental Sciences
Year: 2021
Authors: Luz Rodriguez

Black Ash

Mon, 07/18/2022 - 10:19
Abstract: The summary of my project was to find other risks other than the emerald ash borer that are affecting the Black Ash tree species.
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Literary Rights: On
Major: Environmental Sciences, Natural Resources Conservation and Management
Year: 2021
Authors: Richard Holton

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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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.
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Major: Biology
Year: 2020
File Attachments: Capstone Paper Full.docx
Authors: Skylar Murphy