Biodiversity, Conservation & Policy

Student Research

Abstracts of Completed Theses

Comparing the Effectiveness of AR125 and Anabat II Detectors in Road Surveys of Bats

by Andrea Indelicato

Bats comprise almost 25% of all mammal species, yet there are still large information gaps concerning certain aspects of their ecology. Some species have been in decline for decades due to habitat loss and degradation, human disturbance, and pollution. For the Indiana bat (Myotis sodalis), endangered both federally and in New York, a more accurate estimation of its range is needed for better management of the species, especially their summer roosting locations. Methods for detecting bat presence in an area include using mist nets to catch bats, radio tracking individuals to follow their movements, and using acoustic detectors to identify bats by their echolocation calls.

Using two types of bat detectors, the Anabat II and the new AR125, I conducted road surveys in a rural area of eastern New York to test the effectiveness of the road survey technique and to determine which detector is better at recording bat calls with this method. Both detectors were mounted on top of a car, facing forward parallel to the road, and the same route was driven over a two week period in late July 2006. The 17-mile loop was driven twice each night. The AR125 calls were analyzed using the SCAN’R software, and the output from this and the whole Anabat files were examined using discriminant-function analysis to identify each call to species. This method produced 1,960 bat calls that could be identified to a species, twenty of which were identified as Indiana bats. Statistical analysis of these results found no significant difference between the two detectors except in the Simpon’s and Inverse Simpson’s indices, which was most likely due to variations in the species richness detected by each detector.

Using the time stamp included in the name when bat calls are recorded, bat calls were matched up between the two detectors, resulting in 268 corresponding files. Of these, 63% had been identified as the same species and 37% as different species. The primary misidentifications were between Big brown (Eptesicus fuscus) and Little brown (Myotis lucifugus) bats (39.4%), and Big brown and Silver-haired (Lasionycteris noctivagans) bats (33.4%). There were no corresponding calls identified as an Indiana bat by both detectors. Based on the statistical analyses, it appears that either detector would be effective in determining bat species presence in an area in future road survey studies. I’m hoping to develop a method for conducting road surveys that will give an accurate representation of the bat species in an area.


Relationship between land use features at near and far scales and water quality within southeastern New York watershed

by Melissa Kalvestrand

Nonpoint source pollution, largely from urban and agricultural sources, is nationally the largest contributor to water quality problems (USEPA 1994). Land use can influence water quality through the input of nutrients, input of chemicals (e.g., pesticides and petroleum hydrocarbons), alteration of the hydrologic regime, and changes in water temperature. Some studies have suggested that riparian buffer strips can help mitigate these impacts by reducing nutrient loading from land uses such as agriculture (Vought 1995). In addition, riparian buffer strips along streams play a critical role in stream composition including influencing in-stream temperature, food availability, hydrology, and chemistry (Allan 1995).

Currently, whether land use at a watershed scale or at a smaller scale impacts water quality the most is debated in the literature (see Potter et al. 2005). A study of various New York waterways suggests that land use within 200 meters of a stream (the finest scale evaluated) was more strongly associated with water quality than the land use within the entire watershed (Tran 2007). Other studies suggest that a variety of factors are important: quantity of intense and grassy urban land in the subwatershed and within 500 meters of the site (McBride and Booth 2005), number of road crossings (McBride and Booth 2005), topographic complexity (Potter et al. 2005), amount of connected impervious area (Wang et al. 2001), watershed size (Potter et al. 2005), and historic land use patterns (Harding et al. 1998).

My thesis will evaluate land use features at a finer scale in order to evaluate whether near-field or watershed scale features are the best determinant of water quality. The primary land use features to be evaluated include topographic complexity, amount of impervious area, number of road crossings, and land use type. The ultimate goal would be to provide guidance to policymakers in setting regulatory standards for stream buffer distances in order to protect water quality.


Land Conservation in the Hudson Valley - Are Towns Contributing?

by Christine Vanderlan

Sprawl is one of the greatest threats to biodiversity in the northeastern U.S. Sprawl causes the loss and fragmentation of habitat, promotes the spread of exotic species, and disrupts existing communities of wildlife. In upstate New York, even where human populations have declined in recent decades, land continues to be converted from forests and farmland to exurban or suburban development. The responsibility for regulating land use in New York rests at the local level, with municipalities. Local land use decisions (plans, regulations, conservation programs) shape the pattern of development and both the amounts and kinds of lands that will be conserved. A number of strategies are available to municipalities to voluntarily conserve land. I am studying land conservation in the Hudson Valley - the long-term protection of land as farmland, habitat, preserves, and parks. My research is aimed at identifying the ways in which land is being conserved by towns, namely what types of tools and programs are actually being used, and the relationship between the level of private efforts (by land trusts) and town-led conservation.

An Evaluation of New York State's Significant Coastal Fish and Wildlife Habitat Programs

by Jeffrey Zappieri (1998)

Effective conservation programs require appropriate input from both the biological and policy sciences. In order to better understand the functional interrelationship of these two disciplines in the process of conservation policy formulation, I examined the ecological and political attributes and relative successes of a specific program that is typical of many with a biological conservation component, New York State's Significant Coastal Fish and Wildlife Habitat Program. The program was evaluated for its effectiveness as a scientific instrument and as a policy tool for preservation of coastal biodiversity on Long Island, NY .Data collected included: status of selected biological resources, indicators of agency program support and interagency cooperation, and measures of municipal and public support for program goals. Program success was evaluated from ecological, institutional, and public involvement perspectives. Conclusions were drawn concerning the effectiveness of scientific input in the policy implementation process.

Does the Pet Trade Threaten New York State's Amphibian and Reptile Species?

by Suzanne Hohn (1999)

The main objectives of this study were to investigate the relationship between the pet trade and conservation of amphibians and reptiles in New York, to assess possible problems resulting from collection for the pet trade, and to formulate a strategy to address potential problems. A survey of pet stores in New York and wholesale suppliers was conducted to determine which of New York amphibian and reptile species were sold in pet stores and to determine the sources of the animals sold. Sixty-one percent of the amphibian and reptile species occurring in New York were sold in pet stores, including some species listed in New York as endangered, threatened, or of special concern. Thus, there is a demand in the New York pet trade for native species. Suppliers reported that many herpetofauna animals sold in pet stores come from wild populations, although reptiles are somewhat more likely to be captive-bred than amphibians. The geographic sources of wild-caught animals sold in pet stores are uncertain; the animals do not necessarily come from New York State. Extrapolations of the numbers of animals sold statewide in one year suggest that some native populations may not be able to sustain collection for New York's pet trade. To address this possible problem, a strategy should be developed that prevents overcollection of amphibians and reptiles for the pet trade. Components of an effective strategy include limitations on commercial and noncommercial collection, use of information and market incentives programs, and inclusion of the public and other players. Borrowing from a range of policies employed by their states, three initial steps are proposed to better protect New York herpetofauna from overcollection for the pet trade.

Impact of forest gaps on northern redback salamander abundance

by Michael Messere (1999)

Timber management practices vary in their intensity and spatial extent. Some practices have been shown to negatively impact salamander populations after creating gaps in forests that alter forest floor microclimate in ways that can significantly reduce salamander habitat quality. This study focuses on the response of salamander abundance and forest microenvironmental factors to forest gaps created by selective cutting. I searched forest gaps of three different size classes (small = 80-113 m2, medium = 368-751 m2, large = 827-2355 m2) and reference plots of uncut forest for Plethodon cinereus (Green) in three harvested forests in eastern New York State. A total of 104 salamanders were found. Salamander abundance was highest within small forest gaps (0.38 individuals / m2) and lowest within large gaps (0.09 individuals / m2); however, variance was high rendering these differences insignificant. Exploratory analysis revealed that cover object availability (leaf litter and rocks) strongly influenced salamander abundance, apart from forest gap size. After separating the effect of cover object availability by using a combined cover variable (included all leaf litter and rock measurements) as a random factor in a two-way analysis of variance in a second analysis, a significant difference in salamander abundance among the forest gap size categories was detected. In conclusion, the availability of retreat sites (cover objects) can enhance or lessen the effect of forest gaps on salamander abundance.

Improving Pollinator Policy: Current Obstacles and Future Solutions

by Lori Quillen (2002)

Pollinator loss has been a problem in the United States since World War II, when advances in pest technology made chemical dependence the norm in agricultural settings. Over the past ten years pollinator declines have received significant coverage in the primary and secondary scientific literature. Despite our growing knowledge of the adverse effects that insecticides have on pollinating animals, few concrete measures have been developed to protect our nation's pollinators. I explore current protective regulations, with a focus on the 1972 Amendment to the Federal Insecticide Rodenticide and Fungicide Act (FIFRA), and highlight how current legislation has failed to adequately protect pollinating bees. Policy failures to date include the misinterpretation of application regulations by pesticide applicators, an overall lack of enforcement, and inadequate pesticide usage tracking. Data on bee kill statistics and violation fines demonstrate the poor enforcement of current legislation. The misapplication of residual chemicals is currently the leading cause of bee death in the U.S., highlighting both the misinterpretation and under enforcement of FIFRA regulations. Currently, there is no comprehensive state or federal data base for pesticide inputs or bee kill statistics. I suggest organizing an advocacy coalition as a way to maximize the interests of the parties most effected by pollinator declines. Such a coalition is integral to educating the lay public, and increasing the saliency of the issue to policy makers. By increasing issue visibility, and challenging old norms, pollinator advocates can advance their platform. An advocacy coalition among beekeepers and ecologists is especially important at this time because the pesticide interests have been lobbying to weaken the bee protective rules on; pesticide labels.

The InterAmerican Tropical Tuna Commission as a Model of Management for the International Whaling Commission

by Catherine Pratt (2000)

I propose that the techniques used by the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC) to manage marine mammals can also be used by the International Whaling Commission (IWC). The issue of dolphin mortality threatens to harm or possibly destroy the tuna industry in the Eastern Tropical Pacific (ETP). However, the IATTC has managed this threat by gathering and applying sound scientific information. The IWC is now faced with the threat of resumed commercial whaling by certain members, but the IWC has not heeded the scientific advice provided to them by their own Scientific Committee. Instead, the IWC has chosen to approach this issue from a less scientific and more emotional viewpoint often bowing to public pressure to prevent commercial whaling at all costs. There are obvious differences between these two organizations, the most obvious being that one was dealing with an issue of bycatch of marine mammals while the other is interested primarily in managing marine mammals. However, if scientific data are gathered and applied to the problem, then a sound policy can be formed and tested. Techniques similar to those used by the IATTC could be used by the IWC to resolve the difficult issues being faced.

History of Land Use and Protection in the Albany Pine Bush

by Krista Zantopp (2000)

The main objective of this study is to examine the land use history and conservation initiatives of a rare inland pine barrens community in eastern New York to better understand how past patterns of land use impacted present natural landscapes. The Albany Pine Bush, situated between the cities of Albany and Schenectady, remained relatively undeveloped until the 1970's when the infrastructure for suburban growth was completed. A diverse group of stakeholders emerged with either economic or preservation interests in the Pine Bush. Local governments, state agencies, private landowners and advocacy groups interacted within a matrix of sociopolitical, economic and scientific perspectives to realize their goals for this ecosystem. Land protection became an integral part of the land use history culminating in the creation of the Albany Pine Bush Preserve. The Preserve is currently owned by three municipalities, two state agencies and one private organization and managed by a central Commission. The land surrounding the Preserve supports a mixture of residential, industrial and commercial uses. The resulting pattern of protected, non-protected and developed lanes within the same landscape has created threats to the Preserve. The cumulative perimeter, or edge, of the Preserve has grown at a faster rate than the cumulative area, allowing easier invasion by non-barrens flora and fauna, pollution and dumping from nearby development, and numerous access points for inappropriate recreational uses. However, this same pattern has allowed the preservation of a unique natural community within an urban landscape and offers the possibility for future conservation goals to be met.

Marine Reserves as an Alternative Fisheries Management Technique for the Bahamas

by Joshua Drew (2000)

In order to understand whether marine reserves can function as an effective alternative to fisheries management in the Bahamas, I address the question: what effect would the establishment of a system of connected marine reserves have on the fisheries of the Bahamas? The use of marine reserves for fisheries supplementation is dependent on three factors: how do marine reserves function to supplement local fisheries: do the species most frequently targeted in the Bahamas possess the requisite life history traits for fisheries supplementation: and is the current marine reserve system in the Bahamas arranged in such a manner as to provide the maximum fisheries supplementation?

Marine reserves function to benefit fisheries through two major avenues. The first, spillover, is the movement of adult fish across the reserve boundary into adjacent fisheries areas. Spillover will benefit fishers on a spatially limited scale, but the benefits will be quick to accrue. The second avenue is larval export. Fishery target species protected within a reserve serve as breeding stocks. The larvae from these stocks disperse outside of the reserve and develop in fisheries areas. The benefits will be distributed on a larger scale than spillover, but will take longer to appear as the larvae must develop to harvestable size.

In order to fully benefit local fisheries, target species must benefit from reserve protection as well as be able to export biomass. I identify four life history traits that meet these requirements. These traits are: small to medium home range, predictable spawning aggregations, high site fidelity, and open dispersal of larvae. Having small to medium home ranges and high site fidelity allow for reserves to be placed around the areas where target species occur most frequently. Having predictable aggregations placed within reserves allows for protection to be afforded during vulnerable times. Open dispersal of larvae allows for fisheries supplementation on a broad scale.

Bahamian fisheries catch data for the period 1984-1997 was obtained from the Food and Agriculture Office of the United Nations. When the four life history traits were applied to the catch data, it was found that 66% of all categories, and 96% of total catch weight consisted of species that would be expected to export biomass from a reserve. The data also showed shifting resource utilization, whereby one stock was fished until returns fell, then fishers switched to different stocks. These patterns of resource use and of stock crashes are symptomatic of traditional fisheries management, characterized by management decisions made with poor or incomplete knowledge.

The various methods by which marine reserves are selected have been the subject of work by G. Carleton Ray. He lists three methods of selection: the Opportunistic/Serendipitous, the Delphic/Judgmental, and the Scientific/Analytic. Opportunistic/Serendipitous selection is characterized by reserves being placed in a piece wise fashion, conserving when the opportunity presents itself with little thought towards a greater reserve system. The second method, the Delphic/Judgmental method is marked by selection of reserves by a few people making rapid decisions to create a hierarchical list. In the third method, Scientific/Analytic, decisions are made after careful review and exhaustive research on each potential site. The results are more defensible, but take longer to create. The current Bahamian reserve proposal or 20% protection falls within the Delphic/Judgmental category.

The Influence of Acid Deposition and Nutrient Enrichment on the Community Structure of Odonate (Dragonfly and Damselfly) Larvae

by Karen Frolich (2000)

Acid deposition and nutrient enrichment are two widespread forms of pollution that can affect aquatic odonate (dragonfly and damselfly) communities in New York State. I compared odonate larvae species assemblages and associated water chemistry databases from 460 lakes and ponds in two regions of eastern New York state that differ in their watershed geochemistry, (1) western drainage's of the Adirondack Mountains and (2) the lower Hudson Valley. Both regions receive similar amounts of acid deposition, thus differences in watershed characteristics may modify the effects of pollution inputs on odonate communities. Because many Adirondack lakes and ponds are poorly buffered, I hypothesized that their biota are more susceptible to impacts from acid deposition. Because lower Hudson has a higher human population, inhabitants of its lakes and ponds may be more susceptible to accelerated eutrophication.

I found that acidification was strongly associated with differences in odonate community structure in the Adirondack lakes and ponds. However, this relationship was evidently mediated by insectivorous fish, which are directly susceptible to acidification. More species were found in samples from lakes with fish than those without (2.99 versus 3.97, on average). Acidification did not bear significantly on odonate community structure in the lower Hudson, indicating that the greater buffering capacity of the lakes and ponds of this watershed may mitigate biological impacts of acid deposition. Eutrophication was not significantly related to community structure. However, among the lower Hudson lakes, macrophyte structural diversity best explained odonate community diversity. I did not find a similar relationship in Adirondack lakes, which have generally less complex aquatic vegetation.

Differences in odonate community structure associated with acidic ponds show significant potential for acid deposition effects in benthic communities of remote mountain lakes and ponds. The contrast with lakes of the lower Hudson Valley supports my hypothesis that the effects of pollution on odonate communities are dependent on ecosystem properties of local watersheds.

Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs): Policy Alternatives to Minimize Negative Impacts on Human and Biological Systems

by Abbe A. Miller (2001)

Algal blooms are considered harmful if they contain toxic, noxious, or nuisance species. Harmful algal species may cause public health problems, economic loss and may also cause ecosystem harm through their effects many trophic levels of marine food webs. Reports of harmful algal blooms (HABs) and the severity of their impacts are increasing globally, and recent evidence links global increases in HABs to human activities. Some possible causes of the increase include cultural eutrophication (nutrient loading), climate change, and transport of algae via ships' ballast water. This thesis considers and evaluates the biological and social costs of HABs and the human activities that contribute to cultural eutrophication, a leading cause of HABs. Case studies in New York, Florida, and North Carolina, are presented to illustrate the differences and similarities between regional HAB occurrences and impacts. I suggest policy alternatives that may reduce cultural eutrophication: institution of regulation; development of economic policy tools; conservation of wetlands and riparian buffers; implementation of mitigation and remediation techniques; education. I suggest that by using two or more of these policy tools in combination, a reduction in the rate of eutrophication, leading to a decrease in HAB occurrence is feasible.

Vernal Pools in Practice and Policy

by Daneil Tierney (2001)

Vernal pools are an important type of wetland that provide the utilitarian values of larger systems while providing habitat for unique flora and fauna. These wetlands are often overlooked due to their small size, temporary nature, and elusive denizens. In the northeastern United States, vernal pools are most often associated with the amphibians that rely on them for breeding habitat. Since they lack fish predators, vernal pools provide a relatively safe environment for egg and larval development. A reduction of vernal pool habitat could lead to a severe decline in certain amphibian populations.

The first chapter of this study describes research conducted in vernal pools in the sandplains of eastern New York in 2000 and 2001. This study establishes a baseline of information on the amphibian populations that breed in the vernal pools of the Wilton Wildlife Preserve and Park (WWPP), a preserve managed for the protection of the endangered Karner blue butterfly (Lycaeides melissa samuelis). Nine species of amphibians were found using the vernal pools in the WWPP. Two of these species, the spotted salamander (Ambystoma maculatum) and the eastern spadefoot toad (Scaphiopus holbrookii), are listed as species of special concern in New York State. In addition to a survey, the study attempted to address potential impacts of clearcutting on the amphibian populations that breed in adjacent pools. It was found that the vernal pools proximate to clearcuts differed from the control pools in dissolved oxygen concentration (p<O.O5) and in the density of spotted salamander egg clusters (p<O.O5).

The annual variability between field seasons allowed for observations on the effect of precipitation on vernal pool persistence. The total precipitation between March and June 19 in 2000 and 200 I was 31 mm and 159 mm respectively. This variability most likely led to the significant difference observed in the hydroperiod of the vernal pools between the two years (p<O.OO5).

The Second chapter of this study evaluates the policies instituted at all levels of government to protect vernal pools. Federal policies are limited in their ability to protect inland wetlands, since such regulation has historically been the responsibility of the states. The states, however, rarely regulate wetlands that are temporary or quite small, such as vernal pools. States have taken initiative to protect their wetlands in a few ways, including instituting direct legislation, forming interagency environmental agreements, and supporting local regulation. Of these techniques it appears that state mandated local control may be the most effective at protecting wetlands while meeting the economic and social needs of a community.

Most policies designed to protect wetlands are instituted at the local level. Zoning and planning regulations offer opportunities to encourage protection of wetlands while allowing a certain amount of development. Overlay zoning techniques, as well as incentive and performance-based zoning, are powerful tools that can be used for conservation. Education and outreach programs may be the most effective methods due to their ability to instill a sense of pride and ownership within a community for a wetland.

The current state of vernal pool conservation suggests that their protection may require efforts at all levels of government. The decline of species associated with these ephemeral pools is linked closely to the rapid loss of the habitat due to development. It is essential that this wetland type be recognized as a valuable resource, both for humans and, wildlife, before more species of plants, invertebrates, and amphibians are lost.

Biocriteria and Land Use Assessment for Monitoring Emergent Marsh Wetlands in New York State

by Anna Hartwell (2001)

The need for a monitoring program to evaluate the integrity of New York State's wetlands is widely recognized. The purpose of this research was evaluate bioassessment and land use assessment methods that may contribute to the development of this program. These assessment tools will be used to satisfy federal requirements for reporting on the status of New York State's wetlands and for evaluating restored wetlands. Nine emergent marsh wetlands within Albany County, NY were selected and categorized according to a visual assessment of human disturbance and presence of invasive plants. Seven wetlands were natural (i.e. not constructed or restored), but varied along a gradient of human disturbance, and 2 wetlands were compensatory mitigation sites. During the 4 month field season, vegetative and avian assemblages were evaluated and standard water quality parameters (e.g. DO, conductivity, ORP) were assessed. Additionally, land cover was assessed, with a geographic information system (GIS), that incorporated aspects of the local watershed. Experiments were conducted to compare birds and vegetation as indicators of ecosystem integrity. The data suggest that a visual assessment based on obvious characteristics of the plant community and surrounding land use is useful to make a first order determination of ecosystem integrity. Plant diversity and community structure are good indicators of wetland condition although, the need for classification and stratification of wetland zones was evident. Avian diversity did not appear to be a practical measure of ecosystem integrity in this study and seems to correlate more closely with habitat diversity than human impact. Conductivity and oxidation-reduction potential (ORP) are key chemical variables that provide supporting data for the assessment of ecosystem integrity. Land use assessments and knowledge of natural history are useful for determining potential sources of stress and explaining why certain chemical and biological parameters behave the way they do.

Analysis of the Long Island Habitat of the Eastern Tiger Salamander (Ambystoma tigrinum tigrinum) Using a Geographical Information System

by Joyce Levy (2001)

The eastern tiger salamander, Ambystoma tigrinum tigrinum, is endangered in New York State. The sandy soils of the central Long Island Pine Barrens are the only known habitat for the salamander in New York. Changing land use patterns in the overpopulated Long Island corridor coupled with water pollution, erosion damage by off-road vehicles, the drainage and filling of vernal ponds, disturbance of the neighboring water tables and the introduction of predatory fish into the breeding ponds are all stressors adding to the salamander's decline. The focus of this project is the 19 known tiger salamander breeding ponds in the Sag Harbor quadrangle. Working with data and information provided by Geographic Information Systems (GIS) coverages, field notes and personnel at the Department of Environmental Conservation's Endangered Species Unit, I constructed a qualitative binary model using a GIS with ArcView software. The "yes/no" model uses 15 factors addressing both biological characteristics and environmental resistances, asking whether each factor might play a role in diminishing this species' survival. Factors included were land protection, road proximity, adequate and secure upland habitat, breeding site overlap, disturbance, limited attachment sites, limitation of sunlight, fish, water quality, and water table reliability. Using both a tally of the unweighted factors and an evaluation of pond protection, I created three groupings of breeding ponds based upon protection status and overall pond quality. The groups included were
A. Ponds of good quality with adequate protection of surrounding lands
B. Ponds of questionable quality without adequate protection of surrounding lands
C. Ponds of good quality without adequate protection of surrounding lands (future tiger salamander ponds acquisition list).

pI discussed the results of this binary model evaluation in terms of conservation management of the salamander ponds and decision making about future land acquisition of the surrounding land parcels. I concluded that GIS is a useful tool for storage and analysis of ecological data, but the model I created for evaluation was too simple to assess the entire conservation issue. Both an intimate knowledge of tiger salamander biology and its habitat requirements are needed to obtain the full conservation picture and create a useful quantitative model for salamander conservation. Land protection is a key issue safeguarding habitat, but not the only consideration. Other vital factors include: surrounding spheres of influence/buffer upland areas, landownership, fragmentation of the landscape, metapopulation links, legal classification of wetlands, available funding sources for land acquisition, and reliable and up-to-date GIS data coverages.

Dam Removal for Ecological Restoration and Anadromous Fish Passage: A National Overview and Formative New York State Policy

by Elizabeth Campochiaro (2002)

Dam Removal is increasingly advocated as a tool for restoring degraded aquatic habitats, and for improving access to spawning areas for anadromous fish. Dams block the movement of migratory fish species, and also alter the natural sediment transport, flow, and temperature regimes of rivers and streams. In general, the biological community that develops as a result of impounded waters is less diverse than the original ecosystem. Dams in the United States serve many purposes, including flood control, irrigation, water supply and hydroelectric production. However, the current primary purpose of the majority of dams in the US appears to be recreation.
New York State has an unknown number of dams that are potential targets for removal. My objectives in this thesis were to explore the links between dam safety issues and dam removal for ecological restoration, to explore the role of coalition building in dam removal decisions, and to investigate the status of dam removal policy in New York State. Despite New York's stated goals of improving habitat for anadromous fish species, few dams are currently being considered for removal, due in part to socioeconomic and political constraints. In lieu of a stated dam removal policy in New York State, I reviewed cases of dam removal from other areas of the country, including Maine, Oregon, and Wisconsin. Dam safety was a major contributing factor in most removal projects that I reviewed. I hypothesize that because dams provide a variety of social benefits, the general public would not support dam removal based solely on biodiversity conservation. Like many other conservation issues, dam removal may gain support by linking with more salient issues such as dam safety.

Invading Trees and Breeding Birds in the Albany Pine Bush

by Brian Beachy (2002)

This research was conducted to examine the relationship between invading trees and bird communities in the Albany Pine Bush Preserve (APBP). I hypothesized that structural changes in vegetation caused by invading trees are altering bird communities in the APBP. Point counts were used to study the effects of invading black locust (Robinia pseudo-acacia) and aspen (Populus tremuloides, P. grandidentata) trees on breeding birds in the APBP. These were conducted at uninvaded points, which were dominated by pitch pine (Pinus rigida) - scrub oak (Quercus ilicifolia, Q. prinoides) vegetation, and invaded points, which were dominated by black locust and aspens. Two hundred twenty point counts of eight minute duration were conducted at fifty-five points between 14 May and 4 July 2001. Vegetation surveys were conducted at each point along two 100 meter transects. Forty-seven bird species were recorded within a 50 m point count radius during the study. Thirty-three bird species were found at both invaded and uninvaded points. Characteristic APBP birds such as Prairie Warbler (Dendroica discolor), Field Sparrow (Spizella pusilla), Red-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta canadensis), House Wren (Troglodytes aedon), and Eastern Towhee (Pipilo erythrophthalmus), were more prevalent at uninvaded points. Birds more prevalent at invaded points, such as Rose-breasted Grosbeak (Pheucticus ludovicianus) and Red-eyed Vireo (Vireo olivaceus) are regionally common in deciduous forests. Chestnut-sided Warbler (Dendroica pensylvanica) was also more prevalent at uninvaded points. Structural differences in vegetation were apparent between the two point types. Canonical correspondence analysis indicated distinct association of birds with measured vegetation characteristics that differed between invaded and uninvaded points. Changes in plant composition and vegetation structure caused by the invasion of black locust and aspens may be altering avian communities in the Albany Pine Bush.

The Ecological Effects of Carnivores on Small Mammals and Seed Predation in the Albany Pine Bush

by Amielle DeWan (2002)

Habitat fragmentation can alter ecological processes by modifying species composition, population sizes, and key ecological interactions, although evidence for the latter is scarce. The immediate effects of fragmentation can be magnified by edge effects in the habitat that remains. The objective of this study was to examine how habitat fragmentation and edge effects can influence small mammal and native plant communities, through carnivore-mediated trophic cascades. This research was conducted in the Albany Pine Bush, a globally rare ecosystem that has become highly fragmented by urbanization. I experimentally evaluated small mammal abundance and seed predation rates on three native plants species at three site types: small fragments (12ha), interiors of large fragments (>40ha) and edges of large fragments. Seeds of pitch pine (Pinus rigida), blue lupine (Lupinus perennis) and New Jersey tea (Ceanothus americanus) were chosen because of their conservation importance, and because natural populations have suffered historic declines. Track tube surveys, a new method for recording small mammal activity, were conducted at each of 21 sites in summer to determine relative abundance, using standard baits. Surveys were repeated in fall using native seeds as bait to determine relative seed predation rates. Data on carnivore activity for each site were drawn from a separate, ongoing study by researchers at the New York State Museum (R. Kays, D. Bogan). Seven small mammal species were found during summer surveys, three of them restricted to large fragments (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus, Glaucomys sabrinus and Napeozapus insignis). However, only three widespread and abundant small mammals accounted for the overwhelming majority of native seed removal (Peromyscus leucopis/maniculatus, Sciurus carolinensis and Tamias striatus), and of these 72% of all seeds were removed by P. leucopus/maniculatus. Relative abundance of small mammals did not appear to vary in relation to site type. However, seed predation rates were highest at the edge of large fragments.

The increasing presence of coyotes (Canis latrans) in the Albany Pine Bush has been implicated in modified trophic interactions, due to their potential to reduce populations of smaller predators, thus releasing small mammals from some forms of predation pressure. However, a direct relationship linking carnivores, small mammal abundance and seed predation was not clear. The results of my study do suggest that seed predation may play an important role in the regeneration of key plant species, and preserve managers should consider the role of small mammals when planning restoration efforts. Longer-term studies are needed to better understand the influence of top- predators on the small mammal and plant community in fragmented landscapes.

All Terrain Vehicle Use on Protected Land: Is there a way for Land Trust to Control Illegal Riding?

by Joanne Taylor (2003)

Illegal use of all-terrain vehicles on property protected by land trust has become a pervasive issue that organizations must deal with more and more often. Off-road riders are causing extensive damage to the habitat and biota that land trust work to protect. Enforcing land use restrictions is very difficult, often impossible. I interviewed land trusts to learn how these organizations dealt with making policy to address this troublesome issue. The objective of my study is to determine whether participation among stakeholders results in successful implementation of policy, and whether there is a pattern in the methods used by successful policy makers to ensure compliance with land use regulations. Using a questionnaire, I compiled my data through telephone interviews with land trust in the Northeast. My research did not reveal any relationship between land trust educational and communication efforts, and the implementation of successful policy. Additionally, the responses indicated that there are too many factors involved, when making policy decisions about the ATV issue, to be able to design a useable template for land trusts. My results did not disprove my hypothesis. Analysis of my data was hampered by a small sample size and the subjective nature of the questionnaire. Additional research about the problems of ATV riders would be valuable. A more quantitative approach to determine the level of illegal ATV use on protected properties as related to the extent of land trust communication efforts would be useful as well.

Effects of Invasive Plants on North American Birds: What do we really know

by Cris Winters (2004)

Few scientific data support the claim that the spread of invasive plants is use invasive plant communities, although there is very little information regarding the longer-term effects on birds. Generalist species are more likely to favor these communities than specialist birds, but some specialist species nest, feed, and shelter in certain invasive plants. Habitat structure is a key feature of bird use, and vegetation density tends to be negatively correlated with bird use regardless of plant species. The interactions between birds and invasive plants are influenced by many indirect factors, which are currently poorly understood Agencies and organizations that manage lands for optimal biodiversity have very little accurate and practical information on which to base their management decisions. More research that examines the relationships between birds and invasive plants as habitat would be beneficial.

The Ecological Restoration of an Urban Stream Corridor Patroon Creek, Albany, NY

by Laura Audette (2004)

Urban streams and rivers have suffered chemical and biological degradation that has left many of these waterbodies in a seriously polluted state. Ecological restoration of urban stream corridors tries to address these problems by improving structural and functional properties of urban riparian ecosystems. The objective of this study was to examine chemical and biological properties of an urban stream corridor and its surrounding landscape in order to determine the opportunities and feasibility of an ecological restoration program along segments of the stream. This research was conducted along the Patroon Creek, a highly urbanized watershed that flows through Albany, NY. I surveyed the creek and its tributaries and designated zones of high ecological restoration potential based on condition of buffer, amount of undeveloped land, and surrounding landscape characteristics. Sampling sites were designated along the length of the creek and its tributaries where water quality measurements and samples were taken monthly for one year. Artificial settlement plates were used at five sites along the creek to survey aquatic macroinvertebrates in July and August of 2003. Digital orthophotos were used in ArcGIS to delineate the landscape characteristics of the watershed, with percent impervious surface calculated for the entire watershed and smaller areas around the sampling sites. The Patroon Creek Watershed contains approximately 35% impervious surfaces, a threshold level for high degradation potential. Water quality parameters showed both temporal and spatial variation, with high concentrations of ions, particularly sodium and chloride, in winter months. Family level benthic macroinvertebrate indices rated the creek as being moderately to severely degraded. As percent impervious surface increased there was a corresponding decrease in water quality along the creek. However, the restoration zones along the creek do appear to be acting as a partial buffer against non-point source contaminants and enhancing these remnant riparian buffer zones is a logical next step in improving Patroon Creek water quality.

Biodiversity Education in New York State: An Assessment of Current Curricula

by Crystal Jones (2004)

The current biodiversity crisis has produced the need to educate the general public about the importance of biodiversity among the general public in order reduce future losses. The secondary education system may be an appropriate vehicle for transmitting this crucial understanding to your citizens. To assess this possibility, it is critical to ascertain the current state of biodiversity education in the nation's schools and to identify constraints as well as opportunities, for teaching biodiversity in the classroom. A questionnaire focusing on teaching methods, teacher preparation, and evaluation of existing curricula was distributed to 300 randomly selected high schools in New York State. A ranking system for biodiversity education program development was designed and ranking were assigned to participating schools. Schools with better resources and with teachers better prepared to teach biodiversity offered the most comprehensive and effective biodiversity education programs. Two of the greatest constraints on teachers teaching biodiversity are a lock of time to fit it into the curriculum and a lack of teaching materials. To overcome some of the challenges facing biodiversity education, we propose the creation of a biodiversity education website, specifically designed for use by New York State teachers, in collaboration with the Biodiversity Research Institute at the New York State Department of Education. We also recommend the creation of a seminar series aimed at increasing the knowledge base of teachers in biodiversity. The seminars would be taught by biology and ecology faculty at participating college and universities across the state.

Variability of Structural Attributes within Forested Wetlands of the Hudson River Valley

by Benjamin Dittbrenner (2004)

Remote sensing has become one of the primary tools for monitoring forested wetlands for legal and conservation purposes, but development of any remote sensing tool requires a thorough calibration and analysis of targeted resources on the ground. As part of a project to evaluate the efficacy of hyperspectral remote sensing for wetland monitoring and assessment, a comprehensive study of forested wetland communities in two portions of the Hudson River Valley was performed. Due to the canopy cover that forested wetlands provide, wetland indicators such as standing water are often concealed, leading to the incorrect identification of some wetlands as surrounding forest. As hyperspectral remote sensing technologies improve and resolution increases, it may be possible to identify individual trees in forested stands. By quantifying biodiversity and forest community composition, differentiation of forested wetlands from their surrounding upland forest may be possible. In this study, forested wetland attributes most strongly correlated with canopy structure and biodiversity were identified. Forested wetland community structure and environmental attributes within the Hudson River Valley were documented and the relationships between them were identified. Forty forested wetlands within two regions of the Hudson River valley were studied. The wetland attributes that were sampled included climatic, physical, hydrologic, hydrogeomorphic, water chemistry, and habitat variables. The biotic attributes that were measured included canopy and sub-canopy species numbers, percent cover and number of individuals, biomass and basal area (for trees). Multivariate and bivariate analytical techniques were used to identify relationships within the plant community and to ascertain the influence of environmental variables on vegetation structure and composition. Cluster analysis revealed that wetland attributes were associated by basin rather than ecoregion. Least squares regressions indicated that sub-canopy species composition was more closely related to canopy species composition in the Upper Hudson basin study area than in the Lower Hudson basin study area. The most important attributes related to canopy biodiversity in Upper Hudson forested wetlands were identified by principle components analysis; these were density of macrodepressions, road density and water depth. In the Lower Hudson the most important attributes related to canopy composition were soil moisture (at a depth of 5 cm) and hummock density.

The Ecological Impacts os Habitat Fragmentation on Deer Ticks (Ixodes scapularis) and Lyme Disease

by Cori Drummond (2004)

As human development continues, fragmentation of natural areas disrupts native plant and animal populations. Ostfeld and Keesing (2000 a, b) recently offered a theory termed the "dilution effect," which would link fragmentation and human health through a complex set of ecological interactions that may increase the risk for Lyme disease in highly fragmented areas. The purpose of this study was to test the dilution effect by examining the impacts of habitat fragmentation on local densities of deer ticks (Ixodes scapularis) and their infection rates by the bacteria that causes Lyme disease (Borrelia burgdorferi). My work first tests the three main assumptions of the dilution effect: (1) white-footed mice (Peromyscus leucopus), the most competent hosts of B. burgdorferi, are habitat generalists that live at high densities in habitat fragments of all sizes, (2) as the area of a fragment decreases the small mammal species richness also decreases, and (3) as small mammal species diversity decreases, P. leucopus account for a smaller proportion of the small mammal population. I then address the main prediction that as the size habitat fragments decreases, the deer tick infection rates will also increase.

I conducted research across 27 fragmented sites (0.57 to 427 ha) in the Albany Pine Bush ecosystem, New York. I quantified the vegetation at all sites and used small mammal data from 21 sites (Dewan, 2002). I also used standard drag sampling to make three collections of ticks: spring 2002 (22 sites), fal12002 (22 sites) and spring 2003 (27 sites).

I tested ticks for the presence of the bacteria that causes Lyme disease (B. burgdorferi) using a PCR-based test. From these data, infection rates of ticks were determined for each site. All field and laboratory work was conducted in collaboration with the New York State Department of Health, following protocols for handling hazardous biological agents.

I collected a total of 4845 deer ticks and tested 733 for B. burgdorferi infection. Overall infection rates were 0.22 for spring '02, 0.56 for fall '02 and 0.23 for the spring '03. My results supported two of the three assumptions of the dilution hypothesis: Peromyscus occurred in all fragments, and was overall the most abundant species and there was higher small mammal species diversity in larger fragments. However, as small mammal species diversity decreased, Peromyscus did not account for a larger proportion of the small mammal population. Additionally, the main prediction of the dilution effect was not supported, as I found no relationship between tick infection rates and small mammal species richness or forest fragment size. I found small scale microhabitat variables ( e.g. canopy cover, understory cover, and litter depth) to be better predictors of the local densities of infected ticks. While the dilution effect has robust theoretical support, my data show that its assumptions and main predictions are not upheld in this suburban setting, and therefore, the effect may not be relevant in areas where humans are most likely to come into contact with ticks.

Effects of Landscape Disturbance on Freshwater Emergent Wetlands in the Hudson River Valley, New York

by Rebbecca Shirer (2004)

Located at the interface between terrestrial and aquatic systems, wetlands occupy a unique and important position in the landscape. This allows them to perform a wide variety of services, but simultaneously exposes them to many potential disturbances. It is essential to understand wetlands within their landscape context and the effects distant disturbances may have on wetland ecosystems. We explored these relationships in fifteen freshwater emergent marshes in the Hudson Valley in New York State. A variety of wetland characteristics were evaluated for their potential as indicators of wetland disturbance, and the surrounding landscape was mapped and analyzed for patterns in land cover and buffers. Landscape and buffer metrics were correlated with percent cover of natural vegetation, and land cover patterns varied with distance from the wetland. Regressions and t-tests were used to determine how the selected indicators respond to landscape patterns. Results indicate that specific conductance is significantly increased in urban land cover types, and is unaffected by buffer width or integrity. Richness of native herbaceous plants in disturbed landscapes is increased when the land cover is agricultural and the wetland is poorly buffered.

Landscape Patterns and Water Quality in a Rural Watershed Tenmile Creek, Rensselaerville, NY

Sean Madden 2004

Urbanization of watersheds is occurring at an increasing rate throughout the United States, and the increase in impervious surfaces is recognized as a serious threat to water quality. The rural Tenmile Creek, Rensselaerville, NY was selected as a reference stream to help interpret ongoing water quality studies on the urban Patroon Creek, Albany, NY. Using aerial orthoimages and GIS software, land use in the watershed was digitized and the area of impervious surface was calculated. Monthly water samples taken at 10 sample sites along Tenmile Creek were analyzed for dissolved oxygen, pH, and dissolved ions. During July and August stream macro invertebrates were sampled and analyzed as indicators of water quality. Around each sample site a zone was created using GIS and the percent impervious surface was determined as a measure of buffer quality. Results found that the Tenmile Creek watershed was predominantly forested and had a total percent impervious surface of 2%, compared to 32-38% in Patroon Creek. Water quality, based on water chemistry and biological indicators, was generally high in Tenmile Creek, and exhibited a sharp contrast to high ion concentrations and tolerant invertebrate community in Patroon Creek. However, the concentrations of sodium and chloride increased significantly after Tenmile Creek passed through small suburban Hamlet of Rensselaerville, NY and continued to increase to the last downstream sample site. Sodium and chloride levels were elevated in this area throughout the year and were likely associated with the lingering effects of road salt application. Water quality did not exhibit a strong relationship with buffer quality, in part because small tributaries to Tenmile Creek that begin as roadside drainage are acting as leaks in the buffer carrying nonpoint source pollution, in particular dissolved ions, into the main stem.

Analysis of New York State Park Lands and Their Contributions to New York State Biodiversity

by Amanda Stein

The New York State Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation (OPRHP) contracted with the New York State Natural Heritage Program (NHP) to gather baseline data on the rare species and significant natural communities found on state parklands. This recently completed six-year project catalogued ecologically important resources and evaluated their conditions through field surveys and digital mapping. The study also identified noteworthy threats to the rare species and significant communities at each site.

My research will use the NHP data to test the hypothesis that OPRHP lands make a durable, significant contribution to statewide biodiversity. The specific goals of the study are to understand the role that OPRHP lands play in the protection of local, regional and statewide biodiversity; to identify which rare components are important for protection and enhancement of biodiversity within the park system; and to identify regional perspectives and opportunities for biodiversity enhancement in state parks and adjacent lands. Data analysis will employ Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and statistical software.

Initial analyses will organize parklands by size and the park's land use classification. I will then test species-area relationships utilizing identifying rare species in a park unit correlated to park size and required habitat patch size. Additionally, I will identify parks where relationships could be analyzed for correlations among diversity categories. Using park visitation and data I will test for relationships between visitor use and presence of rare elements to establish park vulnerabilities. I will also test for vulnerability of rare elements in relation to land uses within the parks and adjacent lands. Final analysis will look at landscape variables including connectivity and isolation of parks. In conclusion I will discuss the results, suggest opportunities for the establishment of policy guidelines concerning biodiversity management within State Parks, and offer future research and management needs.

The Effects of Purple Loosestirfe (Lythrum salicaria) on Emergent Wetland Invertebrates in the Hudson River Valley Portion of New York State

by David Newman

The effects of Purple Loosestrife invasions have been document in the literature but no true consensus has been come to on what effects it has on wetland communities. I have chosen to look at what effect if any Purple Loosestrife may have on the aquatic and terrestrial invertebrate communities in the wetland that are invaded. Invertebrates are being at the bottom of both the aquatic and terrestrial food webs are an important component of the community dynamics in wetlands. Purple Loosestrife invasions tends to start out slow but over time will lead to monocultures drastically altering the community structure in wetlands.

I have gathered field data about various wetlands within my study area as well as collected both aquatic and terrestrial invertebrates from these wetlands. Once collected the invertebrates were identified and some preliminary data analysis has been undertaken.

A second component of my research is using an airborne hyperspectral scanner to detect the occurrence of Purple Loosestrife within the study regions. Two different overflights of the study area have completed and the data acquired from these is being processed at the Strom Thurmond Institute at Clemson. I have been responsible for ground validation of data points produced by the Strom Thurmond Institute. Hopefully all the data will be processed in the near future so I can say something about the Purple Loosestrife distribution in the Hudson River Valley and how this may be effecting the invertebrates within the wetlands.

The Effects of Habitat Fragmentation on Reptiles and Amphibians

by Lynn Schnurr

With the increase of development in our region as well as around the world, forests, wetlands, and other habitats are being altered and destroyed. Species that depend on these habitats are forced to move, cope, or evolve otherwise they face extirpation. Amphibians and reptiles require both upland and lowland habitats and therefore are heavily impacted by current anthropogenic changes in the landscape. I am interested in the effects that this type of land use will have on amphibians and reptiles of the northeastern US. Therefore, I have developed a study looking at how forest fragment size, wetland proximity, surrounding matrix type, and road density will affect them. This study is taking place in NY, CT, and NJ. Field surveying methods combined with GIS analysis should provide me with the information I need to determine how these species are reacting to current land use. Ultimately I hope to use this data to suggest a more ecologically stable land use practice.