Center for Earth and Environmental Science Faculty Work
The Center for Earth and Environmental Science at SUNY Plattsburgh is an interdisciplinary unit consisting of geology, geography, environmental science, environmental studies, and ecology programs. With over 200 students and twenty faculty member, CEES offers a great diversity of courses with small classes. Ten academic programs within the center integrate across the disciplines.
Wildlife Response to Wildfire in a Northern New York Jack Pine BarrensNatural disturbances are an integral part of forested ecosystem function and successional path-ways. In many forested ecosystems, wildfires are critical to shaping composition and structure, which in turn has major implications for wildlife usage and behavior. In July 2018 a wildfire burned 225 ha of the Altona Flat Rock pine barrens in northern New York. This event presented the opportunity to study how wildlife respond to the immediate effects of disturbance in this unique habitat but also how that response would change through time as regeneration progressed. Game cameras were deployed from September 2018-September 2020 at two reference (unburned) and two disturbed (burned) sites within the pine barrens. We analyzed total and seasonal occurrences, to determine how usage differed between disturbed and reference conditions, and with time since disturbance. Additionally, for coyote (Canis latrans, Say), white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus, Zimmermann), and snowshoe hare (Lepus americanus, Erxleben), we evaluated daily activity patterns and overlap to determine how predator-prey relationships differed between conditions, and with time since disturbance. Over 730 days a total of 1,048 wildlife occurrences were captured across 23 wildlife species. Fifty-seven percent of all occurrences were at reference sites with over 100 more occurrences than disturbed sites, however, differences were most pronounced immediately following the fire and overall occurrences have grown more similar between the sites over time. Specifically, deer and hare were found more often at reference sites immediately following the fire, but shifted to using both conditions equally by the first growing season. Habitat overlap among sympatric prey (deer, hare) can be explained by understory regeneration increasing foraging opportunities and concealment cover in the disturbed condition, while predators (coyotes) tracked prey availability regardless of the habitat condition. This study provides wildlife management guidance on habitat use and response to disturbance for this unique sandstone pavement barrens.
Forest pests and wood pellets: A literature review of the opportunities and risks in the United States’ northeastern forestsAs interest in alternatives to fossil fuels increases, low quality timber may become more attractive as feedstock material for biomass energy. This low-quality timber, referred to here as salvage wood, can be used to manu- facture wood pellets, a densified biomass energy product which can be used for electricity and heating. The process of converting wood to pellets also results in total pest mortality in the final product, an important consideration given wood pellet’s international market and global concerns about phytosanitation, or the risk of pest spread. However, there is still potential to spread pests in the wood pellet supply chain. To better under- stand the potential benefits for forest health and the phytosanitary risks of the use of salvaged wood in the wood pellet supply chain, our study systematically reviews the literature published between 2000 and 2018, gleaning applicable considerations for the northeastern United States (US), a region already affected by the highest density of damaging forest pests in the country and an up-tick in wood pellet use. Our review focuses on three pest species likely to incur considerable change in northeastern US forests: emerald ash borer (Agrilus planipennis or EAB; an exotic, invasive species), hemlock woolly adelgid (Adelges tsugae Annand, or HWA; an exotic, invasive species), and southern pine beetle (Dendroctonus frontalis Zimmermann, or SPB, a native species). Our review finds that wood pellets are being recognized as phytosanitary in their final form and that the forest health opportunities for the use of salvaged wood exist are beginning to be acknowledged in the region. However, our results also indicate that the spread of pests is still possible in the feedstock pre-treatment supply chain, which have yet to be directly addressed in US-related scientific literature. Our review concludes that further research and action on the phytosanitary risks in the supply chain focus on individual pest species behavior during harvesting, on-site comminution of feedstock material, and local processing at facilities within USDA APHIS (United States Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service) quarantine zones for maximum mitigation. The results of these considerations can accrue benefits for forest health, mitigate the spread of forest pests, and support the use of an alternative energy to fossil fuels in a changing climate.
Bringing the Forest Home: Lessons Learned during the COVID-19 Pandemic about E-Planning in Community Forestry ContextsThis paper examines “e-planning,” or the use of computer-based systems to conduct planning and decision-making, in the context of community forest management. E-planning is growing in the field of environmental planning, as it promises greater equity in terms of public participation. However, a lack of scholarly work exists on the applicability for forest planning. During the COVID-19 pandemic, county foresters and other natural resource professionals in Vermont turned to e-planning when safety restrictions limited their ability to engage in face-to-face efforts. This provided an opportunity to collect empirical data about the potential for e-planning to support the public engagement process in the context of forest planning. We provide an overview of e-planning theory and examine data from Vermont to explore the promise of e-planning for forest management. We make recommendations about the applicability of e-planning in the context of forest planning, and highlight areas for future research to investigate.
TrashTrackerThe goal of the TrashTracker in-class service learning project was to increase awareness of litter habits on campus and inform buildings and grounds as to where improvements could be made. Students developed a smartphone app using Epicollect and Google Forms to monitor trash on campus and in the greater Plattsburgh area. The project was designed, promoted, implemented, monitored, analyzed, and presented by the ENV436/536 Population and Community Ecology course students in Spring 2013 to stakeholders. The TrashTracker app and project has since been duplicated on SUNY Fredonia's campus.