Recent Submissions

  • Assessing diets of California salmonines using fatty acid signatures and its impact on observed thiamine deficiency

    Ludwig, Jarrod Michael (SUNY Brockport Department of Environmental Science and Ecology, 2024-05)
    California Central Valley (CCV) Chinook Salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha) hatchery fry were diagnosed with thiamine (vitamin B1) deficiency complex (TDC) in 2020, launching a statewide monitoring program to evaluate egg thiamine concentrations in populations of Chinook Salmon, Coho Salmon (O. kisutch), and Steelhead Trout (O. mykiss). There have been two proposed hypotheses for the drivers of thiamine deficiency: consumption of prey with increased thiaminase activity or with a high lipid content. Limited Chinook Salmon stomach content analysis showed a dominance of Northern Anchovy, a prey species with high thiaminase activity and a high lipid content, preceding the observation of thiamine deficiency. Therefore, the objective of this research was to identify the diet of Chinook Salmon, Coho Salmon, and Steelhead Trout using fatty acid signature (FAS) analysis and link their diet to the observed TDC. From 2020-2022, eggs from female Chinook Salmon, Coho Salmon, and Steelhead Trout were collected from CCV and northern California (NC) hatcheries. Main historical salmonine forage species were also collected from the Pacific Ocean. Fatty acid signatures and thiamine concentrations were quantified from eggs and prey using gas chromatography/mass spectrometry and high performance liquid chromatography, respectively. Chinook Salmon egg FASs differed significantly between CCV and NC populations suggesting NC Chinook Salmon were predominantly reliant on Pacific Herring, characterized by greater proportions of oleic acid (18:1n-9) and greater thiamine reserves. However, CCV Chinook Salmon populations appeared to consume mostly Northern Anchovy, characterized by high proportions of eicosapentaenoic acid (20:5n-3) and decreased thiamine reserves. Chinook Salmon egg FASs were also significantly different among seasonal run (fall, late fall, winter, and spring), with the winter-run and late fall-run Chinook Salmon being the most impacted by thiamine deficiency. Coho Salmon eggs from NC hatcheries had variable FASs; those indicative of Northern Anchovy consumption were thiamine deficient, while those indicative of a larger reliance on Pacific Herring had greater thiamine reserves. Steelhead Trout egg FASs presented variation among hatcheries; Trinity River Hatchery eggs were mostly rich in 18:1n-9 indicating Pacific Herring in the diet and Nimbus River Hatchery eggs were rich in 22:6n-3 which indicated consumption of Market Squid. Steelhead Trout eggs collected from Mokelumne River, Feather River, and Coleman National Fish hatcheries were generally rich in 20:5n-3 which corresponds to a diet of Northern Anchovy. Interestingly, Nimbus Steelhead Trout eggs had the greatest presence of thiamine deficiency, followed by eggs rich in 20:5n-3. Egg lipid content was not strongly correlated with decreased thiamine concentrations, but polyunsaturated fatty acid proportions were. The egg unsaturation index had a strong negative correlation with egg thiamine concentration, indicating the importance of lipid quality over quantity when considering drivers of TDC. This study highlights how FASs can be used to track the effect of changing ocean regimes on complex food webs and how diet shifts can impact salmonine health.
  • Traits and control of invasive mile-a-minute (Persicaria perfoliata) in western New York

    Mackey, Erica Ann (SUNY Brockport, Department of Environmental Science and Ecology, 2023-09-13)
    Invasive and nuisance species are recognized as a major threat to natural ecosystems and a leading threat to biodiversity. Mile-a-minute, Persicaria perfoliata, is an invasive species in North America and is native to Asia and the Philippines. It was introduced in the United States in the late 1800s and has become a serious invasive species in the eastern United States. Herbicides, biological control, and mechanical control methods have been effective for controlling mile-a-minute, but their relative efficacy is not known. I evaluated herbicide, mechanical and combined treatments for mile-a-minute over three years at two sites. All methods were effective at reducing mile-a-minute percent cover. Treatment type affected mile-a-minute percent cover in the first year of my study, when the mechanical-only treatment was less effective than herbicide treatments at the first resample. However, there were no significant differences among treatments in the second or third year of the project. My results indicate that mechanical, herbicide, or combined treatments can effectively manage mile-a-minute. However, because germination continues through October revisits are needed after initial treatment applications regardless of methods chosen. I also found that there was inter-year variability in the phenology of mile-a-minute and was an important indicator that control methods need to be applied before flowering occurs. To further evaluate how phenology and plant phenotypes vary among mile-a-minute populations, I conducted a greenhouse experiment. I grew mile-a-minute plants from seeds of regional and local populations under varying environmental conditions. I observed that mile-a-minute grew faster, larger, and was phenologically 2 advanced under warmer, wetter, and sunnier conditions. However, mile-a-minute survival and growth was still high under low resource conditions, and plants in low resource conditions began to reproduce by the eighth week of the experiment. Seed source was a significant predictor of growth and plant traits, indicating genetic differences among populations and among seed collection times. Surprisingly, differences among seed sources from the same populations collected at different times were similar to differences among populations. Mile-a-minute is primed to continue invading many habitats given its phenotypic plasticity and trait diversity produced by sexual reproduction. Although typically found in sunny, high light edge environments, mile-a-minute grows well in many environmental conditions, which means it can continue to spread to new environments. Since mile-a-minute can survive in low resource environments, land managers must survey deep into forests near infestations for plants as they may potentially seed.
  • Evaluating annual recruitment of sea duck populations in the Atlantic Flyway using harvest and photo survey juvenile proportions

    Hewitt, Jacob E. (SUNY Brockport, Department of Environmental Science and Ecology, 2023-09-08)
    Chapter 1: Sea duck (tribe mergini) populations in the Atlantic Flyway have experienced significant declines in recent years, though underlying causes are poorly understood. Information on population demographic parameters may provide insight for wildlife managers seeking to maintain sustainable harvest. However, population monitoring capacity for sea ducks is limited relative to other migratory bird species due to their remote breeding distribution. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service organizes a Parts Collection Survey (PCS) which estimates recruitment in sea duck populations using age ratios (juveniles/adult), though estimates are biased due to differential harvest vulnerability between age-cohorts. I used a direct-count photo survey to calculate improved estimates of annual recruitment for long-tailed duck, black scoter, surf scoter, and white-winged scoter (hereafter sea ducks) populations in the Atlantic Flyway. I and other surveyors collected photos of flighted sea ducks from shore and by boat in 11 states from October 15-December 15 annually in 2019-2022. We classified photographed birds according to age and sex and calculated juvenile proportions of each species using a Bayesian binomial model. To compare photo survey estimates with PCS estimates, I used a paired t-test organized by year. I found that PCS estimates of juvenile proportions were significantly greater than photo survey estimates for three sea duck species, indicating a consistent positive bias in PCS driven by harvest vulnerability. I also derived novel estimates of juvenile harvest vulnerability using the mean difference between within-year estimates. My work demonstrated the photo survey methodology used in this study produced reliable and precise annual recruitment estimates for four poorly monitored waterfowl populations; I recommend managers continue to adopt this approach in future years with additional consideration given for spatial representation and refinement of image classification procedures for long-tailed duck estimates. Chapter 2: Components of breeding productivity and survival rates in avian populations respond to dynamic environmental stressors across the annual cycle, which therein shape population dynamics over time. In sea ducks (tribe mergini), few studies have characterized the ecological factors that drive annual recruitment trends at the population level over time due to scarce scalable population information. Here, I leveraged historic harvest survey recruitment estimates (juvenile proportions) and indicators of environmental conditions at breeding, staging, and wintering areas from 1980-2017 to investigate factors influencing annual recruitment rates in eastern North American populations of long-tailed ducks (Clangula hyemalis), black scoters (Melanitta americana), white-winged scoters (M. delgandi) and surf scoters (M. perspicilatta). Recruitment rates in multiple species were positively associated with mean ambient temperatures at staging and breeding areas during spring. This supported my hypothesis that pre-nesting ice cover in key habitats limits breeding productivity by delaying breeding phenology and causing declines in female body condition. Surf scoter recruitment had a strong negative association with great gray owl irruptive migrations, suggesting surf scoters experience intensified predation pressure during low phases of vole population cycles and incur lower nest and brood survival rates. North Atlantic Oscillation patterns and staging area mean ambient temperatures in autumn showed associations with sea duck recruitment, suggesting harsh weather conditions post-fledging may precipitate early migratory movements that reduce juvenile survival rates or elicit greater proportions of adult sea ducks in subsequent harvests. My findings highlight important relationships between sea duck annual recruitment and ecological factors that may have considerable consequences for sea duck populations as ecosystems and climatic patterns undergo significant changes in the future.
  • Assessing floating treatment wetland effects on water quality at two scales and their potential to restore meadow marsh habitats

    Killigrew, Kevin Anthony (SUNY Brockport, Department of Environmental Science and Ecology, 2023-06-21)
    Freshwater wetlands are important ecological habitats that are often degraded by water quality issues from runoff events. Floating treatment wetlands (FTWs) can be an effective method to reduce and retain excess phosphorus in watersheds through plant and microbial uptake. This study aims to support the literature on FTWs and fill gaps in knowledge by testing specific plant and substrate treatments on phosphorus reduction and investigating the sustainability of FTWs. I examined changes in phosphorus concentrations in mesocosms and retention ponds using wetland plant species native to northeastern North America: Carex stricta (tussock sedge), Iris versicolor (northern blue flag), Juncus effusus (common rush), and Eleocharis palustris (common spikerush), as well as with coconut coir substrate and no substrate. Plant combinations of the FTWs included tussock species (tussock sedge/northern blue flag), reed species (common rush/common spikerush), and a mixture of reed and tussock species. I measured the percent change in concentrations for total phosphorus (TP), orthophosphate, chlorophyll-a, dissolved oxygen, specific conductivity, and pH. I also looked at extending FTW lifecycles by investigating overwintering and establishment success of FTW plants for reuse in future projects. The mesocosm study was conducted as two separate experiments during the 2020 and 2021 summer field seasons. The 2020 mesocosm study investigated changes in phosphorus and water quality metrics between soaked coconut coir substrate and no-substrate FTWs, as well as between no-substrate planted FTWs and unplanted controls. I found that FTWs with coconut coir substrate had significantly greater orthophosphate reduction than FTWs with no substrate, but no significant differences in phosphorus reduction between no-substrate plant treatments and controls. The 2021 mesocosm study investigated changes in phosphorus and water quality metrics between FTW functional groups with unsoaked coconut coir substrate. I saw an increase in TP and orthophosphate concentrations, and no significant differences between the plant treatments due to phosphorus leaching from the unsoaked coconut coir substrate. For the retention pond study, I did not find any significant differences in changes in phosphorus concentrations between FTW plant treatment ponds and FTW control ponds due to the low FTW coverage ratio and sample size. During the establishment study, I found that tussock species were most effective in overwintering and establishment, while reed species had the greatest number of flowering individuals when planted in soil following the end of the experiment. The findings suggest that FTW studies and applications should use coconut coir substrate since it significantly reduced orthophosphate in mesocosms and improved overall growth of plants, though researchers should be sure to flush out any phosphorus that may leach from the coir. Floating treatment wetland applications can also use any native wetland plant species since no real differences were found in TP or orthophosphate concentrations between reed species, tussock species, or mixtures. Any FTW study conducted on larger scales should be sure to have FTW coverage ratios of at least 5% or greater to see any contribution of FTW plants to changes in phosphorus concentrations or impact on water quality metrics. Lastly, it is encouraged that any FTW study or application take into consideration the sustainability of the FTWs, and reuse plants for future applications or for wetland restoration efforts.
  • Movement and life history diversity of Yellow Perch (Perca flavescens) between Lake Ontario and two barrier beach wetlands in the Braddock Bay Wildlife Management Area

    Wilson, Kylee Barbara (SUNY Brockport, Department of Environmental Science and Ecology, 2022-05-12)
    Yellow Perch (Perca flavescens) utilize both nearshore and coastal wetland habitats of the Laurentian Great Lakes during their lifetime and are known to exhibit different movement life histories. However, uncertainty persists in quantifying variability in the duration of habitat use and whether such variation manifests as morphometric differences depending on the degree of nearshore use. To explore these uncertainties, I used a multi-metric approach that included water and otolith microchemistry, tissue stable isotopes (𝛿15N, 𝛿13C), and body morphometric analysis. Manganese was useful for identifying movements between wetland and lake habitats while carbon and nitrogen tissue isotopes revealed variable duration of wetland use related to ontogeny. Morphometrically, Yellow Perch caught in Lake Ontario had smaller features relative to wetland caught Yellow Perch. My research suggests that otolith microchemistry is a useful tool for describing habitat transitions of Yellow Perch between these two habitat types. Tissue stable isotopes indicate that some Yellow Perch spend more time in coastal wetland habitats than others, which may influence their susceptibility to recreational harvest. Body morphometrics appear to reflect either use of more open habitats (e.g., Lake Ontario), or use of more complex habitats (e.g., coastal wetland).
  • Flight call response and energetics: two case studies analyzing migratory biology in select passerines on the south shore of Lake Ontario

    Gianvecchio, Michelle (SUNY Brockport, Department of Environmental Science and Ecology, 2021-07)
    Passerine migration is an energy-intensive behavior that occurs during spring and autumn, often between distant breeding and wintering grounds. Stopover sites provide places to rest and refuel. This two-part collaborative thesis studied extrinsic and intrinsic factors that affected the behavior and energetics of migratory passerines that visited Braddock Bay Bird Observatory (BBBO), located on the south shore of Lake Ontario. First, we compared the conspecific flight-call response of 2 parulid species captured spring 2018 and 2019 during the day and at dusk. Responsiveness was much lower at dusk, which suggests flight-call communication is likely not an important feature of dusk departure in parulids. Second, we constructed seasonal path models using BBBO bird banding data from 1999-2016 to examine the impacts of extrinsic (i.e., capture date and hour captured) and intrinsic (i.e., age and sex) factors on the energetic condition of 3 Catharus thrushes. Capture date was the most important predictor of condition followed by age and hour, except when sex was included in our models. However, analyses of sex were limited (and potentially inflated) because we could only determine the sex of the largest and smallest individuals in one species, the Swainson’s Thrush (C. ustulatus). Both studies showed that extrinsic and intrinsic factors have important implications on passerine migration behavior and physiology and that migratory behavior is complex and worthy of additional investigation.
  • The potential use of filamentous bacterial growth on stream macroinvertebrates as an indicator of nutrient enrichment

    Edwards, Madelynn R. (SUNY Brockport, Department of Environmental Science and Ecology, 2021-08)
    The influence of environmental stressors, such as nutrient enrichment and physical habitat degradation, can lead to a loss of biological integrity in streams. Nutrient enrichment in streams is a major concern in agriculturally dominated watersheds as fertilizers and animal waste runoff contaminate and pollute these systems through non-point source means. The impacts of nutrient enrichment on stream health requires further attention as well as the methods used to determine the source of contamination. One of the notable effects of nutrient addition in streams is the increased growth of aquatic, filamentous bacteria such as Sphaerotilus and Leptothrix. These bacteria have been known to colonize and grow on aquatic insects in nutrient enriched streams, and cases of high coverage on the insect have been found to be fatal. This study aims to analyze the differences in stream macroinvertebrate communities by looking at community composition, diversity, taxa richness, and biomass in nutrient enriched and non-enriched streams as well as evaluating the growth of filamentous bacteria on macroinvertebrates and its potential use as a bioindicator for nutrient pollution that is beyond extreme levels. Seasonal field measurements were taken of macroinvertebrate abundances, nutrient concentrations, and degree of bacterial growth on insects in six streams located in Western New York that were categorized as nutrient enriched or not based on nitrogen and phosphorus concentrations. Using non-metric multi-dimensional scaling (NMDS), analysis of similarities (ANOSIM), and similarity percentages (SIMPER), macroinvertebrate abundances in the enriched streams were compared to the non-enriched streams. The enriched and non-enriched streams were found to have significantly different macroinvertebrate communities, where the enriched streams had an abundance of pollution- tolerant organisms such as oligochaetes and leeches, while the nonenriched streams were mainly composed of pollution-sensitive insect species, and the non- Edwards 2 enriched streams were also significantly more diverse and had higher family richness. While the biological data indicate significant differences in stream integrity between the enriched and the non-enriched sites, bacterial growth and coverage did not follow similar expectations. There was no difference in the presence of bacteria between the enriched and non-enriched sites and the percentage of colonization was not greater in the enriched sites. Based on the data in this study, the use of filamentous bacteria growth on aquatic macroinvertebrates as a rapid bioindicator for nutrient enrichment in streams should be re-evaluated as nutrient levels in streams may not be the only contributing factor for bacterial growth to occur, and interpretation may not be broadly valid compared with traditional monitoring techniques
  • Abundance and composition of microplastics in surface waters and sediments of five south-central Lake Ontario tributaries

    Bleier, Tammy Lynn (SUNY Brockport, Department of Environmental Science and Ecology, 2022-09-01)
    More than 10,000 metric tons of plastic enter the Great Lakes every year. Most of this is microplastic, tiny plastic particles less than five millimeters in length or diameter. Microplastic pollution is a growing environmental concern in the Great Lakes where these particles can affect aquatic life as well as humans if ingested. To better understand potential sources of microplastics in Lake Ontario, we surveyed microplastic concentration in five tributaries within the south-central Lake Ontario basin in both surface waters and sediments. We analyzed the microplastic morphologies and polymer types and compared the results to three sites in nearshore south-central Lake Ontario. Tributaries surface samples had significantly higher microplastic concentrations (4.9 microplastics/m³) compared to lake sites (1.3 microplastics/m³). Tributary sediments had an average concentration of 0.16 microplastics/g dry weight. Fibers were the most common particle morphologies in tributary surface waters (49%) and sediments (52%) while fragments were the most common morphology found in lake surface waters (73%). These morphologies are harder for aquatic life to pass if ingested and are more likely to remain in the gut, leading to potential health issues and bioaccumulation in the food web. Polyethylene (recycling types two and four) and Other polymers (recycling type 7) accounted for over 90% of microplastics captured. Tributaries are important sources of microplastic pollution in south-central Lake Ontario and should be included in plastic prevention strategies. Furthermore, knowing the most prevalent morphologies and polymers may help to pinpoint sources of plastic and contribute to targeted prevention
  • Factors influencing thiamin concentrations in lake trout

    Heisey, AAron (SUNY Brockport, Department of Environmental Science and Ecology, 2022-01-12)
    Firstly, I would like to thank my major advisor Dr. Jacques Rinchard, for his dedication, time and commitment to his students. He has pushed me both academically and intellectually to become a better version of myself. Next, I would like to thank the rest of my graduate committee Drs. Brian Lantry, Donald Tillitt, and Matthew Altenritter who contributed to the conceptualization and execution of this thesis. Special thanks to the dedicated professionals at the United States Geological Survey - Lake Ontario Biological Station including Dr. Brian Weidel and Scott Minikiem, Dr. Michael Connerton from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, all those who assisted with annual lake trout and prey fish surveys, and finally to the staff at the Allegheny National Fish Hatchery for providing lake trout on short notice. This work would not be possible without their hard work and perseverance. The undergraduate laboratory assistants in Dr. Rinchard’s lab, including Jarrod Ludwig and Lillian Denecke deserved recognition for their dependability and diligence in assisting with laboratory work. Finally, financial assistance was provided by the Brockport Distinguished Professor Award, the Department of Environmental Science and Ecology, and the Great Lakes Research Consortium. On a personal note, I would like to thank my friends Kylee Wilson, Kyle Morton and the rest of the Altenritter’s lab for providing substantial moral support, thoughtful conversations and fond memories that made my time at Brockport special. Lastly, I would like to thank my parents Kim and Chris Heisey for the sacrifices they ii made to make my educational journey a reality. Their love and support made this thesis possible and for that I have immense gratitude.
  • Effects of an exotic invasive plant and microtopography on terrestrial salamander populations

    DeToy, Jessica (SUNY Brockport Department of Environmental Science and Ecology, 2021-08)
    Plant invasions can have strong, negative effects on some amphibians and represent a substantial challenge to conserving native biodiversity. However, invasive plant species do not always impose an immediate threat to amphibian populations and in some cases may facilitate increased abundance and provide additional habitat. The objective of my study was to determine how habitats invaded with pale swallowwort (Vincetoxicum rossicum) affected Plethodon cinereus and P. glutinosus salamander populations, their forest floor microclimate, and prey availability, and to determine if these parameters differed across a microtopographic gradient. I focused on these two plethodontid species because they were the most abundant within my study area at Oatka Creek County Park in Wheatland, New York during 2019 and 2020, and their many important roles within forested ecosystems have been widely studied. Plethodon glutinosus relative abundance peaked early during late summer 2019, while P. cinereus peaked during early fall. In 2020 P. cinereus relative abundance peaked in early April and late August, while P. glutinosus peaked in late summer. Peaks in the surface activity of both species corresponded to their documented life history patterns. P. cinereus relative abundance was significantly higher in uninvaded habitat during 2019 but did not differ between habitat types in 2020. There was no difference in P. glutinosus abundance between habitat types in either year. Plethodon cinereus relative abundance was highest in uphill topography types during both years, but P. glutinosus differed only during 2019. Generalized linear models predicting relative abundance showed positive relationships with the presence of the other Plethodon species, leaf litter depth, relative humidity, soil moisture, swallowwort cover, and arthropod abundance. There was also a negative relationship with temperature. Topography was an important factor in predicting relative salamander abundance, with more of an effect on P. cinereus relative to P. glutinosus, which may result from differences in microhabitat preference and morphology. Patterns in relative salamander abundance and distribution, as well as variation in abiotic parameters may be related to indirect effects of plant cover and microtopography. Ultimately, my findings suggest that swallowwort invasion does not directly and negatively impact P. cinereus and P. glutinosus and instead, may provide favorable microclimate and habitat features during periods of extreme weather, especially as dry spells and elevated temperatures become increasingly prevalent.
  • An investigation into the presence of slender false brome (Brachypodium sylvaticum) and its relationship with plant communities in New York State

    Aubertine, Megan Evelyn (SUNY Brockport, Department of Environmental Science and Ecology, 2022-08)
    Globalization has led to an increased frequency of biological introductions. These introductions have the potential to progress into invasions that negatively impact the recipient communities. However, not all species may have large impacts on native species or community assembly patterns. By understanding where invaders are likely to establish and their impacts, we can better allocate resources for early detection and rapid response to prevent future invasion. Brachypodium sylvaticum is an invasive grass in North America that is native to Eurasia and North Africa. First introduced in the Pacific Northwest, it has since made its way to the East Coast and western New York. As a relatively new invader, little is known about its environmental preferences, potential impact on communities, and its competitive ability. My study investigated these questions. In the first portion of my study I conducted vegetation surveys and environmental measurements in eight invaded and three uninvaded communities that varied in B. sylvaticum population size, environmental conditions, and forest types. As predicted, I found that water content and canopy cover determined B. sylvaticum abundance. It preferred drier soils within wetter sites, and wetter soil within drier sites. Contrary to my expectations, I found that B. sylvaticum abundance was not dependent on canopy type. Brachypodium is associated with lower species richness, which provides evidence that the invader is negatively impacting communities. However, impacts on recipient communities are limited to changes in richness as I did not find significant difference in community structure or assembly patterns between invaded and uninvaded quadrats. In the second portion of my study, I conducted a greenhouse competition experiment in which I selected species from my co-occurrence analyses to grow in competition with B. sylvaticum. I found that B. sylvaticum is not a strong competitor against another exotic grass Combined, my studies indicate that B. sylvaticum may not be a strong competitor on the east coast and may instead be a passenger of already degraded communities.
  • Acoustic telemetry data characterizes movement behaviors of yearling and sub-adult Lake Sturgeon (Acipenser fulvescens) within the Genesee River, NY

    Morton, Kyle Thomas (SUNY Brockport, Department of Environmental Science and Ecology, 2022-05)
    In the Laurentian Great Lakes basin, Lake Sturgeon (Acipenser fulvescens) populations were decimated by the turn of the 20th century, but in some areas are beginning to rebound after decades of ongoing rehabilitation efforts. In the Genesee River of Lake Ontario, hatchery-raised Lake Sturgeon have been stocked in hopes of re-establishing a healthy and self-sustaining population. To understand the efficacy of these efforts and to build an understanding of how these stocked individuals use the Genesee River and Lake Ontario habitats, ninety-nine juvenile lake sturgeon (30 sub-adults, 69 yearlings) were tagged with acoustic transmitters and tracked for approximately two years. Water quality parameters were monitored with the combined use of a USGS stream gauge and passive dissolved oxygen monitors. A multi-state model created to estimate survival and transitions from the Genesee River to Lake Ontario revealed that sub-adults had higher survival rate compared to yearlings. Yearling survival estimates were higher than previously estimated with capture-mark-recapture techniques, likely a result of being able to account for emigration. Sub-adults used both lake and river habitats more than yearlings, although both life stages frequently utilized both habitats. Seven sub-adults made large scale migrations (>100km) to either the Lower Niagara River or the St. Lawrence River. Hypoxic conditions that relate to discharge formed during the summer months within the Genesee River and appeared to limit Lake Sturgeon movements. The use of and survival in the Genesee River indicates that stocked juvenile Lake Sturgeon are using it as a nursery habitat. This has important implications when considering the efficacy of this management approach with implications for supplementing population abundance, understanding habitat use, and directing management efforts. Patterns of large-scale movements and nearshore habitat use exhibited by sub-adults should continue to be monitored as they could prove to influence vital rates (i.e., survival, recruitment, growth) and inform the degree of connectivity among populations throughout the Lake Ontario basin.
  • The effects of invasive slender false-brome (Brachypodium sylvaticum) on forest ecosystem function in western New York

    Leonardi, Andrew Frederick (SUNY Brockport, Department of Environmental Science and Ecology, 2022-05)
    The interconnectedness of the modern world has led to the spread of species outside of their normal range. Some species become invasive and can impact ecosystems by changing soil, water, and nutrient dynamics. Disrupting these important ecosystem processes can facilitate further invasion. Slender false-brome (Brachypodium sylvaticum) is an exotic bunchgrass that is invasive in North America. Its encroachment into forest understories may have implications for ecosystem processes and characteristics. The goal of this study was to understand the impacts of slender false-brome on forest ecosystem function. This study took place within two forests in western New York, one at Taughannock Falls State Park (TFSP), Trumansburg, and one in Danby State Forest (DSF), Danby. Replicate paired plots with and without B. sylvaticum were selected in each forest; each pair was matched by canopy cover and canopy type. In plots I measured vegetation, soil physical and chemical characteristics, soil moisture, soil respiration, and decomposition of leaf litter. I used generalized linear mixed models to determine variables that were the strongest predictors of soil nutrients, soil respiration, and leaf litter decomposition. All soil characteristics measured were significantly different between invaded and uninvaded plots except bulk density. At TFSP, invaded plots were enriched with organic matter (OM) and total nitrogen (TN). At DSF, invaded plots were enriched with phosphorus (P). Invaded plots at both sites had greater cation (Mg, Ca, K) concentrations, pH, and bulk density, and soil respiration and decomposition rates also increased in response to B. sylvaticum invasion. My results demonstrate that Brachypodium sylvaticum invasion significantly alters ecosystem processes, although initial site conditions do affect the magnitude and trend of some changes. Overall, B. sylvaticum has impacts on ecosystem processes like other flagship invasive species, however the impacts seem to change based on initial site conditions. I found that sites like Danby State Forest and Taughannock Falls State Park are at risk of changes in soil nutrients, soil respiration, and decomposition. A greater diversity of sites needs to be investigated to determine if other types of ecosystems are at risk from Brachypodium sylvaticum.
  • Effective control methods and the genetic and phenetic differences of European dewberry (Rubus caesius) among locations in the Finger Lakes Region of New York

    Amatangelo, Kathryn; Davis, Alexis Brianna (SUNY Brockport, Department of Environmental Science and Ecology, 2022-12)
    The colonization of invasive species is rapidly increasing due to human travel, trade, and disturbance. An area of focus in invasive species control efforts is in riparian zones, which are often highly invaded and disturbed systems. Rubus caesius (European dewberry) is a nonnative invasive woody shrub that has recently been observed to grow densely and spread through riparian ecosystems in western New York. Multiple locations have been noted, but it is not clear if all locations of Rubus caseius are correctly identified, as morphological and reproductive characteristics vary among them. Rubus caeisus is a relatively understudied invasive plant and it is not known how R. caesius is dispersing or how to effectively control extant locations. To understand the dispersal mechanisms of R. caesius I conducted a greenhouse cutting experiment and quantified the fruiting characteristics among six locations across western New York. I found that R. caesius is capable of reproducing via fragmentation regardless of source location, while only some locations produce large numbers of seeds. I investigated location differences through vegetative morphometrics and microsatellite fragment analysis. I found that all locations are identified correctly as R. caesius but there is some evidence for differentiation among the locations. Contrary to my expectations the most similar locations are not always the closest geographically. To evaluate effective control measures, I conducted a control experiment in a randomized block design at one located at Ganondagan State Historic Site in Victor, NY. I compared mechanical and herbicide treatments in different combinations of frequency, control method, and herbicide type. Treatments using chemicals were most effective in reducing the cover of R. caesius across a variety of environmental conditions. I also provide tentative evidence that repeated mechanical treatments are effective in reducing the cover of R. caesius. My determination of potential dispersal mechanisms and effective control methods will be useful for land managers as management strategies may need to differ based on reproductive traits among locations.
  • Post-implementation re-assessment of agricultural best management practices on watersheds of Conesus Lake: Effects on stream water chemistry and aquatic macroinvertebrate communities

    Beers, Daniel Thomas (SUNY Brockport, Department of Environmental Science and Ecology, 2022-11)
    Nutrient pollution is the third largest source of impairment of water quality in rivers and second largest in lakes in the US according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Agricultural best management practices (BMPs) are intended to improve water quality, reduce sediment and nutrient runoff, and remediate the effects of altered hydrology. BMPs were installed in the early 2000s in the Conesus Lake watershed and have shown initial success in reducing nutrient runoff in agricultural watersheds; however, continued monitoring of watersheds was recommended to determine if the BMPs remained effective over time. We compared water quality of agricultural BMP streams to non-BMP and reference streams in the Conesus Lake watershed to determine if BMP streams have better water quality than non-BMP streams. We also determined if there are differences in water quality in the BMP tributaries compared to prior pre- and post-BMP implementation monitoring periods. In addition, we performed an aquatic invertebrate diversity and biotic index study to determine if BMP streams have healthier populations of aquatic macroinvertebrates than non-BMP streams. We observed higher nutrient concentrations and loss of nutrients in the agricultural streams rather than the reference streams. However, our hypothesis that BMP streams would be significantly better in terms of water quality than non-BMP streams was generally not supported. In our analyses of parameters over time for the BMP streams, we observed that concentrations and loss per hectare were some of the highest we have recorded for many analytes in most streams. We also observed that BMP streams in the Conesus watershed do not have healthier invertebrate communities than the agricultural non-BMP steams. In some cases, this is likely driven by BMPs no longer implemented (or changes in land use). This could also be driven by climate change, more frequent storm events, greater storm intensity, and due to the timing of these storms. Previous studies have shown mixed results on whether BMP practices remain effective over time. BMPs should be made available throughout watersheds due to how effective they can be in reducing nutrient pollution, but they should not be considered “the be all end all” as they only provide partial solutions to watershed issues.
  • Benthic Macroinvertebrate Community Changes Following Zebra Mussel Colonization of Southwestern Lake Ontario

    Stewart, Timothy W.; The College at Brockport (1993-08-01)
    Changes in abundance and diversity of benthic macroinvertebrates inhabiting a natural cobble and artificial reef substrate in southwestern Lake Ontario were quantified following invasion of the zebra mussel, Dreissena polymorpha. Post-zebra mussel invasion data (1991-92) were statistically compared with pre-invasion data (1983) from the same sites. By 1991-92 zebra mussels comprised 73% and 90% of cobble and artificial reef macroinvertebrates, respectively, replacing the amphipod Gammarus fasciatus as the numerically dominant taxon at both sites. Overall abundance of non-zebra mussel taxa was significantly greater (p < 0.05) at cobble and artificial reef sites in 1991-92, than in 1983 before zebra mussels were present. Taxa exhibiting significant population increases at the cobble site during the time period separating the two studies were the annelids Manayunkia speciosa, Spirosperma ferox and unidentified tubificids; the gastropods Helisoma anceps,Physa heterostropha, Stagnicola catascopium, Valvata tricarinata, Goniobasis livescens and Amnicola limosa; and the arthropods Gammarus fasciatus and Orconectes propinquis. Significant population increases of Physa heterostropha, Goniobasis livescens, Amnicola limosa, Gammarus fasciatus and the trichopteran Polycentropus were observed at the artificial reef site. Although a few taxa sampled infrequently in 1983 were not collected in 1991-92, no taxa have decreased significantly since 1983. Comparisons of community composition in 1983 and 1991-92 suggest the cobble community has changed more than the artificial reef community. These changes are likely positive, as species richness was greater at cobble and artificial reef sites in 1991-92 relative to 1983, and Simpson's Diversity showed no decline. Though other factors may have contributed to observed native macroinvertebrate community changes, my results support theories that zebra mussels are facilitating energy transfer to the benthos by filter-feeding, and that mussel shoals are providing additional habitat for native invertebrate taxa.
  • The Effect of Highly Unsaturated Fatty Acids (HUFA) on Lake Trout (Salve linus namaycush) Alevins Using Artemia nauplii Enriched with Commercial Emulsions and Dry Diets

    Snyder, Blake J.; The College at Brockport (2011-10-12)
    Highly unsaturated fatty acids (HUFA) are important nutrients for fish survival, development, and reproduction. Fish oil (PO), rich in HUFA, is the dominant lipid source for first feeds in salmonid aquaculture. To determine if other lipid sources would influence survival, growth, and fatty acid profiles in lake trout (Salvelinus narnaycush) alevins, two 8-week feeding experiments were performed. Diets used in the Artemia Experiment included: diet 1, non-enriched Artemia; diet 2,SELCO-enriched Artemia; diet 3, Super SELCO-enriched Artemia; and diet 4, Bio Vita #0, all of which had significantly different fatty acid compositions. The Fish Oil Replacement Experiment used diets that differed solely in lipid source and fatty acid composition: diet 1, oleic acid (OA); diet 2, linseed oil (LO); diet 3, cod liver oil (CLO); and diet 4, lecithin (LE). Results from both experiments show that dietary lipid source and fatty acid composition can significantly influence survival, growth, and fatty acid composition of lake trout alevins. In the Artemia Experilnent, lake trout fed a non-enriched Artemia diet lacking in HUFA displayed lower growth than fish fed enriched Artemia diets that included HUFA although survival was not significantly different among treatments. Lake trout fed Super SELCO-enriched Artemia, which had the highest concentration of HUFA, did not differ statistically to lake trout fed SELCO-enriched Artemia for any growth parameter. In the Fish Oil Replacement Experiment, lake trout fed the OA diet, which was lacking in essential fatty acids (linolenic acid (18:3n-3) and linoleic acid (18:2n-6)) and HUFA, had significantly lower survival and growth. Fish fed CLO had significantly higher final length and mass but were statistically similar to fish fed the LE diet in regards to mass gain, SGR, FCR, and K. In both experiments, neutral and phospho-lipid fatty acid profiles of whole body lake trout were reflective of dietary fatty acids. These experiments suggest lipid source and dietary fatty acids can greatly affect the survival, growth, and fatty acid composition of lake trout alevins but alternatives to fish oil, such as vegetable oils, may be a suitable substitute in the first feed of lake trout.
  • Influence of Two Common Bryophytes on Acidity and Divalent Cation Concentrations in Standing Spring Water

    Bland, Stephen N.; The College at Brockport (2002-04-15)
    This laboratory experiment examines the influence of two common mosses on the pH and solute dynamics of water from a spring brook. Bivariate analysis of variance tests (MANOVA) revealed significant changes in concentrations of H+ and the combined variable, divalent cations (Ca++ & Mg++) over a three week incubation period in microcosms containing Thuidium delicatulum and Brachythecium rivulare, mosses commonly found in low order woodland streams. Divalent cation concentrations in the presence of moss were 36% higher, on average, than in similar microcosms with moss absent. In microcosms containing decomposing wood, W concentrations were 15% lower in the presence of moss. There were approximately 7 mg of divalent cations in every gram of moss tissue (AFDM), while a gram of wood contained 1-2 mg of divalent cations, values similar to those reported elsewhere in the literature. I suggest reversed cation exchange is the mechanism responsible for elevated divalent cation concentrations and changes in solute dynamics. A hypothesis concerning expected responses of fungal enzymes to the observed changes in solute dynamics is discussed.
  • Sedge/Grass Meadow Restoration on Former Agricultural Land: Analysis of Establishment Success

    Healy, Alexander Joseph; The College at Brockport (2013-05-01)
    Sedge/grass meadow wetland restoration was conducted at three study sites located in about 4 ha of agricultural land recently acquired by New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) adjacent to West Creek at its confluence with Braddock Bay in Hilton, Monroe County, New York. The restoration was conducted within a 75.35 to 75.60 m (IGLD1985) elevation range previously identified as capable of supporting sedge/grass meadow in Lake Ontario wetlands. This project consisted of an initial baseline survey during spring 2009, a seed-bank emergence study that began in September 2009 and terminated in early July 2010, restoration implementation during summer 2010, and follow-up after implementation during August 2010, 2011, and 2012. Data from other Lake Ontario drowned river- mouth wetlands and a study site at Kents Creek served as references. Implementation at the three study sites began with disking in May 2010 to expose fresh soil and remove much of the old plant growth. Locally-sourced wetland seed mixes, plus seeds from Canada bluejoint grass (Calamagrostis canadensis) and tussock sedge (Carex stricta), were purchased, cold-stratified, and sown with shoulder-broadcast seed spreaders in June 2010 in the study site planted areas. Plugs of Canada bluejoint grass and tussock sedge were also hand-planted in the same areas. Sections of each disked site area were left unplanted and unseeded to serve as controls. At two of the sites, natural wetland remnants, near areas dominated primarily by river bulrush (Schoenoplectus fluviatilis) in 2009, were not disked, planted, or seeded. Plant surveys were conducted in the study site planted, control, and natural wetland areas, as well as in the 2009 baseline survey, by sampling in randomly- placed 1m2 quadrats. Plant data (frequency and percent cover of species in 1m2 quadrats) were used to calculate Importance Values; species were classified according to the National List of Vascular Plant Species that Occur in Wetlands; statistical tests were performed to determine important species and total percent cover and species count differences among study site areas; and data from all three sites across all four years were analyzed by ordination using non-metric multidimensional scaling (NMDS) in sample x Importance Value matrices. Fifteen of the 42 seeded/planted species, 38 remnant sedge/grass meadow associates, and 36 potentially problematic (agricultural weed) species were identified in study site community samples across years, and additional species continue to be found. Following restoration, seeded species diversity increased in each subsequent year, and potentially problematic species generally decreased each subsequent year. Drought conditions during 2012 likely affected survival of some wetland species with greater water demand. Control treatments on high-canopy, annual agricultural weeds by mowing at a height of about 30 cm also affected plant community changes. The seed-bank emergence study did not successfully predict ultimate community composition following implementation, likely because survival of plants from seed is often dictated by post-recruitment processes. Instead, seeded species, remnant vegetation, and nearby refuge populations seemed to contribute more to establishment in the planted areas than the original seed bank. The NMDS ordination showed that the 2009 baseline plant communities had been displaced by 2010, likely as a result of implementation actions. The ordination also showed that overall communities in the planted areas at the three sites changed from year to year and largely converged with the unplanted controls by 2012, which suggests that remnant vegetation was highly influential and nearby refuge populations made contributions as seeded species spread throughout control and planted site areas. Post-restoration sampling at the restoration sites identified 21 species that were found in the Lake Ontario drowned river-mouth wetland reference data base and six species sampled at the Kents Creek reference site. Reference data suggest that the restoration sites reflect sedge/grass meadow conditions but also contain many other species associated more commonly with disturbed sites. The future plant community at these restoration sites will likely be dependent on survival and expansion of sedge/grass meadow species, as influenced by soil moisture and competition from remnant agricultural weed species. Prolonged drought could potentially extirpate many of the seeded/planted species, especially if those conditions occurred in successive years. Monitoring results showed that competition can be mitigated by repeated, well-timed mowing that cuts taller annual plants before seed set and opens the canopy for underlying sedges and sedge/grass meadow associates currently found beneath them.
  • Soil and Vegetation Changes across a Restoration Chronosequence: An Evaluation of Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP) sites in West-central New York, USA

    Brown, Jordan; The College at Brockport (2013-04-01)
    Wetland restorations in the United States, including those sponsored by the federal Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP), are driven by the prospect of regaining critical ecosystem services lost during centuries of wetland destruction. Yet, service provision is contingent on the recovery of basic wetland functions, such as carbon (C) storage, which is especially tentative (and unverified) in WRP projects in west-central New York (WCNY), USA because those involve installing isolated wetlands on sites directly degraded by agricultural conversion. To assess recovery, I collected soil and vegetation data from 17 of WCNY’s WRP sites restored from tillage or non- tillage agriculture, aged 0-15 years since restoration at the time of sampling (August-October 2010). These were subjected to chronosequence-based analyses designed to detect divergence from a pre-restoration baseline (calculated using data from active agricultural fields paired to each WRP site) and/or convergence towards a “natural” condition (determined using data from four naturally-occurring, depressional, Palustrine Emergent wetlands within the same region). Restored WRP soils remained similar to agricultural soils in terms of organic matter, density, moisture, and belowground plant biomass across the chronosequences, indicating negligible C storage and soil development during the first 15 years. Additionally, soil development is limited in both post-tillage and post-non-tillage restorations and limited throughout the disparate habitat zone types that occur on these sites (upland meadows, emergent-dominated shorelines, and permanent open-water areas). Plant metrics like vascular species richness, cover of certain qualitative groups, and biomass matched natural wetlands within 15 years. Yet, recovery of some metrics was only detected in previously tilled sites, while other metrics only displayed recovery in untilled sites. Additionally, recovery was often detected in only one of the three habitat zones, collectively suggesting that different plant metrics are differentially influenced by the conditions imposed by historical tillage and/or the zone in which they are measured. Vegetation analyses also showed that plant community recovery can be complicated when plant parameters in restoration sites “overshoot” beyond natural conditions. In conclusion, ecological recovery in WRP restorations in WCNY is variable, depending on metric, land-use history, and habitat zone. Although generally, many plant community features recover rapidly and despite limited recovery in soil physicochemical properties.

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