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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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Literary Rights: Off
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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Literary Rights: On
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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Literary Rights: On
Major: Environmental Sciences
Year: 2017
File Attachments: Final_Morrill.docx
Authors: John Morrill

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