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Capstone Projects

A Comparison of Macro-Invertebrate Communities in Different Substrates among Impacted and Minimally-Impacted Sites on Lower St. Regis Lake and Benchmark Sites on Black Pond

Wed, 05/03/2017 - 21:34
Abstract: Many shorelines today have been impacted by human activities which has resulted in changes in macro-aquatic invertebrate communities. Ecological restoration can be used in efforts to bring macro-aquatic invertebrates back into shorelines. However, data is needed to better understand how macro-aquatic invertebrates can be used in these efforts as indicator species to determine community structure health and function. This project compared the macro-aquatic invertebrate communities in impacted and minimally impacted sites located on Lower St. Regis Lake and benchmark sites located on Black Pond. The two objectives to this project were to 1) compare the species richness among impact levels and 2) compare the density among impact levels. Each impacted level has three sites and at each site ten samples were taken in a systematic way which resulted in 90 total samples. Samples were taken to the lab to be sorted and for macro-aquatic invertebrates could be identified to the family level. The macro-aquatic invertebrate community was different among each impact level. The overall family diversity was greater at the benchmark sites than the minimally impacted and impacted sites. Dominate substrate type that had a greater presence of different families were sites that had organic matter. The findings of this study create a more knowledge base which can be useful for future ecological restoration efforts on the impacted and minimally impacted areas located on Lower St. Regis Lake and to educate the public on the impacts on macro-aquatic invertebrates and their communities.
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Major: Biology
Year: 2017
Authors: Amber St. Andrew

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.
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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.
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Major: Environmental Sciences
Year: 2017
Authors: Hannah Ashdown

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

Would an underpass/tunnel on Keese Mills Road decrease the percentage of amphibian mortality due to road mortality?

Wed, 04/29/2015 - 18:09
Abstract: Road Mortality has had a huge impact on Amphibian populations worldwide. Several options are available to help maintain and preserve migrating populations across roadways. One method that is looked at during this study is underpass and fencing. In this study, I assessed the need for an underpass and if it could help reduce the amount of amphibian’s mortality by traffic and, if an underpass is necessary, properly predict a location. I also looked at if underpasses alone could reduce the mortality of amphibians. I constructed arrays and pitfall traps to simulate an underpass on Keese Mills Road at Paul Smiths and Santa Clara, Franklin County New York. I predicted that underpass would decrease the amount of amphibian being slayed. I also predicted that certain locations would have more usage then others. The results showed that there was no significant difference between the location of the sites and whether they would be used by the amphibians. The results also showed that there was no correlation between the species that were captured and the species that were killed.
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Major: Biology
Year: 2015
File Attachments: The Author has selected not to publish this complete work.
Authors: Jorge Velazquez

White-tailed Deer Browse Preference: A Comparative Study of the Catskill and Adirondack Mountain Regions, New York State

Tue, 05/05/2015 - 14:23
Abstract: Abundant white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) in New York State, United States, affect forest regeneration and stand composition through feeding (browse) pressure. White-tailed deer browse preference of six different hardwood tree species in two mountain ranges, the Catskill and Adirondack Mountains, within New York State were compared in order to determine the extent of browse selection by deer. There were no statistically different browse selection by white-tailed deer within the Catskills or Adirondack study area or between each study site. Visual analysis of the study areas after concluding the study revealed that red maple (Acer rubrum) was the preferred browse species at each study site.
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Major: Biology, Natural Resources Management and Policy
Year: 2015
File Attachments: Title, abstract, TOC , Report
Authors: John MacNaught, Blaine Kenyon, Mark Staats, Travis Boucher, Noah Finlayson-Gesten

The Effects of Varying Wavelengths of Light on Diatom Movement

Wed, 05/06/2015 - 16:18
Abstract: Diatoms were studied in order to determine in which wavelength of light they would be most active. It was surmised this knowledge would allow easier testing of future diatom movement hypotheses. This knowledge could, in turn, allow control over diatom movement in order to prevent or circumvent hazardous diatom blooms. Specimens were studied using a Parco scientific microscope in a dark room. They were studied both with and without cover slips to ensure the cover slips did not hinder movement. Sheets of high quality color transparency paper were laid over the microscope light, producing a single, strong color. In the end, the diatoms didn’t move at all, no matter the circumstances. The diatoms could have had no reason for movement or have been restricted by the small amount of water on the microscope slide due to the vast difference between the slide and the diatoms’ natural environment.
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Major: Biology
Year: 2015
File Attachments: Diatoms.docx
Authors: Eric Swiecki

Examination of Potentially Ectoparasite-driven Behavior in Burrowing Owls: Tests of Alternative Hypotheses

Thu, 05/07/2015 - 19:06
Abstract: Burrowing Owls (Athene cunicularia) and their nests harbor at least 39 species of arthropods from 21 different families. Among the ectoparasites on Burrowing Owls are fleas, which are primarily Pulex irritans (Family Pulicidae), the human flea. Fleas can number in the hundreds on individual Burrowing Owls. Thus, we hypothesized that flea infestation has shaped Burrowing Owl behavior to avoid the costs of ectoparasitism. As part of experiments using infrared trail cameras deployed at Burrowing Owl nests in southern Idaho ¬¬during 2012-2013, we noticed apparent sunning behavior in both adult and nestling Burrowing Owls. Camera images captured owls lying on the ground with wings outstretched and flat. We only observed this behavior during daylight hours, although cameras were active for 24 h/day. Sunbathing in birds is often associated with ectoparasite reduction, although sunning has not previously been examined in relation to flea infestation. During 2014 we conducted an experiment that included fumigating some nests with a flea removing insecticide and examined the prediction that sunbathing would occur more frequently in control nests where ectoparasites remained. As sunning was not during the coolest parts of the day, it did not appear to function for warming. Also, we ultimately found no difference in the frequency of sunning in fumigated and control nests, and there was no relationship between sunning and abundance of fleas on owls. Thus, the evidence is not consistent with the ectoparasite hypothesis, as owls sunned irrespective of flea load. We also evaluated the alternative hypotheses that sunning was related to thermoregulation, anting, drying or feather degrading bacteria. The first three we were able to reject, and the last will need future research.
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Major: Biology
Year: 2015
File Attachments: The Author has selected not to publish this complete work.
Authors: Skyler Wysocki

Interpreter's Guide to the Finger Lakes Trail

Wed, 04/29/2015 - 21:44
Abstract: Guidebooks help hikers to navigate trail systems and gain a better understanding of their surroundings. Many types of guides exist for popular long distance hiking trails such as the Appalachian Trail, the Pacific Crest Trail, and the Continental Divide Trail. The Finger Lakes Trail (FLT) runs 558 miles across the base of New York State, yet has very little associated literature. I hiked a 52 mile section of the Finger Lakes Trail from Ellicottville to Portageville in western New York. Using observations from the trail and related literature, I wrote an interpretive guide for this section. My FLT interpretive guide covers topics related to planning and packing for a multiday backpacking trip, natural history of western New York forests, the story of the development of the FLT system, and backpacking ethics. This work will help satisfy the human need to acquire knowledge and potentially enrich the experience of FLT hikers.
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Major: Environmental Sciences
Year: 2015
Authors: Jennifer Maguder