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Capstone Projects

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

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

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

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

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.
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Major: Integrative Studies, Natural Resources Management and Policy
Year: 2017
Authors: Nicole Morin, Ryan Baker, Ora Bice

Tiny houses for families

Tue, 05/02/2017 - 20:54
Abstract: Houses have changed in size and style over the centuries. We looked at tiny houses and research the economic and social benefits and issues with raising a family in a tiny house. We limited the family to four and made our house 800 square feet. We looked at case studies of families who are currently raising a family in a tiny home to find out what they say their problems may be. We found many unexpected benefits in our research. Many families believe that aside from the economic benefits, raising a family in a tiny home forces the family to be close and to communicate with each other. We interviewed a contractor, Harry Gordon, who gave us information in the building of sustainable housing. There was also a survey we conducted from the Paul Smith’s Community. The survey gave us data on the amount of people who were willing to raise a family in a tiny home. In our results, we found that for those willing to try to raise a family in a tiny house, it is very feasible.
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Major: Natural Resources Management and Policy, Natural Resources Sustainability Studies
Year: 2017
Authors: Kimberly Yager, Sandra Esparza

Alternative Management Methods for Acid Deposition in Lakes

Fri, 04/26/2013 - 18:09
Abstract: Acid deposition has been causing the acidification of lakes in the Northeast United States for decades. The result is lake ecosystems with abnormally low pH that stresses the organisms that live there. Management plans in place in the Adirondack Park have been working to remediate acidified lakes for the past few decades. Limestone (CaCO3) has been the generally accepted method for managing these lakes, in an attempt restore the lakes pre-impacted conditions. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the effectiveness of liming in reversing the effects of acidification, and to identify effective alternatives. Five alternatives were tested against limestone: Sodium carbonate (Na2CO3), Sodium bicarbonate (NaHCO3), Sodium acetate (CH3COONa), Magnesium carbonate (MgCO3), and Potassium carbonate (K2CO3). Double End-Point Titration tests were performed on all of the compounds, using both distilled water and lake water, to determine the relative alkalinity of each compound. Alkalinity is the measure of the ability of a solution to neutralize acid, also known as its "buffering capacity." Lake water was used in the titration tests in an attempt to mimic in-situ testing. The results of the titrations showed limestone proving to be the most effective in the lake water tests, with Magnesium carbonate and Potassium carbonate ranked closely behind. While limestone has proven to be an effective management method, its reliability is dependent upon the characteristics of the lake catchment, making it important to continue to look for alternative solutions.
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Major: Environmental Sciences
Year: 2013
Authors: Derek Scott

A Meta-Analysis of the Impacts of Professional Bass Fishing Tournaments

Mon, 04/29/2013 - 19:28
Abstract: Professional black bass (Micropterous spp.) fishing tournaments have significant economic benefits associated with them; however concerns about various negative ecological effects are being raised. Fish mortality has the potential to be critically high following release of the fish, whether it be from stress, hooking injuries, heat exposure, disease, or a lack of sufficient oxygen. Mortality can occur prior to release, or it can occur several days to even weeks after release. The vast majority of organized tournaments release all of the fish in one specific location once the weigh-in process has been completed. The lack of dispersal among bass once they are released back into the water is another key issue. Utilizing 17 different studies on mortality and 8 studies on dispersal, this meta-analysis study looks at how tournaments can affect the bass population in lakes and rivers across the country. It also examines the variables that affect mortality and dispersal such as season, water temperature, location, and species of bass. The potential ways for the survival rate to be improved is also discussed. The results of the meta-analysis showed that water temperature had a significant impact on mortality, as did the time of year the tournaments were held. Mortality was highest from a period of 1-10 days following the tournaments, but was still occurring up to one month after. Dispersal was highest for Largemouth Bass, and for Spring-held tournaments. The study concludes that there are several ways to potentially lower the tournament associated mortality rate for black bass.
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Major: Natural Resources Management and Policy
Year: 2013
File Attachments: The Author has selected not to publish this complete work.
Authors: Brett Leidner

Remote Sensing for Forest Change Detection in Afghanistan

Fri, 04/26/2013 - 08:41
Abstract: Abstract: Afghanistan’s forests are one of the country’s most important natural resources. Afghanistan has faced conflicts that have plagued the country for more than 25 years and resulted in rapid deforestation and environmental despoliation. Forested lands need to be preserved in order for Afghanistan to revamp social and economic livelihoods and control the environmental degradation. This study will analyze Landsat satellite imagery using Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and ERDAS DeltaCue change detection software to assess forest deviations in Afghanistan between 1998 and 2010. Areas in Nangarhar Province identified significant change in vegetation cover in terms of both deforestation and reforestation. Deforestation occurred more frequently around the city edges of Jalalabad, whereas reforestation occurred farther from settlements. The Tasseled Cap process produced a final output change detection layer which represented the combined detection of all significant change between the three images. Determining where deforestation is occurring through Remote Sensing is a critical first step towards rehabilitating Afghanistan’s forest productivity.
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Major: Natural Resources Management and Policy
Year: 2013
Authors: David Lattuca

A COPAR Report of Ethnographic Inquiry Addressing Issues of Water Availability and Hygiene Mathare Valley, Nairobi, Kenya

Wed, 04/24/2013 - 21:30
Abstract: I conducted a cyclical ethnographic inquiry in the Mathare Valley informal settlement of Nairobi, Kenya, during the months of May and June 2012. My question was: How do Mathare residents interact with and access water and what are the technological and environmental restrictions limiting or preventing adequate water supply? The goal of this study was to create environmental and social change by improving access to water for consumption and bathing. As both a researcher and technical advisor, I adopted and used Community Oriented Participatory Action Research (COPAR). This research approach required my immersion into the Kenyan culture where I lived, ate and slept in the informal settlement of Mathare Valley, interviewing a total of 49 families on communal issues of water and hygiene. While in Mathare, I recorded quantitative and qualitative data comparing wet and dry seasons; distance to water sources; amount of water used; cost of water; and prevalence of disease (represented by potability) as well as issues regarding the Nairobi City Council, communal water availability, and hygienic conditions. A potential solution to water conservation and hygiene was construction of a bucket shower (several liter metal bucket with handle and valve to control water flow) to conserve bathing water reducing overall consumption. Through analysis of seven major, quantitatively and qualitatively determined themes, this paper presents anecdotal evidence in the context of empirical data through temporal revelation of thematic constraints. I found that during the dry season: family members in Mathare travel significantly farther to gather water, spending more money while consuming less water presenting complex issues among livelihoods within an informal settlement environment.
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Major: Natural Resources Management and Policy
Year: 2013
File Attachments: Anderson_Ian_Capstone.docx
Authors: Ian Anderson