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Capstone Projects

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

Cultural eutrophication of Lower Saint Regis Lake using diatoms and organic content as indicators of eutrophication.

Tue, 04/28/2020 - 12:06
Abstract: Cultural eutrophication can greatly affect water quality, leading to algae blooms and can affect fish communities. Throughout the history of Paul Smith’s Hotel and College, development along Lower St. Regis lake has led to increases in eutrophic conditions, which has detrimental effects on water quality. In this study, a sediment core from Lower St. Regis Lake was analyzed to determine when past eutrophication events occurred. This was accomplished using species counts of diatoms from every 1.0 cm of sediment. The relative abundance of diatom species such as Tabellaria flocculosa, Asterionella formosa, and Fragilaria crotonensis were used as indicators of more eutrophic conditions. Loss on ignition (LOI) was also used to measure the organic content in the sediment at increments of 0.5 cm. The higher percent lost on ignition indicates higher productivity in the lake and more eutrophic conditions. Some samples from the sediment core were also dated using lead-210 to create a timeline that could be compared to known dates of events occurring along the lake that could have affected the trophic status of Lower St. Regis Lake. There was a sudden spike in the relative abundance of F. crotonensis and an increase in organic content at a depth of 20 cm in the core, indicating that conditions became more eutrophic. Based on the lead-210 dates, this spike in F. crotonensis and organic content occurred between 1898 and 1908, when development around the lake was increasing and Paul Smith’s Hotel added indoor plumbing with poor wastewater treatment practices.
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Major: Biology
Year: 2020
File Attachments: Capstone_0.docx
Authors: Lydia Harvey

Financial and Marketing Research for Alumni Campground

Sat, 05/09/2020 - 11:52
Abstract: The purpose of this capstone was to look at the financial plan for the Alumni Campground and make suggestions for marketing. Through interviews, surveys, and other research on the campground, we were able to see who uses the campground and areas of improvement for the physical site and marketing. Our recommendations are to help the campground prosper in the future
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Major: Environmental Studies, Natural Resources Conservation and Management
Year: 2020
File Attachments: Capstone Essay.docx
Authors: Margret Montag, Dallas Olsen

A Comparative Look at Low-Impact versus High-Impact Camping Techniques

Fri, 05/08/2020 - 19:36
Abstract: For as long as there has been people inhabiting the area that is now known as the Adirondack Park, there have been people establishing camping techniques there. These techniques have evolved over time, from the primitive style of the Haudenosaunee Natives of almost 1,000 years ago to the creation of the Adirondack Lean-to, and finally the Great Camps of the 19th century, some of which are still standing tall and in use to this day. The early American residents of the Adirondacks made the local economy thrive off of camping, guiding, hunting, and trapping. While many people of the time saw the Adirondack Park from a capitol viewpoint, it soon became promoted for its natural beauty and wonder, which helped the area be seen and used with a more thoughtful perspective in mind. The aesthetic influences of the Adirondack camping styles can be seen around the country today and is a cornerstone of the modern Adirondack tourist economy. One major factor of camping in the Adirondack Park is low-impact camping. This idea prevents damages to the environment from any impacts created whilst camping. By following these guidelines, campers are able to properly appreciate and enjoy their time in the great outdoors. Keywords: Leave No Trace, Low-Impact Camping, Camping, Adirondack Park
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Major: Integrative Studies, Natural Resources Conservation and Management
Year: 2020
Authors: Hayden Uresk, Jon Templin

Alumni Campground Lean-to Design Analysis

Sat, 05/09/2020 - 11:32
Abstract: When thinking about the Adirondacks, lean-tos are among the first that come to mind. The Adirondack lean-to has, for most of the parks history, been a staple for back country shelters. The design of the lean-to is the most important part about them. Traditionally built with full round logs to have three walls and one open side with an overhang from the roof. Notches in the logs at each corner of the lean-to allow for the structure to be more ridged then if notches were not used. The goal behind this project is to look at the design of the Adirondack lean-to and see what about it could be simplified to make plans for an easier to build and construct lean-to.
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Major: Natural Resources Conservation and Management, Sustainable Communities & Working Landscapes
Year: 2020
Authors: Michael J Gaulin

Alumni Campground Lean-to Analysis

Sat, 05/09/2020 - 10:43
Abstract: The intention of the report and research is to construct a plan and build a quick, easy, and affordable lean-to design for the Paul Smiths College Alumni Campground. The standing structures are beginning to show their age and are in need of maintenance and repair. The basis of this project can help more than just the campground, but help any other part of the campus or community that would be in need of a new shelter. The design will be APA and DEC compliant for accessibility laws, making the design to be used in almost every location.
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Major: Natural Resources Conservation and Management
Year: 2020
File Attachments: Capstone final .docx
Authors: Ben Kolodziejczak

The Environmental Impact & Response to the July 3rd, 2019 Jim Beam Fire

Fri, 05/08/2020 - 13:11
Abstract: This paper examines the environmental impact of the summer 2019 Jim Beam Fire. On the 3rd day of July 2019, a Jim Beam Distillery Rickhouse was, according to authorities’ best guess, struck by lightning. A security guard reported the fire to 911 and in short order, the rickhouse was fully involved. The rickhouse stored 45,000 barrels of distilled spirits that were being aged there. All of which were lost to fire or spill. The rickhouse was located on the Glenns Creek. Glenns Creek is a small creek that flows into the Kentucky River, and the spill affected these waterways in several ways (most notably was a substantial fish kill). In this paper, I use the Kentucky Environmental documents to outline the environmental impact, subsequent response, and mitigation efforts. I have been to the scene of the fire.
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Major: Natural Resources Conservation and Management
Year: 2020
Authors: Drew B. Caprood

Walden Pond: Ecological and Anthropological History Reflected in the Sedimentary Record

Tue, 05/03/2016 - 23:13
Abstract: This study examined environmental changes reflected in the microfossil record of a sediment core taken in August 2015 from Walden Pond, Massachusetts spanning the last 600 years. In particular changes in the eutrophication status, inorganic sediment deposition due to land use, lake water depth and temperature were examined using phytoplankton indicator species—diatoms and chrysophytes— to reconstruct environmental conditions. The study site was a basin shallower and closer to the source of anthropogenic N and P inputs than the site of previous studies at Walden’s deepest basin, allowing for finer detection of changes in water level and organic content of sediment. A gravity corer was used to collect the sediment core to preserve topmost sediment layers for analysis, as more than a decade has passed since the last published study of this kind at Walden Pond by Köster et. al. (2005). Results show a significant increase in indicators of eutrophic lake conditions since European settlement ca. 1630, and especially since the 20th century. However, relative Asterionella formosa and Synedra nana abundances had not changed significantly in the last decade since Köster et. al.’s 2005 study, and have in fact decreased somewhat, suggesting water treatment efforts by the Massachusetts Dept. of Environmental Protection (DEP) have had some success. Loss on ignition (LOI) of organic content shows a precipitous decline from the mid 19th century from 37% to 22%, representing intensive land clearance and development until the 1970’s when DEP management began. After that point, LOI rose, perhaps due to increased lake productivity, and has fluctuated around 25%. Relative Discostella stelligera abundance, while used in the WAl-3 piston core as a proxy for water depth, could not be used in the WAL-1 gravity core from this study as eutrophication has significantly impacted their abundance. Chrysophyte scale:diatom ratios corroborate an observed trend of increasing abundance in lakes globally since the 20th century, perhaps in response to rising global temperatures over the same period.
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Major: Biology
Year: 2016
File Attachments: Capstone Paper.docx
Authors: Erik Yankowsky

Analysis of Forage Quality in Adirondack Macrophytes: Implications for Waterfowl Nutrition

Fri, 04/29/2016 - 14:48
Abstract: To understand the relative nutritional value of macrophyte food sources for Adirondack waterfowl, the forage quality of four common Adirondack macrophytes were assessed. An analysis of two native pondweeds (Potamogeton) and two invasive watermilfoil (Myriophyllum) was conducted to deduce how invasive and native macrophytes compare in their relative concentrations of nitrogen and mineral content; important indicators of forage quality for waterfowl. Nitrogen content is used as a metric for relative concentration of protein. Macrophyte species were sampled from four Adirondack lakes of the same trophic status to account for effects of lake nutrient characteristics on plant nutrient uptake and synthesis. Total nitrogen was determined with the Kjeldahl procedure using flow injection analysis. Ash (mineral) content was acquired through high-heat burning in a muffle furnace. The invasive watermilfoil species had a higher percentage of nitrogen than the native species. There was no significant difference in the ash content between the species. It is critical to understand the ecological function of these species in relation to wildlife populations. The nutritional value of these aquatic macrophytes may have implications for the fitness and distribution of breeding herbivorous waterfowl in Adirondack lakes. These results may indicate that invasive plants will serve as a viable food source for herbivorous waterfowl as watermilfoil continues to spread across Adirondack aquatic systems.
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Major: Biology
Year: 2016
Authors: Bianca Fournier

Turning Points and the Ecological Conscience

Mon, 04/25/2016 - 08:15
Abstract: We live in a time when environmental crises seem to be overwhelming: global climate change, water crises, and mass extinctions, to name a few. Some people seek out ways to address environmental problems, while others remain ignorant or deny the existence of serious issues. Aldo Leopold’s land ethic calls those who help, people who feel “the stirring of an ecological conscience.” Many studies have looked at the psychology of environmentalism and the factors that instill an environmental ethic. Some studies look at early childhood, others at significant turning point events. Many factors foster an ecological conscience among people. I was interested in how the “stirring of an ecological conscience” was instilled in our own community here at Paul Smith’s College. The faculty and students all have a story to tell about what led them here and this project explored that. The sample studied here found that among faculty and students, experiences from childhood played a significant role in the development of an ecological conscience. These experiences most often influenced the path of each participants life journey. These findings provide us with information on ways we can look to help instill the ecological conscience in others, through education and daily life.
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Major: Environmental Studies
Year: 2016
Authors: Dominic Rickicki