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Capstone Projects

The influence of a common parent on sap sweetness among open pollinated sugar maple (Acer saccharum Marsh.) offspring

Wed, 05/08/2019 - 15:08
Abstract: Beginning in the 1950s, the United States Forest Service began to look into the ability to predict and control the heritability of sap sweetness in sugar maples (Acer saccharum Marsh.). A search for genetically superior (sweeter) trees was conducted across 6 states, testing 21,000 trees. Only 53 trees were chosen to be parental stock for the “Super Sweet” sugar maple improvement program. These trees, cloned through rooted cuttings and scion wood grafting, were planted in the Grand Isle, VT clonal bank. One of the five progeny tests of open pollinated offspring from the clonal bank was established in Lake Placid, New York. These trees had their first evaluation at age ten. Each tree had its diameter and height measured, as well as its sap sweetness tested. Now, 35 years after planting, the trees were evaluated again. An inventory was conducted with diameter at breast height, tree height, and live crown ratio measurements. Of the 725 trees planted, only 396 trees remain. Only 258 trees were of size and quality to handle a 5/16” tap. Their sap sweetness was measured at multiple times though out the season. Knowing one of the two parents of each tree allowed for the comparison of the sap sweetness of the different common-parent groups. The data collected did not support that the knowledge of only one parent could be used to predicts a tree’s sweetness relative to any other parent’s offspring. The bigger picture progeny evaluations will continue the “Super Sweet” sugar maple improvement program.
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Major: Forestry
Year: 2019
Authors: Eric Mance

A Comparison of Winter Wildlife Use of Minimally, Moderately and Highly Impacted Shorelines on Lower St. Regis Lake and Black Pond in the Adirondack Park, NY

Wed, 05/09/2018 - 10:51
Abstract: Continued development and human interference with freshwater shorelines creates a degraded environment and can negatively affect native wildlife along impacted areas. Throughout the Adirondack Park, shorelines have experienced substantial degradation with the development of lakeside summer homes. There tends to be a strong preference for the aesthetics that lakes offer, as well as the numerous recreational opportunities they provide. The increased human use of shorelines and the development of anthropogenic structures has directly resulted in the degradation of shorelines in the Adirondack Park. Likewise, the Paul Smith’s College shoreline along Lower St. Regis Lake has been subjected to degradation throughout the history of the campus. This highly impacted site was selected, alongside minimally and moderately impacted sites in the surrounding areas as representatives for different impact levels. Shoreline degradation includes a decline in the health and presence of natural vegetation, creating a decrease in available food source for native wildlife. The removal of natural vegetation creates a decline in shoreline stability with the removal of root systems, allowing for greater amounts of erosion to occur. Additionally, degradation decreases available canopy cover and increases exposure of wildlife to predation. The objective of this study was to determine the difference in wildlife activity and diversity between three levels of shoreline impacts: minimal, moderate, and high. It was expected that the minimally and moderately impacted shoreline sites would show a greater diversity and abundance of wildlife than highly impacted shorelines. Trail camera data was analyzed at three sites for each treatment on Paul Smith’s College property, along both the Lower St. Regis Lake and Black Pond. Although we detected no significant differences in either activity or diversity across the treatments, there was higher relative activity and diversity in moderately impacted shorelines than minimally or highly impacted. However, wildlife species that are more rare and/or area-sensitive, such as the fisher (Martes pennanti) and American marten (Martes americana), were only detected in the minimally impacted shorelines of Black Pond. A restoration of the highly impacted shoreline to reflect minimally and non-impacted shorelines of the surrounding region would allow for opportunities to improve habitat for native wildlife species.
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Major: Biology, Ecological Restoration, Environmental Sciences
Year: 2018
File Attachments: Shoreline Restoration
Authors: Tessa White, Caroline Matuck, Kasey Lane, Rosemary Bloodnick, Kyle Pasanen, Annalee Kraai

Comparison of 5 Firewood Storage Structures for Most Efficient Drying of Acer rubrum in Northern NY

Thu, 05/10/2018 - 12:47
Abstract: Worldwide over 2 billion people use firewood to heat their homes. The cultural relevance of the act of stacking firewood means that there are many different recommended methods of stacking and storage. For this study we tested five structures for the drying of firewood, and measured change in moisture content over five weeks to determine which method was the most efficient. Red maple (Acer rubrum L.) and Black cherry (Prunus serotine L.) trees were felled in the Creighton Hill Tract and hauled 1.2 miles to the study site behind the Paul Smith’s College John Dillon Sawmill in Paul Smiths, New York. There they were split and stacked into the five different methods, which included a heap, uncovered stack, covered stack, shed, and stack wrapped in plastic. Moisture content readings were taken from nine red maple pieces within each stack three times a week for a total of five weeks. Uncovered firewood was most susceptible to changes in moisture content in response to precipitation. Covered stacks of wood had the greatest decrease in moisture content over the course of the study, and also proved to be less vulnerable to precipitation events. Firewood wrapped in plastic maintained significantly higher moisture content than the other methods consistently throughout the study.
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Major: Forestry
Year: 2018
Authors: Talia Stewart, Scott Seelbach

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

An Assessment of Heavy Metal Concentrations in Adirondack Waterfowl

Thu, 04/28/2016 - 22:53
Abstract: We analyzed heavy metal concentrations in waterfowl liver and breast tissue from ducks harvested within the Adirondack Park from October 3 to November 13, 2015. Interspecific, intersex, and feeding behavior variation in heavy metal concentrations were assessed. Waterfowl from two feeding behavior groups (diving and dabbling) were harvested from the watershed within a 50 mile radius of Paul Smith’s, New York. Harvested waterfowl species included mallard (Anas platyrhynchos), American black duck (Anas rubripes), common merganser (Mergus merganser), ring-necked duck (Aythya collaris), bufflehead (Bucephala albeola), and hooded merganser (Lophodytes cucullatus). Legal harvest of these species during regulated New York State duck hunting season allows for permissible use of internal organs for heavy metal determination. Dry weight (mg/kg) of digested liver and breast tissue samples were analyzed using atomic absorption spectroscopy. Due to unknown laboratory error, absolute concentration values were inaccurate, thus, rendering accurate analyses unfeasible. However, relative observable trends were able to be assessed given our data’s high precision. Analyte concentrations were significantly greater in liver tissues and there were significant differences between species. Variation in mercury, lead, bismuth, cadmium, chromium, and zinc concentrations in waterfowl serve as an indicator of the presence, cycling, bioaccumulation, and temporal trends of these metals in northeastern aquatic habitats.
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Major: Environmental Sciences, Fisheries and Wildlife Science
Year: 2016
File Attachments: Final2.docx
Authors: Brandon Snavely, Lewis Lolya

Mycoremediation Potential of Pleurotus ostreatus in Logging Operations

Mon, 05/02/2016 - 10:43
Abstract: The unintentional spillage of diesel and hydraulic fluid is an unfortunate part of forestry operations and the traditional cleanup methods can be costly. Many studies have shown that white rot fungi (WRF) are capable of breaking down a wide variety of environmental pollutants, including diesel fuel. The purpose of this study is to evaluate the ability of a WRF, Pluerotus ostreatus, to breakdown hydraulic fluid. Soil and sawdust were mixed at a 1:1 ratio and jars had, 0%, 3%, 5% and 10% of their volume added in hydraulic fluid. All jars were fully colonized within two weeks and after 30 days the concentration of residual hydrocarbon was analyzed with an extraction. The results showed that the maximum degradation of hydraulic fluid occurred at 5%. In addition sawdust spawn was dehydrated at different temperatures, in order to assess possible field application. The only dehydration test that grew was the air dried sample.
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Major: Forestry
Year: 2016
Authors: Peter Murphy, Kirklyn Denis

Growth of Black Spruce and Tamarack in Response to Abiotic Variables

Tue, 05/03/2016 - 12:46
Abstract: The growth of black spruce (Picea mariana) and tamarack (Larix laricina) was examined in relation to the potential influences of pH, dissolved oxygen, conductivity, water temperature, proportion of canopy closure and depth to ground water in a northern Adirondack peatland ecosystem. 42 plots were constructed in a sphagnum dominated wetland and sampled for the above abiotic variables throughout the summer and fall of 2015. Heights, ages and periodic annual increment of 26 tamarack and 23 black spruce samples were determined in February and March of 2016. An age to height ratio and periodic annual increment for each species was then regressed against the above abiotic variable data in order to determine any influence of these data on growth rates of the conspecifics. Results show that depth to water table and increased exposure to light had a significantly positive relationship with the age to height ratio of tamarack. Periodic annual increment of tamarack had a significant positive relationship with decreasing light exposure. Black spruce’s age to height ratio had a significant positive relationship with dissolved oxygen (mg/L).
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Major: Forestry
Year: 2016
Authors: Robert DeSotle

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

Effects of Reduced Turbidity and Suspended Sediment Concentrations on Macroinvertebrate Communities at a Restored Reach on Warner Creek

Fri, 05/01/2015 - 18:21
Abstract: A segment of Warner Creek, a tributary to the Stony Clove Creek in the Catskill Mountains of New York, was restored in 2013 to reduce concentrations of suspended sediment and turbidity caused by a localized mud boil erosion of a large clay bank. Before restoration, impaired water-quality from fine sediments may have adversely affected intolerant species of macroinvertebrates and their communities. This study compared macroinvertebrate assemblages from before (2011) and after (2014) restoration to determine if the restoration reduced concentrations of suspended sediment and turbidity sufficiently to improve the health of their macroinvertebrate communities. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) kick-sample methods were used to collect four replicate benthic invertebrate samples from Warner Creek and from a reference site on the Stony Clove Creek during August of 2011 and August of 2014. Four replicates of 100 specimens were identified to the family level from each replicate. The NYSDEC Bioassessment Profile scores and selected macroinvertebrate community metrics and turbidity and suspended sediment concentrations from a USGS stream gage downstream of the restoration both pre and post restoration were evaluated to test hypotheses that water quality and the health of macro-invertebrate assemblages differed post-restoration. Although some families at Warner Creek with low tolerance values were found to have increased post-restoration, it was also found that others with moderate tolerance values decreased. These types of fluctuations were seen in both years at both Warner Creek and the reference site, which makes it impossible to definitively say the impact restoration had on the macroinvertebrate assemblages one year post restoration. At this time it is obvious from the stream gage data that restoration significantly decreased turbidity and suspended sediment concentrations (SSC). Further collection of invertebrates and stream gage comparison is necessary to see if restoration does eventually impact the assemblage of invertebrates.    
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Major: Environmental Sciences
Year: 2015
File Attachments: Final Capstone.docx
Authors: Noel Deyette