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Capstone Projects

A MULTI-SCALE EVALUATION OF THE EFFECTS OF FOREST HARVESTING FOR WOODY BIOFUELS ON MAMMALIAN COMMUNITIES IN A NORTHERN HARDWOOD FOREST

Fri, 02/01/2013 - 16:19
Abstract: Forest harvesting and subsequent effects on forest structure have been shown to influence mammalian community assemblages and the abundance of individual species, however less attention has been paid to the implications of how harvested timber is used. This is particularly relevant in the Northern Forest, where a considerable portion of the forest harvesting is used to produce biofuels. Biofuels harvesting typically involves the process of whole-tree chipping which may lead to a dramatic reduction in the amount of woody material in the form of slash and coarse woody debris (CWD) left in harvested stands. The goal of our study was to assess the effects of biofuels harvesting on forest structure and subsequent effects on mammalian community structure and abundance. To address this goal, we focused on a ~35 Ha area of partially-harvested northern hardwood forest in the northern Adirondacks, New York. To sample mammals we used a combination of Sherman traps and track plates established at two scales across stands within this area. Our results showed that the response of small mammals to changes in forest structure is both species and scale specific. At the individual trap scale, CWD, slash, and understory cover were important drivers of the occurrence of individual species of small mammals. At the larger “grid” scale, small mammal relative abundance was driven by canopy cover and the density of woody stems. Our results indicate that the current harvesting practices used for biofuel production in the Adirondacks are unlikely to result in declines in abundance of common small mammal species. However, the retention of some slash post-harvest may be beneficial to some species, thus foresters may want to include slash retention when developing silvicultural prescriptions.
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Major: Environmental Sciences, Fisheries and Wildlife Science, Natural Resources Management and Policy
Year: 2012
Authors: Cody Laxton, Alisha Benack, Danielle Ball, Scott Collins, Sam Forlenza, Richard Franke, Stephanie Korzec, Alec Judge, Connor Langevin, Jonathan Vimislik, Elena Zito

Soil and Vegetation Characteristics of High Elevation Wetlands in the Adirondack Park

Mon, 12/03/2012 - 17:14
Abstract: Wetland ecosystems are finally being understood for their true importance. Wetlands in the past were misunderstood and thought to be disease carrying burdens on our way of life; however this mentality changed during the mid-19thcentury. These ecosystems are important for biodiversity and act as natural water purification systems. This study was undertaken to help understand, the high elevation wetland characteristics. Our goals were to analyze the soils and describe the vegetation in high elevation wetlands. The soil and vegetative surveys helped define the characteristics of these ecosystems and create a better understanding of them. The combination of vegetation species that are wetland indicators were found in each site, the soil pH, and nutrients show that each site had signs of being a wetland community.
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Major: Environmental Sciences, Forestry
Year: 2012
File Attachments: FINAL Capstone Report.doc
Authors: Brandon Ploss, Sean Ayotte

Managing for increased productivity and size of an American kestrel (Falco sparverius) population in northern New York

Mon, 05/07/2012 - 12:58
Abstract: American kestrel (Falco sparverius) populations have recently declined across most of the eastern states. As a result, managers and concerned citizens alike have installed nest boxes across large areas to increase productivity. Mr. Mark Manske has run one of these nest box programs in northern New York, across parts of St. Lawrence and Franklin counties, over the past ten years. Through the combination of his research and other long term management plans, the ideal future plan was developed. The focus of the new plan is to boost efficiency of resources, ease of expansion and sustain a steady or increasing population of kestrels. GIS software was used to analyze each nest boxes’ characteristics in order to develop a model that may predict areas of possible high productivity. Surveys and public outreach are emphasized to create a broader supporting base and possibly acquire future partners for land use, volunteers and advertising. The continued monitoring of the northern New York kestrel population will ensure the presence of this vital species for generations to come.
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Major: Environmental Sciences, Fisheries and Wildlife Science
Year: 2012
File Attachments: Sauca_Final_Submision.docx
Authors: Tonnie Sauca Jr.

The influence of temperature, moon phase and cloud cover on the catchability of bats in the Upper Connecticut River Basin and the Merrimack River Basin

Sun, 12/09/2012 - 15:28
Abstract: Small mammals modify their behavior in response to environmental factors such as weather, temperature, moon phase, visibility and the time of night at which they forage. The goal of my study was to determine how environmental variables such as temperature, moon phase and visibility (cloud cover) affected the efficiency (bat captures/net meter/ hour) of bat mist netting. Mist nets were placed in the months of June, July, August, September and November from 2003 to 2012 using mist netting surveys at 23 Army Corps of Engineers dams and recreation projects in New Hampshire and Vermont. Catch rate of bats was not affected by moon phase (P= 0.317) or cloud cover (P=0.130), but were slightly affected by temperature (P=0.053). These results were consistent with other studies that looked at the effects of moon phase, cloud cover and temperature on bats. Knowing the effects of environmental conditions on catchability could be useful to biologists in determining if it is worthwhile to mist net bats on nights with certain conditions to maximize efficiency of catching bats
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Major: Fisheries and Wildlife Science
Year: 2012
Authors: Jeremy Chamberlain

Can black-capped chickadees learn to associate ultraviolet markers with a food source?

Thu, 12/06/2012 - 07:22
Abstract: Food storing birds, like black-capped chickadees (Poecile atricapillus), have a higher hippocampal volume than other birds, giving them the ability to hide food in small caches and retrieve them hours later with great precision using physical features of the surrounding area as guides. This capacity for learning spatial information may be able to translate to other forms of learning, such as association. Black-capped chickadees are also able to see in the near ultraviolet range (~370nm), theoretically to allow for more vibrant plumage during the breeding season. I hypothesized that black-capped chickadees have the ability to associate an ultraviolet marker with a food source. If they can, perhaps birds can be 'taught' to go towards or away from things like wind turbines, windows, and other hazardous objects. I tested my hypothesis by counting the number of chickadees that landed on two different feeders, one with an ultraviolet marker and food and one with neither. I found that there was no significant trend, either within or between days, that would indicate that the birds learned (χ2 test and Student’s t-test). As a management use, researchers propose that ultraviolet markers on wind turbines could decrease the collision rate of birds with turbine blades.
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Major: Fisheries and Wildlife Science
Year: 2012
File Attachments: Eck_Capstone_Final.doc
Authors: Benjamin Eck

New York State Goshawk Management

Wed, 05/02/2012 - 01:29
Abstract: Abstract: Northern Goshawks (Accipiter gentilis) occupy mature coniferous and deciduous stands one of the few raptors that can actually navigate through dense forests at high rates of speed. Mainly due to timber harvesting of older mature forests they are locked in a constant battle for territory and good food. They prey on small animals like squirrels, grouse, rabbit and even some song birds. With the constant battle for habitat our goals for management will revolve more around the land than the actual bird this would include data on landscape parameters like stand type and age, then by looking at the comparative goshawk population and distribution in those areas a preferred stand type will be selected. After the preferred habitat is determined we look to increase the population of goshawks in the Northern U.S. by ten percent through selective harvesting.
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Major: Fisheries and Wildlife Science
Year: 2012
File Attachments: The Author has selected not to publish this complete work.
Authors: Darrell Vannederynen

Eastern Mud Turtle (Kinosternon subrubrum) Recovery Plan for Long Island, New York

Tue, 05/01/2012 - 12:05
Abstract: The Eastern Mud Turtle is a rapidly decreasing reptile in the most northeastern part of its range, Long Island, New York. They get their name from the behavior of digging through mud to hibernate. The biggest threats to them are road mortality, nest predation, and loss of habitat. They are slow to mature and therefore depend on high levels of adult survivorship to maintain populations. It takes 5-8 years for a female to mature. Then there is a high risk of the eggs being eaten and the females being hit by cars because they make annual movements to nest. Not many eastern mud turtles have been documented in New York. The goal of this management plan for the eastern mud turtle is to decrease the mortality drastically. Key components include decreasing road mortality, increasing the survival of juveniles, and getting the public more aware and involved. If these are addressed properly, then the eastern mud turtle population is should increase.
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Major: Fisheries and Wildlife Science
Year: 2012
File Attachments: Full management plan.docx
Authors: Elena Zito

Management Plan for Common Loons (Gavia immer) in Maine

Tue, 05/01/2012 - 11:55
Abstract: Common loons (Gavia immer) have been a symbol of remote northern lakes and wilderness. Due to their eerie call, beautiful plumage and their habitat choice of remotes lakes coinciding with people’s choice of remote lakes, the common loon is recognized across North America. Due to shooting mortality by humans, habitat loss due to development of lakes, and many others, loon populations declined throughout much of their range in the twentieth century, increasing human awareness and protection of loons. Today, the world population for the common loon is approximately 607,000-635,000. Current threats to their population include lake shore development, increased human lake recreation, and a daunting rise in mercury levels in lakes due to atmospheric distribution by power plants and other anthropogenic causes. Two goals are consisted for common loons: To increase Common Loon populations in Central, Western, and Northern Maine (focus on 56 lakes throughout the state), and to reduce mercury (Hg) levels in Common Loon populations in Maine. Courses of action include monitoring the current population, capture and band common loons on 56 lakes located in Central Maine, Western Maine, and Northern Maine assess and create better nesting habitat for COLO by implementing the use of nest rafts, reducing human traffic (i.e. jet skis, motor boats etc.), and to reduce mercury levels in those lakes through harsher restrictions on power plants. An assessment protocol for each course of action is included. Implementing the components of this management plan will lead to an increased population of common loon populations in central Maine.
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Major: Fisheries and Wildlife Science
Year: 2012
File Attachments: The Author has selected not to publish this complete work.
Authors: Nicole Bellerose

Management Plan for Marbled Murrelets (Brachyramphus marmoratus) in the Pacific Northwest

Tue, 05/01/2012 - 11:52
Abstract: Marbled murrelets in North America (Brachyramphus marmoratus) are small seabirds found from the Bering Sea to central California (Ralph et al., 1995). They are unique from other Alcids in that they are dependent upon old-growth forests for nesting sites. Within the southern limits of their range in Washington, Oregon, and California, their breeding distribution is determined by the distribution and accessibility of old-growth and late-successional coniferous forests (Ralph et al., 1995). The majority of nests are found within 60 kilometers of the coast on large diameter, moss-covered limbs (Ralph et al., 1995). The primary threats to marbled murrelets are the loss of nesting habitat and habitat fragmentation caused by humans. In the last decade, over a quarter million acres of old-growth forest in the United States was lost due to logging practices (Perry, 1995). Predation of nests, especially by crows and ravens, increases as fragmentation increases from habitat loss (Nelson and Hamer, 1995). Fisheries by-catch and loss of foraging habitat pose as potential threats, increasing adult mortality (Burkett, 1995). Combined, these factors along with other threats are causing the decline and fragmentation of marbled murrelet populations in the Pacific Northwest. Marbled murrelet populations are declining at a rate of 4 to 6 percent annually (Ralph et al., 1995). This significant decline has caused alarm in the Pacific Northwest and globally. In 1991, the state of California listed the species as endangered due to the extreme loss of old-growth forests (Ralph et al., 1995). In February of 1993, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service listed marbled murrelets as threatened in Washington, Oregon, and California (Ralph et al., 1995). Globally, marbled murrelets are listed as endangered on the IUCN Red List (Ralph et al., 1995). This plan focuses on the most prevalent threats to marbled murrelets presently and to propose actions which may slow or halt the decline of the species in the Pacific Northwest. Specifically, this plan intends to (1) assess and protect the amount of old-growth forest needed to sustain a healthy population of marbled murrelets across Washington, Oregon, and California and (2) to better understand the foraging ecology of marbled murrelets at offshore and inshore sites. These two broad goals represent the imperative need to protect the habitat they depend on and to gain better knowledge of an aspect of the species not well-known, respectively.  
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Major: Fisheries and Wildlife Science
Year: 2012
File Attachments: The Author has selected not to publish this complete work.
Authors: Chelsea DiAntonio

Red Breasted Geese: An effort to restore and protect a threatened population.

Tue, 05/01/2012 - 11:50
Abstract: Red Breasted Geese or Branta ruficollis, are small, migratory geese that have a known geographic extent that includes the countries of Russia, Kazakhstan, Ukraine, Romania, and Bulgaria. With a current approximate population of 37,000 individuals, this species of goose has recently been host to an extreme level of population fluctuation, and as is such has been classified endangered under the ICUN Red List. Red Breasted Geese face numerous threats throughout the year, including the loss of habitat, mortality due to hunting, and mortality due to agriculture based chemical use in the wintering grounds. The goal of this management plan is to increase and stabilize the population of Red Breasted Geese throughout its range, allowing for the de-listing of the species from the IUCN Red-List. This will be achieved through several actions, including the limitation of future harvest during hunting season, the reduction of the use of rodenticides within the agricultural industry near the Black Sea, and the identification of parameters such as adult mortality and required forage intake of breeding Red Breasted Geese.
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Major: Fisheries and Wildlife Science
Year: 2012
File Attachments: The Author has selected not to publish this complete work.
Authors: Jordan Talmage