Now showing items 1-20 of 78

    • "Deer in the Duff: Does Habitat Impact Deer Activity Patterns? "

      Fritz, Jordan; Ehrensbeck, Ethan; Baran, Mark; Garneau, Danielle; Lesser, Mark (2023-12-06)
      "Forest communities vary due to patch dynamics resulting from differing successional trajectories following disturbances. The habitat mosaic left behind in the wake of disturbances both biotic (e.g., beaver, forest pests and pathogens) and abiotic (e.g., wildfire, wind, ice storm) can have profound effects on forest structure and composition. These stand-level differences in community composition and age structure can alter browse quantity and quality and limit white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) abundance on a seasonal basis. In fall 2023, we performed a deer pellet count survey to estimate deer density differences across three different forest types 1) recently burned jack pine (Pinus banksiana)-dominated barrens (2018 wildfire), 2) unburned (1957 wildfire since regenerated barrens), and 3) a hardwood forest at the Flat Rock sandstone pavement barrens in Altona, NY. We predicted the highest deer densities would be in the hardwood forest due to the diversity in overstory species and availability of hardwood mast. Concurrent long-term wildlife monitoring surveys across habitats within the Flat Rock offered game camera access in order to compare estimates of techniques in each of the three forest types. Game cameras added behavioral observations of deer diel activity, demographics (e.g., age structure, gender), and abiotic conditions such as temperature and moonphase to our study. Pellet count estimates of deer densities in the hardwood and recently burned stands were 15.88 and 4.76 deer/mi2, respectively. Deer pellets were not detected in the unburned barrens. Game cameras detected three and six times more deer in the hardwood as compared to the burn and unburned stands, providing support for use of pellet count surveys. Behavioral patterns were similar across sites with travel and vigilance being observed more often than browsing. White-tailed deer behavior is largely diurnal at all sites, with additional activity mid-day in the burn, at 6AM and 7PM at the unburn, and 2AM in the hardwood stands. Age structure differed across sites with the unburn having all adult deer and gender ratios of 9.6 and 11:1 adults to juveniles in the burn and hardwood stands, respectively. Average group size was similar across sites ranging from solitary deer in the unburn to average groups of 1.35 and 1.4 deer at the hardwood and burn sites, respectively. Our general habitat-specific deer density estimates were similar for both non-invasive techniques, which provides wildlife managers options that are more cost-effective and less time intensive for surveys across a large study area. White-tailed deer hunting is a major source of revenue in Upstate New York and any efforts to make hunters more efficient at harvest by offering target habitats and times of day are helpful given the lack of top predators available to regulate this abundant resource."
    • The influence of different silvicultural practices and soil characteristics on herpetofaunal communities in northern New York

      Wholey, James; Palladino, Alex; Garneau, Danielle (2023-12-06)
      "There are many different species of herpetofauna in upstate New York, in part due to our abundance of wetlands. Forested areas with soil rich in organic matter, dense leaf litter, moist soils, and abundant coarse woody debris are particularly suitable. We aimed to compare herpetofaunal communities at two upstate New York sites 1) an experimental forest that underwent a suite of silvicultural practices at the Paul Smiths Visitor’s Interpretive Center (VIC), Franklin County and 2) a managed woodlot (Godwin Woods) in Morrisonville, Clinton County. In fall 2023, we implemented a cover object search of rocks, logs, and coverboards, along riparian habitat at Godwin Woods (Riley Brook) and experimentally manipulated forest patches (FERDA plots) at Jenkins Mountain on the Logger’s Loop trail (Paul Smiths). For each individual, we used ArcGIS Survey123 to georeference, catalog an image, microhabitat, soil type, and metrics such as weight and snout-to-vent length. Soil was sampled from herpetofaunal sites, as well as random points to compare percent moisture and organic carbon, as well as pH differences. Herpetofaunal communities were unique and species richness was low at both sites VIC (S=3) and Godwin Woods (S=2). VIC herpetofauna was dominated by red-backed salamanders (Plethodon cinereus), as well as American toad (Anaxyrus americanus) and spring peepers (Pseudacris crucifer). Godwin Woods herpetofauna were less abundant and consisted of northern dusky (Desmognathus fuscus) and northern two-lined salamanders (Eurycea bislineata). Herpetofauna were most abundant at sites least disturbed (e.g., individual tree cut and control). In addition, the percent soil moisture at herpetofaunal locations at both the VIC and Godwin Woods was greater than those of random control samples. Soil organic carbon at herpetofaunal sites was higher and lower than random sites at the VIC and Godwin Woods, respectively. All soil variables were significantly different across sites and likely influenced herpetofaunal community composition and abundance. Our findings serve as an important reminder to landowners and foresters of the need to consider the consequences of overstory management practices on sensitive understory wildlife species."
    • Death in the Fast Lane: Assessing the Variables Surrounding Vehicle Caused Wildlife Mortality

      Gilman, Christien; Garneau, Danielle (2023-12-06)
      Roads segment Earth’s land surface into ~600,000 fragments. This habitat fragmentation leads to, unsurprisingly, frequent collisions with wildlife. Vehicle collisions are second only to legal harvesting in regards to anthropogenic mortality for numerous vertebrate species. In addition to increased mortality, roads can affect local hydrology, sediment and debris transport, water and air chemistry, microclimate and pollution. Variation in speed limits, road characteristics, weather conditions and fragmentation of existing contiguous habitats are expected to influence wildlife mortality. We hypothesized increased speed limits and roads bisecting developed and undeveloped land cover would lead to increased mortality. We used online data gathering application ArcGIS Survey123 to document and catalog instances of vehicle-caused wildlife mortality in Northern New York and Vermont. For 2023, two routes were driven regularly representing primarily forested and agricultural areas respectively. This was combined with a pre-existing dataset containing observations from across the country. Statistical analysis was undertaken in order to determine species distribution as well as how land cover type, speed limit, and road characteristics relate to wildlife mortality. Our study concluded that mammals accounted for the majority of animals killed on roads. Roadkill events occurred primarily in areas of low intensity development and mixed forests. Increased road speed appeared to correlate with increased mortality. Data from our 2023 sampling regimen parallels that of the national dataset. The most frequently found animals were the common raccoon (Procyon lotor), striped skunk (Mephetis mephetis), and Virginia opossum (Didelphis virginiana). This research allows us to see how continued development and habitat fragmentation is directly affecting wildlife populations in areas of human development.
    • Bioblitz or Bust: A Biolblitz Survey of Godwin Woods

      McLaughlin, Brianna; Grossman, Leslie; Murphy, McKenzie; Cook, Isabella; Garneau, Danielle (2023-12-06)
      "A bioblitz is a rapid survey of the living species in a given area; therefore, the main purpose of a bioblitz study is to grasp the biodiversity of an ecosystem. Bioblitzes have become a reliable and effective tool used by government agencies, citizen science projects, and other private groups to collect biodiversity inventories in a short period of time. Even schools, colleges,and other institutions conduct these events as a means of stewardship and engagement. During fall 2023, we conducted a bioblitz of Godwin Woods, a privately owned property, in Morrisonville, New York which is bisected by Riley Brook. We predicted the forested microhabitat would have the highest species richness on the property because of the presence of the riparian area. In order to maximize diversity, we surveyed two different microhabitats, specifically a forest and meadow ecotone. At both sites, a variety of capture methods were used, specifically Sherman live traps for small mammals, minnow traps for fish, and two non-invasive survey methods Merlin smartphone app acoustic detection for birds songs and a game camera for large mammals among other taxa. The species richness was 22 species for the forest and 12 species for the meadow ecotone, indicating 47% similarity between communities. Species shared were white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus), mice (Peromyscus sp.), gray squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis), raccoon (Procyon lotor), coyote (Canis latrans), gray fox (Urocyon cinereoargenteus), brown creeper (Certhia americana), and American crows (Corvus brachyrhynchos). Certain species that were unique to the meadow ecotone were the northern flying squirrel (Glaucomys sabrinus) and red fox (Vulpes vulpes) and the turkey (Meleagris gallopavo) and eastern chipmunk (Tamias striatus) in the forest. Largely differences in the community resulted from a rich diversity of birds within the forested microhabitat. Our findings will help inform the landowner of unique species found on his property and better inform his forest management plan to promote a healthier wildlife population and reduce the risk of nuisance species that might increase disease risk (e.g., Lyme and other tick-borne illnesses)."
    • Whiskers in the Storm: Exploring the Rollercoaster of Disturbances Impacting Small Mammal Populations

      Agoney, Amanda; Duprey, Macey; Garneau, Danielle (2023-12-06)
      Our understanding of how disturbances influence small mammal communities is vital given their role as seed predators and dispersers, intermediate hosts for disease vectors, and as prey for higher trophic levels. We must consider landscape-level disturbance, both natural and anthropogenic, as well as habitat management practices to ensure resilient ecosystems. Disturbances can negatively impact small mammal populations. Studies have shown that deforestation, urbanization and silvicultural practices (harvesting) can reduce diversity and abundances of small mammals in favor of the common deer (Peromyscus maniculatus) and white-footed mice (P. leucopus). In fall 2023, we conducted a small mammal survey across a gradient of disturbance, specifically wildfire (Altona Flat Rock 2018), silviculture (harvesting in Ellenburg Depot), and urbanization (City of Plattsburgh industrial park) and paired these sites with adjacent undisturbed reference sites in northern NY. We hypothesized that there would be greater diversity and abundances in small mammal populations at the undisturbed sites. To test this hypothesis, we performed weekly monitoring of Sherman traplines in all sites and performed mark recapture, as well as collected metrics such as weight, gender, and body and tail length. The greatest abundance of small mammals was found within the silviculture harvested site. Long-term monitoring at the Altona Flat Rock suggests that small mammal abundance has been declining since the 2018 wildfire. A species common to all sites was Peromyscus sp., a red-backed vole (Myodes rutilus) and an eastern chipmunk (Tamias striatus) were found in the unharvested and unburned sites, respectively. No animals were present at the urban disturbed site. There was a significant difference in weight among Peromyscus sp. across sites, but not length indicating differences in habitat quality. Apart from the urban site, all disturbed sites possessed the greatest small mammal abundance and their paired undisturbed sites the greatest diversity. There are additional explanations for these results besides disturbance, in particular regional tree masting cycles, which provide a reliable seed source for granivores could be contributing. Understanding how disturbances affect small mammals is essential for biodiversity conservation. Monitoring small mammals can provide early warnings about environmental issues and disturbances, helping researchers and conservationists respond to potential problem.
    • Palatable Plastics: Assessment of Microplastic Abundance in Pelagic Fish of the Saranac River, NY

      Sherwood, Davin; McDonough, Thomas; Garneau, Danielle (2023-12-06)
      "Microplastics have plagued fish communities since the inception of industrialization and regulations have not been keeping pace. Microplastics are defined as particulates less than 5mm in size and are characterized by type (e.g., fragment, fiber, film, foam, bead, and nurdle/pellet), color, polymer, and size. Fish uptake particulates via ingestion, gill adhesion, and absorption. These microplastics have the potential to adsorb additional chemicals and toxins, further reducing reproduction, feeding, and survival. We conducted a survey of microplastics in fish of the Saranac River, New York using the traditional hook and line method to simulate common recreational angling practices. Fish were sampled above and below impoundments (e.g., Imperial Dam, Plattsburgh and Cadyville Dam, Cadyville, NY) and only fish that met New York state fishing regulations for capture were kept for microplastic analysis. Wet peroxide oxidation was used to isolate microplastics within digestive tracts and samples were then size separated (e.g., 1mm, 355um, 125um). Particulate was quantified and characterized under a dissecting microscope. Fish generally had higher microplastic burdens below impoundments, specifically 5.22 and 2.58 particles per gram in their stomachs and intestines, respectively. Fish captured above impoundments had 2.56 and 1.74 particles per gram in their stomach and intestines, respectively. The most prevalent particulate size was 125 microns, the smallest of size classes. Fibers were 97 and 99% prevalent above and below impoundments, respectively and were largely blue in color. With the traditional hook and line method becoming ever more popular in recent years, it is imperative that anglers understand the microplastic pollution risks associated with their catches and offers an opportunity for community efforts to reduce our dependencies on plastic. "
    • WHO’S There?: Barred Owl (Strix varia) Urban or Rural Living

      Pollack, Elizabeth; Bellis, Morgan; Garneau, Danielle (2023-12-06)
      Urbanization has been shown to have long-term impacts on wildlife behavior. New York state is home to 10 different owl species, only five species are commonly found in the North Country. Land-use change has been a major threat to owl populations, specifically the conversion of forests to agriculture and development has displaced wildlife and poses threats to long-term population persistence. Barred owls (Strix varia) have historically inhabited mixed hardwood deciduous forests with sparse clearings in proximity to wetlands. The goal of this survey was to determine the effects of urbanization on the diversity of owl communities using acoustic detection. We predicted that owls would prefer less-developed rural forests over urban sites. Using a Bluetooth speaker paired to our smartphone’s Audubon’s Merlin application, we played owl calls and recorded responses. Owl survey sites were buffered by 800m and percent land-cover was extracted for all sites. Aural (n=3) and visual (n=1) detections of barred owls occurred only at the rural sites with mixed hardwood forest and proximity to wetlands during the near full moon phase with conditions of limited wind. Forested wetlands are considered more favorable for nesting, hunting and mating. Urbanization influences the health, survival, and behavior of raptors. Development impacts avifauna in species-specific ways. The nocturnal behavior of owls makes them particularly important subjects for studies associated with urban light and noise pollution. As top predators, owls regulate prey populations and contribute to the overall health of ecosystems and continued long-term monitoring is encouraged.
    • Bats: City Slickers or Country Bumpkins?

      Halloran, Casey; Rocco, Giancarlo; Flaherty, Kyle; Leahey, RJ; Garneau, Danielle (2023-12-06)
      New York state is home to 9 bat species which all play a major role in ecosystems, such as with pollination and seed dispersal. They are often categorized into two categories based on their roosting behaviors within caves or trees. Other habitat attributes such as canopy cover and access to waterbodies also determine their regional abundance. Human encroachment of natural habitat has led to bat populations establishing colonies in artificial structures. The exact diversity of bat populations that exist within human settlements, particularly between rural and urban developments, is not well understood. To better understand these diversity differences, we evaluated the presence of bat species in northeastern New York along a developed urban and rural route. We hypothesized that the rural habitat would have a higher bat species richness, diversity, and frequency of detections. Using the Echo Meter Touch 2, a ultrasonic frequency detector, we identified bat calls along two separate routes, specifically an urban and rural site. We then spatially analyzed bat locations in ArcGIS and extracted canopy cover and habitat types within 200m of each location. We detected a total of 24 bats, with 11 and 13 along the urban and rural routes respectively. Bat communities were 80% similar with 4 shared species and two unique urban species. The most frequently detected bat was the hoary bat (Lasiurus cinereus), with a total of 11 detections. These results suggest that many of the bat species in northeastern NY have been successfully adapting to anthropogenic development. As research continues, it will be important to survey long-term and during seasons when they are most active. Given the threats of disease white nose fungus (Pseudogymnoascus destructans) and climate change, it is essential that monitoring efforts such as this be supported among state agencies and citizen scientists.
    • "Picture This: Wildlife Habitat Suitability Across a Chronosequence of Wildfire-Origin Stands at a Jack Pine Barrens "

      Bargabos, Meghan; Hart, Zachary; Garneau, Danielle; Lesser, Mark (2023-10-10)
      "Research on wildlife’s response to wildfire in fire-dependent pine barrens is limited. In the northeastern United States, pine barrens ecosystems are often relatively small landscape patches nested within a matrix of northern hardwood forest with low burn frequency. Thus, pine barrens not only represent a unique habitat type for wildlife at the landscape scale, but also may contain varied forest patches of differing stand age and structure based on their disturbance history. Wildlife may, in turn, respond in their use of this habitat mosaic that is experiencing patch-level successional differences in forest structure and composition since the wildfire disturbance. The objective of this study was to quantify wildlife habitat suitability across a fire-dependent Pinus banksiana (Jack Pine) sandstone pavement barrens in northeastern New York. The Altona Flat Rock is an ~2000 ha pine barrens dominated by Jack Pine interspersed with, and surrounded by, northern hardwood forest. Over the past century areas of the Flat Rock have experienced wildfire in 1919, 1940, 1957, and most recently 2018, resulting in a chronosequence of stand-origin ages. Beginning in September 2022, we established a network of twenty 1km 2 grid-cells spanning the Flat Rock and surrounding hardwood forest. We positioned a camera trap in the center of each grid cell to continuously monitor wildlife. Additionally, we randomly selected three locations within each grid cell to determine forest structural attributes (e.g., density, basal area, canopy closure, understory composition, and abundance of coarse woody debris) and stand age. Preliminary results show that Odocoileus virginianus (White-tailed Deer), Canis latrans (Coyote), Lynx rufus (Bobcat), and Lepus americanus (Snowshoe Hare) are some of the most frequent occurrences, with White-tailed Deer, in particular, having been found at every camera site at high abundances. We aim to continue monitoring camera traps over the course of 2023. Wildlife occurrence data will be used in conjunction with forest structure data to build species-specific occupancy models. These results will provide critical information for ecologically sound management (i.e., frequency and extent of burning) of this globally rare pine barrens."
    • "Living Among The Ash: The Impacts of Wildfire on Wildlife Use Patterns on a Pinus banksiana (Jack Pine) Barrens"

      Halloran, Casey; Bargabos, Meghan; Lesser, Mark; Garneau, Danielle (2023-04-17)
      "Disturbances such as wildfire, ice storms, and pest outbreaks shape forest communities. Wildlife communities are shaped by successional trajectories that follow disturbances in terms of resource quality, quantity, and forest structure which influences predation risk. Our research aims to evaluate the extent to which wildfire disturbance has altered wildlife composition over time in a unique barrens community. The Altona Flat Rock is an ~2,000 ha sandstone pavement barrens located in northern New York. Overstory at the barrens is dominated by Pinus banksiana (Jack Pine) with an understory of primarily Vaccinium angustifolium (Lowbush Blueberry) and Gaylussacia baccata (Huckleberry). In July 2018, a wildfire burning 225 ha occurred, providing us the opportunity to study wildlife response to disturbance, and how this response changes over time as the forest recovers, regenerates, and grows - changing structural attributes and associated habitat characteristics. Using camera trapping, we monitored wildlife occurrences between the area burned in 2018 and the adjacent unburned (66 year old mature Jack Pine) forest from September 2018 (immediately following the wildfire) through 2023. Cameras were arranged to capture differences in wildlife use patterns in both the recent burn (n=2) and unburned (n=2) stands. Species-specific differences in wildlife occurrences were analyzed by year, season, and time of day. Overall wildlife species richness at the Jack Pine barrens was 31 and was greater in the burned (S=26) than the unburned (S=22) stands. The most common species were Odocoileus virginianus (White-tailed Deer) and Lepus americanus (Snowshoe Hare), and Canis latrans (Eastern Coyote). Immediately following the wildfire, wildlife occurrences were higher in the undisturbed stand; however by 2020 wildlife were using both stands equally. More recently, wildlife have again shifted away from the burned area possibly due to increasing mobility constraints caused by coarse woody debris. This study provides management guidance on wildlife habitat use patterns in response to wildfire as the barrens community recovers."
    • "Equitable Environmental Literacy: Investigating Interventions to Increase Environmental Literacy among BIPOC Students "

      Kara, Jillian; Coleman, Kimberly; Walls, Leon; Alldred, Mary (2022-05-05)
      The theme of my poster is Equitable Environmental Literacy among BIPOC students. Environmental literacy has four main components, knowledge, affective attitudes, cognitive skills, and behavior. There is currently inequitable education occurring within natural resources. There is an increasing need to create an environmentally literate society that is prepared to address demanding and emerging environmental issues worldwide. Educational programming is not equipping BIPOC communities with the knowledge to participate in planning, management, and decision making processes. At its core, this is environmental injustice. To further investigate gaps in natural resources, we created a survey to measure student interest in the environment. A pilot survey was conducted during the summer of 2021 and UB students from both PSU and UVM were surveyed on pre-watershed science initiatives. We hypothesized that BIPOC students were less likely to select “agree” and “strongly agree” when answering questions related to having an environmental job and pursuing environmental education in college. The surveys were conducted via google forms and the students identity was kept anonymous. We then combined all answers into a large data set and the analysis was conducted in R. We created bar graphs which show each question asked and the breakdown of the student demographics. The pilot survey indicated that BIPOC students did not rate “agree” or “strongly agree” when answering the questions “I plan to study the environment in college” and “I plan to work in an environmental field”. This further validates current research that indicates BIPOC students are less likely to pursue environmental interests. The next steps in this research are to conduct the same survey during the summer of 2022. During the summer, students will participate in a wide variety of watershed science initiatives. It is our hope that this will stimulate natural resource interest among students in the program.
    • Effects of Landscape Context on Painted Turtle Population Structure in Northern New York

      Garneau, Danielle; Mahoney, Ian; Morgenroth, Rhiannon; Gennosa, Katherine "Ky"; Garneau, Danielle (2022-12-11)
      Painted turtles (Chrysemys picta) are a widely distributed freshwater turtle common in northern New York wetlands. Turtles provide ecosystem services that include redistributing nutrients, dispersing seeds, serving as prey to predators, and modifying wetland habitat. With ongoing threats due to climate change, disease, and losses in wetland habitat, painted turtle population health can reflect ecosystem health. We aimed to evaluate demographic and microbiome trends among painted turtle populations along an urbanization gradient in northern New York. In fall 2022, we set 10 hoop traps for 3 consecutive days at both an urban (Barracks golf course), Plattsburgh, NY and rural (Lake Alice Wildlife Management Area, Chazy, NY site. Following established Ecological Research as Education (TurtlePop 2.0) protocols. Gender and age structure of each individual was determined and each was uniquely marked using carapace scute notching techniques. We also evaluated Salmonella sp. presence on turtle’s at each pond by collecting both carapace and cloacal swabs. Site-specific characteristics were also noted at each pond including abundance of basking sites, pond area, water and air temperatures, pH, and conductivity. The greater abundance of turtles at the urban site could be explained by the presence of plentiful basking logs. Contrary to our hypotheses both urban and rural sites are female and adult skewed, which could be explained by site-specific mesopredator guild differences. Morphologically there were no major size differences noted between the urban and rural populations. Additionally, there were no significant differences in water quality between the pond complexes. Painted turtle carapace and cloacal microbiomes were dominated by Pseudomonas sp. and no salmonella bacteria were detected via Sanger sequencing. More long-term research needs to be done in order to determine the effects of urbanization on painted turtle populations as our findings appear in line with findings of the EREN network, but contrary to those of the larger body of turtle conservation research.
    • Comparing Herpetofauna Microbiome Diversity Across Northern New York

      Garneau, Danielle; Lorenzetti, Owen; Monroe, Gabrielle; Stone, Riley; Garneau, Danielle; Lester, Sara (2022-12-11)
      Several threats to herpetofaunal species such as habitat loss and the increase of diseases have decreased their global populations. Climate change is projected to shift many species of plants and animals into cooler regions. Within the last century there has been an ~80% decline in species due to habitat loss, climate change, and disease. Most notably is chytrid fungus, Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, which keratinized the skin of herpetofauna. Microhabitat complexity is linked to their microbiome diversity and fitness. Our study was designed to evaluate the influence of both macro- and microhabitat on herpetofaunal epidermal microbiome. At three sites (Rugar Woods, Paul Smiths Visitor’s Interpretive Center, and Lewis Preserve Wildlife Management Area), we surveyed herpetofauna using hand capture techniques and collected microbial samples by swabbing the skin of individuals. Bacteria were plated to determine morphotype richness and serial dilutions were made in order to isolate the most prominent colonies. Microbial DNA was extracted, followed by a 16s rRNA polymerization chain reaction (PCR), and Sanger sequencing to confirm microbial species. Herpetofauna epithelial microbiome included Serratia sp., Pantoea sp., Pseudomonas sp., and Sphingobacteria. Herpetofaunal richness was the same across all macro-sites (S=3), with red-backed salamanders (Plethodon cinereus) being ubiquitous and spotted salamanders (Ambystoma maculatum), leopard frogs (Lithobates pipiens), spring peepers (Pseudacris crucifer), American toads (Anaxyrus americanus), and garter snakes (Thamnophis sirtalis) being rare. The most common microhabitat under which herpetofauna were found was coarse woody debris (CWD) and in terms of silviculture, single tree cuts and control sites had more animals than did other treatments such as clearcuts. Bacterial morphotype richness was greatest at Lewis Preserve and among red-backed salamanders and leopard frogs. Our bacterial species were common to herpetofaunal microbiomes and many support antifungal activity. Our findings suggested that a minimally managed wildlife management area with mature mixed forest, extensive floodplain, and riparian edge will support a diverse herpetofaunal community with high bacterial morphotype richness, affording greater defense against disease.
    • Assessing Small Mammal Richness and Abundance Following Wildfires

      Garneau, Danielle; Bargabos, Meghan; Cooper, Shannon; Hart, Zach; Garneau, Danielle (2022-12-01)
      As with all disturbance, wildfire transforms the abiotic and biotic features of the landscape. The Altona Flat Rock is a globally rare sandstone pavement pine barrens ecosystem dominated by an overstory of Pinus banksiana (jack pine) and understory of ericaceous shrubs including Vaccinium augustifolium (blueberry). In summer 2018, a wildfire burned approximately 225 hectares of the jack pine barrens, a fire-dependent ecosystem. The small mammal community provides essential ecosystem services as seed predators, dispersers, and as prey for higher trophic levels. We aimed to determine the abundance and diversity of the small mammal community at two sites, specifically 1) the recent 2018 wildfire versus 2) a regenerated forest that burned in 1957. As part of an on-going mark-recapture study at the Flat Rock, small mammal live trapping was conducted over a six-week period in fall 2022. Each individual was uniquely marked with an ear tag and body metrics (length, weight) and gender were collected. Data from the 2022 field season was combined with previous years which showed that the small mammal abundance has declined over time and the reference (1957) site had higher community diversity including insectivores, while the recent burn (2018) had a higher overall abundance of the dominant generalist Peromyscus sp.. Results from this on-going study, can inform more effective management strategies in fire-dependent ecosystems by optimizing small mammal habitat and benefiting the ecosystem as a whole to better support the larger wildlife community and regenerating forest.
    • Microplastics in Lake Champlain Fishes: Characterization and New Techniques

      Garneau, Danielle; Sinisgalli, Angelo; Garneau, Danielle (2022-12-01)
      Microplastics, defined as being <5mm in size, have been recently identified as marine pollutants of significant concern. Concerns have arisen due to their persistence, ubiquity and potential to alter physiology and behavior that reduces reproduction and survival. As this is an emerging threat, the potential damage posed by microplastics to freshwater ecosystems has not yet been fully investigated and best practices for characterization are being developed. The purpose of this study was to learn the process of microplastics characterization in Lake Champlain and pilot the use of Nile red stain for quantification. In fall 2022, I dissected three fish (2 tench (Tinca tinca), 1 rudd (Scardinius erythrophthalmus)), isolated microplastics using wet peroxide oxidation, and characterizing them under the microscope. All particulate in fish were characterized as microfibers of small size (125-355um). Fiber load in tench, a larger fish, was 26% greater than that of rudd. Moving forward we plan to record this process for educational purposes and further develop a Nile Red staining procedure to expedite microplastic quantification.
    • Biota of Chazy Lake: The Legacy of Invasive Species and other Abiotic Stressors

      Garneau, Danielle; Mordecki, Kolby; Kotezle, Andrea Grace; Garneau, Danielle (2022-12-01)
      Freshwater systems are threatened with poor water quality and invasive species, affecting their overall health. Chazy Lake is an oligotrophic impounded freshwater lake in Clinton County, New York approximately 1,800 acres in size and surrounded by mountains. Invasive species have become an increasing threat to the lake and include Eurasian watermilfoil (Myriophyllum spicatum), Chinese mystery snail (Cipangopaludina chinensis), and northern pike (Esox lucius). Abiotic stressors, such as road salt, are also major concerns. Over the course of four weeks in fall 2022, we surveyed the lake for fish and turtle community composition. At each site, hoop traps (n=2 minnow, n=1 turtle) were set at two reference (South Inlet, Pump station) and two disturbed (Dam, Seine Bay) sites. We created a Survey123 project to remotely georeference sites, curate images, and answer form questions. Water samples were collected to evaluate abiotic factors such as conductivity and pH. The species richness of the fish community was 5 and included 17 individuals including creek chub (Semotilus atromaculatus), pumpkinseed sunfish (Lepomis gibbosus), rock bass (Ambloplites rupestris), brook stickleback (Culaea inconstans), and yellow perch (Perca flavescens). Our hypothesis was not entirely supported as the majority of our fish were caught at the pump station (n=10) and disturbed Seine Bay (n=7) sites. None of the fish surveyed displayed disease phenotypes and no turtles were observed. Abiotic factors were surprising, as high conductivity (512 uS/cm) levels aligned with the Seine Bay, a site adjacent to a major roadway, while other sites averaged (94 uS/cm). Water chemistry revealed similar pH levels across sites 7.28-7.75. Non-profit organizations are addressing these threats with management efforts including lake drawdowns and seasonal watermilfoil removal. Long-term water quality monitoring has afforded residents opportunities to discuss alternatives and ways to minimize use of road salt. The lack of fish and turtles found in Chazy Lake may be just one sign of on-going threats associated with invasive species and pollution.
    • Wingin’ It: A Survey of Bat Populations in Varying Habitats in Northern New York

      Garneau, Danielle; Bushey, Devan; Doell, Caley; Steckler, Eric; Garneau, Danielle (2022-12-01)
      Bats are taxonomically and ecologically diverse species who provide many ecosystem services. They are also sensitive to many anthropogenic stressors (e.g., urbanization, water quality, changes in climate), so changes in bat populations have historically been early sentinels of disturbance, facilitating focused conservation efforts. Unfortunately, following the introduction of white-nose syndrome (WNS) in 2006 in New York, the nation has seen variable but drastic declines in bat populations. The relationship between bats and their habitats is not well understood because they are wide-ranging and require multiple critical habitat types, but research is needed in order to meet conservation targets. In fall 2022, we assessed the abundance and diversity of bat species between forested, rural, and urban habitat types in northern New York. Each site was surveyed once using an ultrasonic bat detector thirty minutes after sunset, the most active feeding time for bat species. We hypothesized that bat abundance would be highest in the urban setting, with infrastructure providing increased roosting opportunity. However, highest species abundance and richness were both found at the forested site, likely because it was surveyed the earliest in the season. It was also the route with the most suitable habitat based on prior research suggesting bats need water for feeding and forests for roosting. The forested and rural sites showed 28.6% similarity, the rural and urban sites showed no similarity, and the forested and urban sites had 50% similarity. Understanding the disproportionate value that forest habitats provide for bat populations, we suggest considering conservation efforts which prioritize these ecosystems and link them to important riparian corridors.
    • Assessing Plethodon cinereus (Red-backed Salamander) Skin Microbiome Differences Across Northern NY

      Wojotowecz, Chase; Bricetti, Luke; Ankrah, Nana Y. D.; Garneau, Danielle (2022-08-24)
      The role of global climate change in increasing the prevalence of amphibian disease, including chytridiomycosis, is well known. The skin microbiome is considered an important component of the amphibian immune system. Specific bacterial taxa and high skin microbial diversity are factors that are known to boost amphibian disease resistance. In this study, we explored the impact of environmental conditions on Plethodon cinereus (Red-backed Salamander) skin microbial abundance and diversity at a variety of different sites in New York’s North Country. We surveyed P. cinereus specimens from 5 sites varying in elevation and dominant vegetation type. Salamander skin microbiomes were subsequently sampled via sterile swab, plated and characterized by visual inspection of colony morphology. We performed DNA extractions and PCR to prepare samples for genetic sequencing to determine bacterial species identity. In total, 31 unique bacterial taxa were collected from the 5 sites. The highest and lowest bacterial diversity were observed at the Paul Smiths’ Visitor Interpretive Center’s Forest Ecosystem Research and Demonstration Area (FERDA) sites single tree and control silviculture stands, respectively. Beta diversity tests also indicated that the skin microbial communities at these 2 sites were most similar to each other and noticeably different from that of the Altona Flat Rock and Rugar Woods sites. These results indicate that site conditions are important determinants of P. cinereus skin microbial community diversity patterns. Although the identity of bacterial species (pathogenic, non-pathogenic) are yet to be confirmed, this study has added support to the concept that environmental conditions alter salamander skin microbiomes, which in turn can influence salamander disease resistance.
    • Oh deer, what do we have here? Monitoring stand and landscape-level changes in wildlife habitat use in northern New York

      Cave, Hannah; Rascoe, Liam; Garneau, Danielle; Lesser, Mark (2022-08-24)
      Forest composition and structure is a primary determinant of wildlife community patterns. However, disturbances such as selective harvesting, wildfires, and maple-sugaring operations, along with seasonal changes in habitat, may also influence wildlife species richness and abundance at the landscape-level. The Altona Flat Rock, a sandstone pavement barrens, contains Pinus rigida (Pitch Pine)- and Pinus banksiana (Jack Pine)-dominated forest types nested within the largely northern hardwood dominated landscape of upstate New York. Sections of these forest types have undergone recent disturbance (i.e., wildfire in the Jack Pine, maple sugaring and harvest in the northern hardwoods), changing structure and/or composition in those areas. The objective of this study was to evaluate wildlife habitat use over time and space across these adjacent, but very different, forests. Since spring 2018, we have used game cameras to continuously monitor wildlife in the hardwood-dominated forests surrounding the Flat Rock (n = 12). Concurrently, we have also been monitoring wildlife use in the Pitch Pine (n = 4) and Jack Pine barrens (n = 8). The most ubiquitous herbivore across all 3 sites was Odocoileus virginianus (White-tailed Deer), while Canis latrans (Eastern Coyote) and Lepus americanus (Snowshoe Hare) were most abundant in the Jack Pine forest type. Interestingly, Sciurus carolinensis (Gray Squirrel) and Sciurus vulgaris (Red Squirrel) were found almost exclusively in either the hardwood or Jack Pine forests, respectively, suggesting differences in dietary needs/preferences. Species richness varied dramatically across forest types, with northern hardwood, Jack Pine, and Pitch Pine richness values of 20, 31, and 2, respectively. Disturbance in the Jack Pine stand initially decreased richness, however, over the duration of the study there was little difference between the disturbed (26 species) and undisturbed (22 species) Jack Pine stands. We have observed slightly lower species richness in the mature hardwood forest (13 species) versus the young hardwood forest (19 species). Further analysis will determine temporal (seasonal and diel) wildlife diversity patterns. This study will provide wildlife and forest managers insights into the influence of forest type, and impacts of disturbance and management practices, on wildlife habitat.
    • Post Outbreak Gypsy Moth (Lymantria dispar) Egg Mass Survey in Northern New York

      Imm, Kaila; Garneau, Danielle (2021-05)
      Gypsy moths (Lymantria dispar) are an invasive species whose initial spread centered in Massachusetts and quickly advanced throughout the Northeast before reaching the mid-Atlantic, Michigan, and Wisconsin. These large-scale defoliators serve as a cyclical wave of disturbance with varying annual intensity and periodic peak years. Gypsy moth management is stage-specific, so understanding the life cycle is essential in order to facilitate the best management practices. In spring 2021, I surveyed gypsy moth egg mass densities in forested areas within Clinton and Essex County New York to determine if pest outbreak thresholds were met in the region. Across nine sites, which included local landowner properties, state parks, and wildlife management areas, I followed the NYS DEC egg mass sampling protocol. At each site, four plots were established and metrics collected included tree species, tree diameter, bark texture, and egg mass abundance and vertical distribution. Threshold infestation levels were met in five of the nine sites and Wickham Marsh forest was the most heavily infested. The most impacted trees were eastern white pine (Pinus strobus) and northern red oak (Quercus rubrum), specifically those individuals with an average diameter of 44.7 cm and vertically cracked bark. The data collected in this survey will inform regional biologists of more heavily damaged forests and land owners in order for them to develop a management plan for gypsy moths in the North Country.