• Discerning Differences in the Plant Traits of the Floral Communities of Mt. Washington, NH, by Incorporating Intraspecific Variability Analysis

      Amatangelo, Kathryn; Penberthy, Matthew; The College at Brockport (2018-04-30)
      Plant functional traits allow ecologists to assess the ways floral communities respond to abiotic and biotic factors. By analyzing these traits, we can then ultimately assume the factors that control species distribution and community composition. Here, I analyzed plant traits (plant height, leaf area, specific leaf area, and leaf dry matter content) of four herbaceous plants found growing atop Mt. Washington, NH in sheltered snowbanks. They are also found in the sub-alpine understory. I examined baseline differences between the alpine and sub-alpine sites, analyzed differences in intraspecific variability, and also measured the sub-alpine sites’ trait differences associated with canopy closure (light availability). Comparing plant traits along this elevational gradient, from alpine to sub-alpine using measures of intraspecific variability, allows us to investigate any underlying effects. These include differences in air temperature, light availability, and solar radiation. As a result, compared to the sub-alpine, we observed lower SLA, smaller leaf area, and higher LDMC in the alpine snowbed. Further analysis of the sub-alpine with a comparison of light availability also revealed differences in SLA, LDMC, and leaf area for some species. Overall, intraspecific variability detailed each populations’ underlying response to environmental conditions. This approach will be critical to continue studying in terms of expected environmental changes to occur in the region.
    • Ecology of Botfly Parasitism in White-Footed Mice (Peromyscus leucopus)

      Norment, Christopher; Pilakouta, Natalie; The College at Brockport (2010-05-01)
      White-footed mice (Peromyscus leucopus) are an abundant species in eastern deciduous forests. The objective of this study was to examine the ecology of botfly parasitism in a white footed mouse population in the Brockport Woods, Brockport, NY. I analyzed data collected by live trapping in May and September from 1993 to 2009. Males and females exhibited similar levels of botfly infestation. When a greater percentage of mice was infected with botflies, there was a significant increase in average body mass. I also found that as fall trap success increased, the proportion of mice with botflies decreased, but the number of infected mice remained relatively constant over time. This may be due to the fluctuation of P. leucopus populations, which is characterized by rapid increases and sudden collapses, so there may not be enough botflies to take advantage of all the available hosts at high densities. Botfly infection did not have an impact on overwinter survival. Lastly, spring abundance was most affected by trap success in the previous fall and two weather variables; spring abundance increased when fall trap success and mean January temperature increased and when total January snowfall decreased. These three variables, however, did not explain all of the observed variability in abundance. Population fluctuations in P. leucopus are complex, so future studies should look at other factors that could be responsible for driving abundance of this species.
    • Investigating the allelopathic effects of pale swallowwort (Cynanchum rossicum) on the growth success of common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) and pale swallowwort

      Amatangelo, Kathryn; DeToy, Jessica; The College at Brockport (2017-12-14)
      Invasive species seriously threaten both biodiversity and ecosystem functionality. One mechanism that makes invasive plants successful is allelopathy, which is the release of chemical compounds that have negative effects on other plants. A vine that is native to the Ukraine region and is now highly invasive in Western New York is Pale swallowwort (Cynanchum rossicum). It has the capability to change the growth situation in favor of itself by releasing allelochemicals into the soil. Thus far, little research has been conducted to examine the direct effects of swallowwort allelopathy on the growth of native plants. To accomplish this, two types of soil from two local sites were collected; the first that contained swallowwort remains, and the second that did not contain any swallowwort. The native and confamilial species Asclepias syriaca (common milkweed) and swallowwort were planted in these soil types where growth was compared. It was hypothesized that the growth of milkweed would be limited by the swallowwort soil due to allelopathy and that swallowwort growing in soil containing remains of swallowwort would thrive. Analysis of growth data indicated that there were no significant differences in the success of swallowwort growing in both soil types and that milkweed growing in swallowwort soil was significantly smaller than milkweed planted in the control for one of two sites. This suggested that allelopathy or other changes to the soil induced by swallowwort may affect the growth of milkweed and improve the overall competitive ability of swallowwort.
    • The effects of pale swallowwort (Vincetoxicum rossicum) on forest moth communities

      Amatangelo, Kathryn; Jackson, Wyatt; The College at Brockport (2018-05-17)
      Pale swallowwort (Vincetoxicum rossicum) is an invasive vine that is rapidly invading northeastern forested ecosystems. Due to its broad tolerance of abiotic conditions and competitive advantage, it is perceived as a threat to native plant communities. Our study sought to determine whether or not invasion by pale swallowwort had a pronounced impact on moth (Lepidoptera) communities. We surveyed three pairs of deciduous forest plots and three pairs of coniferous forest plots. Each pair had a swallowwort plot and a plot without swallowwort. We used light traps to collect a total of 2,039 moths from 19 families and assessed differences in mean abundance, richness, and diversity. We found no differences in moth communities between canopy types or swallowwort plot types. We also assessed differences in abundance of four taxa (Halysidota tessellaris, Idia aemula, Malacosoma americana, and Noctua pronuba), which were all more abundant in deciduous canopy plots. This suggests that the scale of an invasion and the quality of habitat invaded are both important factors to note when trying to quantitatively assess their impacts on higher trophic levels.