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The effects of Global Climate Change on Tree Phenotypic Plasticity: A result of Acclimation of Evolutionary Change?
Stanislav Petkevichus (Mentor – Dr. Alan Rossner)


Is global climate change having an effect on the phenotypic characteristics of trees?  This research was a review of the literature focused on human induced climate change and the forcing of phenotypic changes and range shifts. I examined the a number of responses that trees have had to climate change and attempted to understand if these changes are a  result of evolutionary forces or efforts to try to acclimatize to changing temperatures

Determining the Feasibility of an Organic Based Food System
Camille Ricks
(Mentor, Dr. Rick Welsh)   

Given the rise of population and the need for new ways to nutritiously feed and sustain the growing population it is important to develop new and effective ways to manage the very little developable land left. This research project is important because in order for organic food to be competitive in the world market we need to determine if its current production and yields are comparable to that of conventional methods in terms of input and output yield gap. Overall we need to determine if organic crop production does or can result in a yield that stands up to the yields of conventionally produced crops while also being comparable to conventional crops in terms of inputs such as land use and labor and outputs such as crop yield. According to Catherine Badgley’s research called “Can Organic Agriculture Feed the World?” the answer to this question is yes. However this is also a topic that is highly debated and has received much criticism.  By examining and comparing several research studies on organic versus conventional agriculture this project seeks to congeal much of the information and available data in order to place some clarity into the debate once and for all.

Clarkson University Trail Network Impact Assessment and Management Plan
Katlin Wenzel  (Mentor - Dr. Tom Langen)

Demand for recreational land use has increased greatly in the last decade, as a consequence of increasing population size, higher standards of living and more leisure time. Long-term recreational use of trail networks has been proven to alter soil and vegetation, causing negative issues such as soil erosion, compaction, trampling and introduction of invasive species. This study was designed to provide an impact assessment on the 10.2 kilometer long recreational trail system located behind the Clarkson University campus; in order to determine the extent of user damage present on this trail system. By analyzing data regarding the types and magnitude of impacts, proactive and financially feasible management actions could be identified and implemented that would improve recreational experiences and maintain the natural resources of the area. 

A Comparative Analysis of Natural Gas Drilling in New York and Pennsylvania
Neal Turkasz (Mentor -  Michelle Crimi)

A Policy Analysis was conducted by reviewing New York and Pennsylvania drilling policies on fracturing fluid from hydro fracturing drilling to recover natural gas.   The extent of damage and other known negative effects of hydraulic fracturing were examined as well as the damage control procedures necessary to minimize human exposure and environmental damage. 

Reaching Out Through Conservation: Suggestions on Community & Stakeholder Incorporation in Conservation Studies for Researchers
Meghan Jackson (Mentors – Drs. Courtney Woods and Bill Vitek)

There has been a call by the public to be involved in conservation projects around the world. This presentation compares the activities of RARE, a international conservation organization, in Sierra de  Manatlán, Mexico as they helped a community within a bioreserve to decrease agriculture-related forest fires and a study conducted by researchers creating a preservation zone off the coast of California. From the comparison, study policy and procedural and educational suggestions are given that can increase the success of scientist-led conservation programs. These suggestions range from issue framing, social marketing and interdisciplinary research to increasing communication course requirements for students majoring in science fields.

Avian Diversity of Restored and Natural Wetlands in the St. Lawrence Valley of New York.
Laura Barlow 12 (Mentor – Dr. Tom Langen and Catherine Benson)

Government agencies and non-profit organizations use wetland restoration as a conservation tool to compensate for past and present losses of wetland habitats in the U.S. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program (PFWP) and U.S. Department of Agriculture National Resource Conservation Service Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP) provide incentives to private landowners to restore and protect wetland habitats.  One criticism of these program are that wetland restorations are generally not monitored  after their completion and little is known regarding how well restorations function as compared to naturally occurring wetlands.  Bird surveys were conducted twice in the month of June (2009-2011) using point counts and playback vocalizations for marshbirds; we measured bird species richness and calculated a wetland-rank index (WRI) based on the wetland-relatedness of the community.

Rock Climbing Effects on Cliff Ecosystems
Hillary Clifton (Mentor – Dr. Tom Langen)

Due to their inaccessibility, cliff ecosystems have stayed relatively untouched compared to their surrounding habitats.  This has made it possible for rare and fragile vegetation to thrive in these areas.  However, the increased popularity in outdoor recreational sports, mainly rock climbing, over the past 30 years has created a concern for its environmental impacts.  This study examined the impacts of low frequency rock climbing over four months on moss and lichen on the face and top of climbed cliffs as well as on the leaf litter at the base of the cliffs.  The results of the leaf litter masses at the climbed cliffs were compared to that of leaf litter samples of similar unclimbed cliffs.  The study showed that even with little climbing, significant disturbances to cliff vegetation occurred.  These findings agree with previous research relating to cliff ecosystems and cliff impacts. 

Determining Factors Affecting Elephant Migratory Patterns at Queen Elizabeth National Park in Uganda. 
Vinita Eswar  (Mentor – Dr. Tom Langen)

What determines elephant migratory patterns at Queen Elizabeth National Park in Uganda? Do elephants migrate more depending on climate (particularly rainfall patterns) OR do elephants migrate depending on the flow of tourists during peak and off peak seasons at the park?  Queen Elizabeth National Park (QENP) is one of the most-visited game reserves in Uganda. The park was named after Queen Elizabeth II and was established in 1954. The park is located in southwest Uganda, containing several districts, these districts include Kasese, Kamwenge, Bushenyi and Rukungiri. It is located is approximately 243 miles by road, southwest of Kampala, the capital of Uganda.  We studied the factors that may influence the migratory behavior of elephants.  

The effects of Global Climate Change on Tree Phenotypic Plasticity: A result of Acclimation of Evolutionary Change?
Stanislav Petkevichus ‘11 (Mentor – Dr. Alan Rossner)

 

Is global climate change having an effect on the phenotypic characteristics of trees?  This research was a review of the literature focused on human induced climate change and the forcing of phenotypic changes and range shifts. I examined the a number of responses that trees have had to climate change and attempted to understand if these changes are a  result of evolutionary forces or efforts to try to acclimatize to changing temperatures.  

Determining the Feasibility of an Organic Based Food System
Camille Ricks ‘11 (Mentor, Dr. Rick Welsh)   

Given the rise of population and the need for new ways to nutritiously feed and sustain the growing population it is important to develop new and effective ways to manage the very little developable land left. This research project is important because in order for organic food to be competitive in the world market we need to determine if its current production and yields are comparable to that of conventional methods in terms of input and output yield gap. Overall we need to determine if organic crop production does or can result in a yield that stands up to the yields of conventionally produced crops while also being comparable to conventional crops in terms of inputs such as land use and labor and outputs such as crop yield. According to Catherine Badgley’s research called “Can Organic Agriculture Feed the World?” the answer to this question is yes. However this is also a topic that is highly debated and has received much criticism.  By examining and comparing several research studies on organic versus conventional agriculture this project seeks to congeal much of the information and available data in order to place some clarity into the debate once and for all.

Clarkson University Trail Network Impact Assessment and Management Plan
Katlin Wenzel  ‘11 (Mentor - Dr. Tom Langen)


Demand for recreational land use has increased greatly in the last decade, as a consequence of increasing population size, higher standards of living and more leisure time. Long-term recreational use of trail networks has been proven to alter soil and vegetation, causing negative issues such as soil erosion, compaction, trampling and introduction of invasive species. This study was designed to provide an impact assessment on the 10.2 kilometer long recreational trail system located behind the Clarkson University campus; in order to determine the extent of user damage present on this trail system. By analyzing data regarding the types and magnitude of impacts, proactive and financially feasible management actions could be identified and implemented that would improve recreational experiences and maintain the natural resources of the area. 



A Comparative Analysis of Natural Gas Drilling in New York and Pennsylvania
Neal Turkasz ‘11 (Mentor -  Michelle Crimi)

A Policy Analysis was conducted by reviewing New York and Pennsylvania drilling policies on fracturing fluid from hydro fracturing drilling to recover natural gas.   The extent of damage and other known negative effects of hydraulic fracturing were examined as well as the damage control procedures necessary to minimize human exposure and environmental damage. 

 

Reaching Out Through Conservation: Suggestions on Community & Stakeholder Incorporation in Conservation Studies for Researchers
Meghan Jackson ‘10 (Mentors – Drs. Courtney Woods and Bill Vitek)

There has been a call by the public to be involved in conservation projects around the world. This presentation compares the activities of RARE, a international conservation organization, in Sierra de  Manatlán, Mexico as they helped a community within a bioreserve to decrease agriculture-related forest fires and a study conducted by researchers creating a preservation zone off the coast of California. From the comparison, study policy and procedural and educational suggestions are given that can increase the success of scientist-led conservation programs. These suggestions range from issue framing, social marketing and interdisciplinary research to increasing communication course requirements for students majoring in science fields.

 

Distribution of the Golden-winged Warbler in Northern New York
Austin Hicks ’10 (Mentor – Dr. Tom Langen)

The distribution of the Golden-winged Warbler (Vermivora chrysoptera) is of concern because the Golden-winged Warbler has been facing a population decline for more than 40 years now. The current Partners in Flight Conservation plan calls for a 100% increase in the population size of the Golden-winged warbler. Some of the reasons the population of the Golden-wing has been decreasing is: hybridization with Blue-winged Warblers (Vermivora pinus), and loss of early successional habitat. The objective of my study was to find the distribution of Golden-wings across northern New York, and find what habitats support the most Golden-wings. To find the distribution of Golden-wings I used a list of survey points that were known to have Golden-wings present in the past, the list of survey points came from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.  I also studied the distribution of Golden-wings along power line corridors throughout St. Lawrence County.

 

A Survey & Management Plan for Vernal Pools on the Campus of Clarkson University
Nate Moore ‘10 (Mentor – Dr. Tom Langen)

Vernal pools are temporary wetland pools characterized by seasonal flooding and drying. Diverse groups of plants and animals specialize in these habitats, and several vernal pool species are of conservation concern. Pool composition can be dictated by pool size, depth and surrounding flora. Species may utilize different pools according to their life-cycle needs. Lack of regulations means valuable habitats may be lost, despite conservation importance. This study aimed to gain a clearer picture of the makeup and value of pool communities at Clarkson University, and determine how to conserve these habitats.

 


Degradation of Phytoplankton and Zooplankton Populations at the St. Lawrence River at Massena Area of Concern
Hilary Lockwood ‘09 (Mentor - Dr. Micheal Twiss)

St. Lawrence River Area of Concern (AOC) at Massena requires further investigation to advance the status of the Beneficial Use Impairment (BUI) of Degradation of phytoplankton and zooplankton populations.  A healthy plankton community is reflected in nutrient levels similar to reference populations and that when compared to non-impacted areas, the plankton community structure should be favorable.  It was hypothesized that nutrient levels, and therefore plankton populations, above the Power Dam would be different from those below the dam in the AOC.  Sampling took place in 2007 and 2008 on stations above and below the dam in the St. Lawrence, St. Regis, Raquette, and Grasse Rivers.  It was found that nutrient levels of phosphorus, nitrate, and silicate below the dam were slightly different from above the dam.  Phytoplankton populations varied from station to station, typical of a mixed river system.  Zooplankton also showed variability, but with substantial data, we concluded that plankton populations are not impaired and that tributaries downstream cause fluctuations in nutrient levels, therefore affecting the plankton present in the area.

The Effects of Water Quality Parameters on the Distribution of Aquatic Invertebrates within the Carmans River on Long Island
Mellissa Winslow ‘09(Mentor - Dr. Micheal Twiss)

 

While the Carmans River is one of a few pristine aquatic ecosystems in Suffolk County, Long Island, New York, roadside run-off, fertilizers, septic systems and groundwater contaminants all threaten to degrade its condition.  Sensitive populations such as invertebrate species serve as indicators of biological integrity and can be useful for identifying problems in water quality.  The physical and chemical variations in water quality were compared for six different locations and among three habitat types selected along the Carmans River.  The results from this experiment showed that with movement downstream, the diversity of invertebrate’s increases downstream as habitat complexity increases.  Also, from the data it can be concluded that upstream locations are more affected by runoff and other sources of contaminants than downstream locations. This study showed no statistical difference between diversities of invertebrates derived from the full sample invertebrate collection method and the rapid bioassessment method used.  Policies should require use of Rapid Bioassessment Protocols to determine environmental quality of small streams and rivers to achieve efficient, cost-effective results.

The Biological Effects of Wetlands on Agricultural Farm Lands
Deana Huntley ‘09 (Mentor - Dr. Tom Langen)

Farms produce a lot of manure and using manure as fertilizer is a good management strategy for its disposal. However, excess nutrients from manure can leach into nearby lakes and streams causing unwanted problems such as algae blooms, poor conditions for aquatic life, and hazardous health conditions for drinking water. To test what kind of influence wetlands have on farms, a test site was chosen in Northern New York to see if manure runoff into a nearby stream was treated and excess nutrients removed by going through a wetland. Several samples were taken throughout an eight month period on a small family farm to assess if the wetland was in fact removing excess nutrients that have leached off the farm and into the stream. 

 

Factors Influencing North Country New York Dairy Farmer Knowledge of Anaerobic Digester Technology
Erika L Gorczyca ’09 (Mentors- Dr. Rick Welch)

The dairy industry of New York State has had a steady increase in larger farms. As the quantity of large farms increases, the number of cows and amount of manure per acre of land becomes much denser. A problem arises when farmers find it difficult to utilize their substantial quantities of manure without excessive spreading. Excess manure can cause many environmental problems, such as water contamination and nutrient overloading, as well as social problems of odor control. These issues have farmers searching for alternative methods of utilizing their wastes. In addition, the rising cost of energy has spiked the interest of small farms to utilize the potential energy source in manure. Although farmers are interested, there has been little implementation of a solution to their problem, such as anaerobic digester technology. To help determine the reason why farmers are not implementing such technology, we investigated factors that influence their knowledge of anaerobic digester technology through survey results and regression analysis. We found that three factors influence the farmer’s knowledge of anaerobic digester technology, including prior experience and exposure, farm structure, and human capital. The results provide essential information necessary for researchers, policy-makers and extension for dissemination of information effectively.

 

Winter Oxygen Levels in Lake Ozonia, NY
Mary C. Padasak ‘09 (Mentor- Dr. Michael Twiss)



Fishing is a highly popular recreational sport. The NYSDEC stocks many lakes to allow for recreational fishing. In the winter, fish can come under stress from decreasing oxygen levels in frozen lakes. Lake Ozonia is a stocked lake adjacent to the Adirondack Park. It is known that the bottom on the lake goes anoxic over the summer, limiting where fish can be found in the lake. In the winter, it was hypothesized that the lake will also go anoxic. The winter limnology of Lake Ozonia was looked at. Using a YSI probe and verifying with the Winkler Titration Test for dissolved oxygen.  It was determined that there was still oxygen all the way to the bottom of the lake at the end of winter. This means that oxygen stress is not a problem to fish in the lake during the winter months.


Recommended Management Policies for Rock Climbing Access In The Adirondack Park
Shannon Fyrberg ‘06 (Mentor - Dr. William Vitek)
           

The Adirondack Forest Preserve consists of roughly 2,500,000 acres of public land in the Adirondack Park.  This area is protected by the New York State constitution to be forever kept as wild forest land.  Today the Forest Preserve supports a variety of uses including recreational rock climbing.  Accessing cliff areas for this activity results in repeated disturbance to the ecological resources surrounding cliff faces.
Soils along access trails, trees along cliff tops, vegetation on cliff faces and wetlands along access trails are all impacted by the repeated disturbance of rock climbers who are accessing cliff areas.  These impacts are expected to increase as the popularity of the sport increases and users from other areas of the park are diverted.  Managing the ecological impacts of rock climbing is not only demonstrably possible, but also mandated by New York State law.  Recommended management policies include trail maintenance, vegetation protection, and climber education were explored.  Possible means of funding for implementing these policies is also discussed.  Further studies should be conducted to determine the economic feasibility of these means of funding as well as the effects of habitat disturbance for local fauna.

An Assessment of Salt Storage Facilities in St. Lawrence County, New York
Jaimie Salcido ‘06 (Mentor - Dr. Tom Langen)

 

Conveniently located salt storage facilities allow consistent delivery of salt in areas that are subject to harsh winter conditions such as St. Lawrence County.   There are several ways in which salt can be stored, with some being better than others.  There may be reasons why the best implementation methods are not being used.   Road salt is known to have adverse effects on the environment and has the potential to effect ground and surface waters.   The purpose of this project is to survey salt storage practices in St. Lawrence County, NY and to identify reasons for why the best storage technology is not being used.  The assessment will be used to show areas that are likely to have impacts on the environment that can be mitigated by better storage practices. To determine how salt is stored in the St. Lawrence County I contacted 40 people that oversee salt dispersion to the state, county, town and village roads of St. Lawrence County.  The information was used to create a map to identify sites where there is likely to have concerns for environmental contamination.  Reasons for improper storage will be reviewed along with a literature review of salt storage practices, BMPs, and environmental impacts due to improper salt storage. A summary of salt storage practices in St. Lawrence County will be drafted including the management of salt storage.  Problem areas will be identified including reasons for impediments in salt storage practices. 

Designing and testing the effectiveness of wildlife barriers in keeping herpetofauna off roadways
Katie Benson '06(Mentor - Dr. Tom Langen)

 

Road mortality has been identified as a cause of decline in populations of herpetofauna. Research on the spatial patterning of mortality indicates that mass mortality is aggregated where high traffic roadways traverse wetland habitats. Mitigation measures have focused on creating barriers and culverts along roadsides to prevent animals from accessing roadways while keeping habitat connectivity intact. The objective of this study was to design and test barrier prototypes in search of an effective, low-cost, low-impact design. To assess the effectiveness of barriers, herpetofauna were placed into controlled observational corrals built to mimic barrier designs- noting their ability to escape. Initially, 1 wooden and 2 wire barriers were tested and found to be unsuccessful. Materials and maintenance for the wooden barrier were costly and 2/3 of the snapping turtles tested in wire barrier corrals escaped. 4 new barrier prototypes were developed using the backbone of the wire barrier, but modified with overhangs of different dimensions. All of these designs were found to be effective, as none of the 43 animals tested in these corrals escaped.

 

Ecological Impact and the Proposed Management of Invasive Rhamnus cathartica in Clarkson University’s Campus
 Dan Berry `06(Mentor -  Dr. Tom Langen)

 

Invasive species have plagued many areas of the world, successfully changing the native habitat of areas. Because of the globalization of the planet it has become much more common for organisms to travel long distances due to human influence, be it ornamental reasons, to combat another invasive species or just by accident. One such plant is the common buckthorn, Rhamnus cathartica, which was brought into the country as a garden shrub and was able to successfully spread across much of the Unites States.  Knowing how species are dispersed within our natural environment allows scientists to map both the populations of species as well as helping to estimate future territory alteration or possible consequences of changing territory size. By doing this scientists are also able to calculate the effects of invasive species and how widely spread they are in a specific environment. This allows for a better understanding of how the invasive species works, how it dispels native species and what type of native species it is over competing.

 

Thallium Resistance in Bacterial Isolated from the St Lawrence River
Adrienne Juby `06(Mentor - Dr. Michael Twiss)

Thallium (Tl) is a highly toxic metal that is released into the environment through industrial processes.  In the Great Lakes region, coal combustion releases thallium that eventually enters into the adjacent fresh water systems and can impact biota.  For this study, water samples were taken in late August 2007 from the St. Lawrence River at Waddington NY in order to isolate bacteria using Tl(I)-enriched agar plates.  It was determined that some St. Lawrence River Bacteria (SLRB) are able to resist high levels of thallium exposure.  To obtain quantitative results of the level of Tl(I) resistance, toxicity tests of the four SLRB isolates have been conducted; strains 03 and 04 showed a 50% inhibition between 60 and 80 µM and consistently acted in a similar manner in the presence of thallium when measuring the effect of Tl(I) on biomass.  These two strains were identified as Aeromonas, potential human pathogens, and the other two as Flavobacterium, known fish pathogens.  Further testing will refine these methods and continue to test the bacteria for other thallium related properties such as the ability to oxidize this element to Tl(III), a less bioavailable form. This knowledge will help better understand the reason for Tl(I) oxidation and its effects on fresh water systems.

Biotic and Abiotic Factors Influencing the Bioavailability of Thallium in Freshwater Environments
David Zeleznock ‘05 (Mentor - Dr. Micheal Twiss)
 


            

Thallium (Tl) toxicity in aquatic environments is a factor of several biotic and abiotic conditions, as well as the redox state of the metal.  Tl(I) is the naturally occurring redox state that is of particular importance to environmental toxicology studies.  Tl(III), the only other naturally occurring redox state of the metal, is of little concern to toxicology studies due to the relative low abundance of the free ion Tl3+.  Water from two Adirondack lakes were used to assess the speciation of Thallium when added as the radioisotope Tl(I)204.  Preliminary experiments showed no change in the redox state of the metal.  Growth nutrients, nitrate and phosphate (added as NaNO3 and K2HPO4, respectively) added to the water stock to increase bacteria and phytoplankton biomass showed no influence on the oxidative potential of the water stock.  Illite clays (composed of %7e8% K2O) were able to sorb to Thallium and reduce Tl(I) concentrations by 7%, suggesting that Tl may be able to substitute for K in the clay matrix. 

The Effect of Human Activity on Human Amphibian Populations in Northern New York
Erin Leuenberger ‘05 (Mentor - Dr. Tom Langen) 

Amphibian populations have been greatly declining world wide.  There are many factors that can be leading to this decline. I looked at habitat loss and regulations of wetlands. The important biological components of proper wetland conditions to conserve amphibian populations were studied.  Effectiveness of New York State wetland regulations to properly preserve amphibian populations was assessed.   

Internalizing pro-environmental behavior in children and parents through an at home educational assignment focusing on win-win situations 
Andrew Snyder ‘05 (Mentor- Dr. Bill Vitek)

An environmental education program was designed for elementary students in order to internalize win-win PEB, specifically win-win PEB, in students and their parents/guardians for the long-term.  PEBs are consumptive behaviors with lower ecological impacts compared to alternative consumptive behaviors. Win-win PEBs, a subset of PEB, are behaviors where an individual receives a positive reward, whether it be monetary, health-, or temporal-based, and the environmental benefits as well.  In order to understand the behavioral process, an extensive literature review was undertaken of articles that addressed PEB.  From this review, a comprehensive schematic of the process leading to PEB was completed.  Two sample exercises based on the structure and principals of the program as well as a list of PEBs that could be used by teachers in designing activities are given in the appendices. 

Manure Maneuvers:  Effectiveness of CAFO Regulations 
Melissa Miller ‘05 (Mentor- Dr. Rick Welsh)

The effectiveness of the revised U.S.E.P.A. regulations to control pollution from concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFO) was evaluated.  Animal agriculture has increased from many small farms to fewer larger farms.  The increase in the size of the farms has caused problems with extra nutrients and waste management.  Interviews with an agronomy expert, a soil and water conservation expert, a national environmental group representative and two farmers were conducted to collect their views on the effectiveness of the regulations and changes that they might make to the regulations.  Recommendations to the regulations are made.  Recommendations include enforcing regulations on farms of all sizes, to promoting sustainable farming techniques like rotational grazing, and water testing near CAFOs and making the results public.

 

Environmental Effects of All Terrain Vehicles (ATV)

Kellie Martin ‘05 (Mentor - Dr. Karis)

 

This research evaluated the impacts of All-Terrain Vehicles (ATV) and the potential effects they could have in the Adirondack Park. In the Carry Falls region of New York a debate has come up over how the land should be classified according to the State Land Master Plan. The outcome of the decision on how to classify the land determines whether or not ATVs will be permitted in the Adirondack Park. Many research studies have been done throughout the United States that identify impacts from ATVs on the environment. These studies cite instances where erosion and compaction along with degradation of vegetation and wildlife occur. There are also studies that identify instances of great economic prosperity from the use of ATVs in the regions of study. Before decisions are made about the fate of ATVs in the Adirondacks, research has to be done. There are no studies that specifically delve into the impacts of ATVs in the Adirondack Park.