Browsing Center for Earth and Environmental Science Student Work by Subject "Rugar Woods"
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Field and Molecular Survey of Northern and Southern Flying Squirrels in Northern New YorkIn northern New York, there are 2 sympatric species of flying squirrel, the northern (Glaucomys sabrinus) and southern (Glaucomys volans). Recent research suggests that the boundaries between the northern and the southern flying squirrels have been shifting northward, in part due to climate change affecting resource availability. As a result, northern New York would now be the southern terminus for northern, and the northern terminus for the southern flying squirrels. The goal of our research is to develop a molecular survey of the two species that can be compared to morphological measurements made in the field to better confirm species in our area. As weather permits, we are establishing an arboreally mounted trapline and recovering scat, hair, and other tissue samples for DNA extraction, polymerization chain reaction (PCR), and restriction digests to determine species. The molecular assay has been optimized; however the harsh winter has limited our trapping success for tissue collection in the field. Determining frequency of capture will assist in predicting where the boundary of these species lies in Clinton County.
Inventory of Small and Large Mammal Diversity in a Fragmented Landscape: A Baseline for Investigating Ecological Impacts of Human DisturbanceSystematic study of biological diversity is a prerequisite for understanding the ecological effects of climate instability and human disturbance. Our study is part of the Rugar Woods All Taxa Biological Inventory (ATBI) project, which seeks to document the biodiversity of Rugar Woods. We performed a field survey to inventory small and large mammals within Rugar Woods, a 50-acre, temperate, mixed forest. We collected five replicate measurements of both track and stride length and width, as well as photo-documented and georeferenced each track. All observations of sign were inventoried in a database and spatially explored with the iNaturalist application. We recorded ten mammal species, from five families. The most frequently recorded species were weasels (Mustelidae), including long-tailed weasel, fisher, river otter, and mink. We recorded a red fox (Canidae), white-footed mouse (Rodentia), beaver (Rodentia), and grey squirrel (Rodentia), a raccoon (Procyonidae), and white-tailed deer (Cervidae). Mammal tracks were commonly recorded on the ice of the Saranac River where domestic dog tracks were infrequent, and open space likely facilitated animal movement. A majority of tracks were recorded from riparian emergent and scrub-shrub habitats. These habitats are ecologically productive, and are thus integral components of the predator-prey food web. Because of the impending removal of the Imperial Dam, our data provide an important baseline for studying the cascading ecological effects of dam removal. Additionally, the documented mammal species are an essential part of the forest community, and their presence in a fragmented urban forest is encouraging. Finally, many are also disease vectors (e.g., Lyme disease and rabies), thus understanding their habitat use patterns is vital for ecological epidemiology.
Natural History Interpretation of Rugar WoodsRugar Woods Interpretive Nature Trail is a <1mile loop in the woods behind the SUNY Plattsburgh fieldhouse. The trail meanders along a stream and provides natural history learning opportunities in the form of 23 interpretive signs, each with interactive QR codes to learn more with online supplemental materials. This nature trail is a collaboration of SUNY Plattsburgh students and faculty and was made possible by funding from a student-subsidized Green Fee granted through the Campus Committee For Environmental Responsibility and the Lake Champlain Basin Program's Champlain Valley Natural Heritage Program.
Vernal Pool Status Following Two Major Disturbances (100 year flood and Hurricane Irene)Vernal pools are crucial for the survival of herpetofaunal species. These temporary ponds are necessary breeding sites for many amphibious species and act as safe refugia, as many lack permanent predators that would be encountered in other more constant water bodies. The goal of this survey was to relocate and map the area and contagion (i.e., patch isolation, arrangement) of 16 vernal pools located in Rugar Woods, which were previously inventoried by Cody Carpenter 2011. Additionally, we sought to assess these vernal pools, following two severe disturbances, specifically the 100 year flood and Hurricane Irene. A global positioning system (GPS) device was used to mark the size of each vernal pool and georeference them in GIS. Results suggest that large disturbances have affected the distribution and abundance of these pools at Rugar Woods. Specifically, several vernal pools (#7, 8, 9) have now merged into one large pool. Additionally, the abundance of vernal pools has gone from 16 to 7 since 2011. The merging of 3 smaller pools serves to increase area and may support greater species richness including predators, as it may be more permanent. In addition, loss of pools increases pool isolation, perhaps leading to genetic drift effects. Findings from this study offer insights into how large-scale disturbance events can influence herpetofaunal communities.