12th Annual Environmental Studies
Student Research Symposium
April 6, 2013
Environmental Studies Department
Antioch University New England, Keene, NH
Symposium Director: Peter Palmiotto
Student Coordinators: Elizabeth Pascale & Lindsay St. Pierre
Schedule of Events
9:00 Welcome – Peter A. Palmiotto, Director, Conservation Biology
SESSION I. Animal Ecology
9:15 Elizabeth Pascale – The Role of Ants in Reaching Federal Recovery Goals for Lycaeides Melissa Samuelis (Karner blue butterfly) in the Pine Barrens of Concord, New Hampshire
9:30 Erin Hilley – Myrmecochory and Corema conradii at the Cape Cod National Seashore: Is C. conradii Dispersal Limited without the Aid of Ants?
9:45 Erica Hermsen – Using camera-traps to test the efficacy of different bait types in luring cheetahs (Acinonyx jabatus) in Kenya, Africa
10:00 Katelynn Frei – The Use of Remote Infrared Cameras to Asses the Diversity, Density, and Distribution of Nocturnal Primates in Nyungwe National Park, Rwanda, Africa
10:15 Morgan Ingalls – Estimating Myotis lucifugus populations at Aeolus Cave in Dorest, Vermont using PIT tag technology
10:30 ; 10:45 Break
10:45 Melissa Ann Gaydos – Conservation of the Leatherback turtle (Dermochelys coriacea) in Vieques, PR: Nesting and hatchling success related to incubation temperatures
11:00 Emily Dark – Investigation of lionfish (P. volitans/miles) use of estuarine mangroves in the Indian River Lagoon, Florida, USA
11:15 Tamathy Stage – Muskrat preferences between common reed and native cattail for lodge construction and location in a New York State marsh
SESSION II. Plant Ecology and Conservation
11:30 Sadie Stone – Prescribed Fire Management in Pitch Pine Barrens throughout New England: Burned vs. Unburned
11:45 Tierney Rosenstock – Facilitating pollination: the relationship of co-flowering species on fruit set in the Pink Lady’s Slipper (Orchidaceae) (electronic poster presentation)
12:00 ; 1:00 Lunch Break & Poster Session
Kathryn Doherty – Alarmed but not acting: An examination of the inconsistency between beliefs and behavior in response to climate change
Apollinaire William – Assessment of Climate Change vulnerability to food crop systems in the Mukungwa watershed, Rwanda
SESSION II. Plant Ecology and Conservation (continued)
1:00 Christopher W. Beltz – Restoration Potential of Degraded Crevice Communities on the Summit of Mt. Monadnock, New Hampshire
1:15 Candra Bergeron – Evaluation of Hunter Education in New Hampshire; How it effects Hunter’s Views of Themselves as Conservation Stewards.
SESSION III. PhD Research & Service Project Presentations
1:30 Claudia J. Ford – Dr. Gladys Tantaquidgeon and the Plant Medicines of Southern New England Women
1:45 Deb Matlock – Deep Environmental Education: Service to Earth and its Community
2:00 Ruth Kermish-Allen – Technology Tools and Environmental Education: A Partnership for Powerful Education
2:15 Closing Remarks
The following abstracts represent current research being conducted by Antioch students. Some students are finalizing results and evaluations, while others are just getting ready to start the data-collection process. The projects and theses described here demonstrate the breadth of student impact and depth of student passion in the Antioch Environmental Studies Department.
Bernadette Arakwiye: Mapping edge effects and modeling the impacts of land use change on chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes schweinfurthii) habitat in Nyungwe National Park: implications for landscape conservation.
MS Advisor: Beth A. Kaplin, PhD
Anthropogenic activities such as land cover transformation have driven natural landscape fragmentation, which always results in wild habitat loss and biodiversity loss. The altered microclimatic conditions at the fragment’s edge lead to changes in ecological conditions that further degrade the fragment thus reducing its effective ecological size. Such changes, known as edge effects may be worsened or alleviated by the size, shape, geographic orientation or matrix of the fragment. Nyungwe National Park (NNP) in Rwanda, a home for Chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes schweinfurthii), is one of the remaining montane forest fragments of the Albertine Rift biodiversity hotspot. The park is irregularly shaped and surrounded by a buffer zone including plantations of pine, eucalyptus and tea and crop fields, making this fragment a unique site to explore matrix and edge effects. Socio-economic studies in NNP region promote tea as the best buffer zone type; however no ecological studies have been done to assess the impact of different buffer zone types on Nyungwe habitat. The main objective of this study is to use a combination of Geographic Information System (GIS) and ecological field data to evaluate the extent and intensity of edge effects on NNP due to differences in matrix types. Spatial modeling will be conducted to assess edge effects under different land use scenarios in the matrix. This study will develop an edge effects index tool that may be adapted to future edge ecology studies. Results of this study will inform management decisions for NNP in general and chimpanzee conservation in particular.
*Christopher W. Beltz: Restoration Potential of Degraded Crevice Communities on the Summit of Mt. Monadnock, New Hampshire
MS Advisor: Peter A. Palmiotto
Alpine ecosystems are home to many rare and endangered species. These endangered species exist in a zone of extreme climatic variation. Due to the variation, alpine vegetation normally experiences prolonged recovery times after natural disturbances. As such, a significant degree of trampling by humans can create severe and long lasting effects to local environment, including loss of vegetation cover, soil erosion, and soil compaction. These effects can create issues with the long-term viability of populations due to the inability of the vegetation to reestablish on impacted soils. These ecosystems are threatened by direct human impact, typically trampling from hikers and other recreationalists. Mt. Monadnock, located within Monadnock State Park in the state of New Hampshire, is the most climbed mountain in North America with over 100,000 visitors annually. To assess the potential of the summit of Mt. Monadnock for restoration, the vegetation and substrate of the summit cone and two levels of degraded communities were described. In addition, three experimental approaches were tested to restore vegetation to the most degraded communities. Soil scarification, the addition of compost, and the use of jute matting were all evaluated as possible amendments to aid in restoration. The summit cone substrate is comprised of 65% rock and 33% soil, with the remaining 2% being a mix of steep, rocky cliffs and areas of gravel. This assessment of the summit cone substrate also shows that that 0.6 hectares of the 3.9 hectare summit is restorable. Due to vandalism the results of the experimental restoration techniques were inconclusive; however, results suggest that the jute mat and compost addition may aid in restoring vegetation to the impacted summit areas. In addition, alpine bentgrass (Agrostis mertensii) may be the species most likely to aid in hastening succession in these areas.
*Candra Bergeron: Evaluation of Hunter Education in New Hampshire; How it effects Hunter’s Views of Themselves as Conservation Stewards.
MS Advisor: Peter A. Palmiotto
While hunting has historically proven to be a reliable source of population control for white-tailed deer, it has continually become a topic of controversy. Many hunters view themselves as contributors to the maintenance of biodiversity, while hunting opponents disagree. Numerous studies have been conducted in attempts to highlight areas of needed improvement in hunting regulations as well as hunter education. I will be conducting an in-depth evaluation of the current hunter education course in New Hampshire and their methods of integrating conservation. I will be comparing two groups of hunters, those who have recently completed a hunter education course with those who were not required to take it or who haven’t taken the course in more than 20 years to see which group rates the impact of their hunting on the overall ecosystem of a forest.
This presentation will focus on my process thus far, through survey creation, recruiting willing participants, and where I plan to go from here to finalize this project. I will also discuss my plans for alternative publications and the importance of relaying scientific information in a variety of forms.
*Emily Dark: Investigation of lionfish (P. volitans/miles) use of estuarine mangroves in the Indian River Lagoon, Florida, USA.
MS Advisor: Beth Kaplin
The recent invasion of the Indo-Pacific lionfish (Pterois volitans/mile) in the western Atlantic has the potential for devastating effects on coastal ecosystems and has been identified as one of the top fifteen threats to global biodiversity. With little to no predation pressure, high fecundity and wide environmental tolerances, the lionfish invasion has been rapidly spreading since its introduction in the mid-eighties off the coast of Florida. The rapid colonization of coastal habitats has been shown to have drastic negative effects on native fish populations. For example, researchers found that the direct predation of lionfish on Bahamian reefs was associated with 79% reductions in native fish recruitment. This threat is of great concern, especially in one of the nation’s most bio-diverse and threatened estuaries; the Indian River Lagoon (IRL), Florida. Last summer, while serving as an intern at the Smithsonian Marine Station in Fort Pierce with Dr. Candy Feller, Emily discovered lionfish amongst the mangroves within the IRL. In addition, limited reports indicate lionfish inhabiting the Indian River Lagoon since 2010, yet no research exists on the population within the estuary. Therefore, Emily’s master thesis project will explore the details of the invasive lionfish’s presence within the mangroves, which are a critical fisheries habitat of the IRL. This project will examine both the extent and the nature of mangrove use by lionfish through analysis of density distributions in relation to the major inlets of the IRL and possible correlations between lionfish presence with microhabitat features. This project will also examine the specificities of habitat fidelity through removals of lionfish to examine replenishment of chosen habitat, in addition to a tagging effort to monitor individual’s level of fidelity and movements. Diet, reproductive capacity and size structure of the population will also be examined. Such information will be essential for tracking the population within the estuary, as well as managing effective removal programs.
Emily is currently working on this project with Jeff Beal and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission in Fort Pierce, Florida at Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute.
^Kathryn Doherty: Alarmed but not acting: An examination of the inconsistency between beliefs and behavior in response to climate change.
PhD Advisor: Tom Webler
Global climate change is a complex and unprecedented problem that presents unique challenges. Our ability to avert its worst consequences hinges upon behavior change at all levels of society.
It would be logical to assume that the individuals who are most concerned about climate change take action in an attempt to limit it. However, recent segmentation studies of the American public indicate that people in the Alarmed segment (i.e., those who are most concerned about climate change) take private household actions such as changing light bulbs but engage in very little public action (e.g., contacting elected officials) (Maibach, Roser-Renouf & Leiserowitz, 2009). Maibach and colleagues’ study suggests that this inaction is not derived from a cynicism about government. How, then, can this contradiction be explained?
My research uses the Value-Belief-Norm theory (VBN), an established social-psychological model, to examine this apparent inconsistency between beliefs and behaviors. The objectives of my research are to:
- Determine what influences the climate-related public action of people in the Alarmed segment.
- Test the ability of the Value-Belief-Norm (VBN) theory to explain the public action of the Alarmed.
- Modify the VBN (by adding social norms and efficacy variables) to create a more comprehensive model with better predictive power for public action in response to climate change.
I used structural equation modeling (SEM) to compare the original VBN to my modified VBN model. Initial results (n=702) suggest that my modified model (with efficacy and social norms variables included) explains climate-related public action more comprehensively than the original VBN. Results suggest, for example, that engaging in public action is highly influenced by the belief that one can do something about climate change, both individually and collectively. Alarmed individuals who thought they could make a difference engaged in more public action to limit climate change than those who thought their actions wouldn’t matter.
Education and communication strategies must be tailored for particular interpretive communities (Leiserowitz, 2007). If more were known about the Alarmed segment, specific messages and educational programs could be tailored to this audience. Results from the current study reveal important antecedents of climate-related action. These findings should offer valuable information to communication and education strategies, as well as to the VBN model.
Kristen Fauteux: The habitat, population status, conservation and management of the first recorded population of Neottia bifolia in Massachusetts.
MS Advisor: Peter A. Palmiotto
The first population of Neottia bifolia, the southern twayblade, was discovered growing in a red maple swamp matrix on the island of Martha’s Vineyard, MA. This inconspicuous species of orchid ranges from Texas along the gulf coast and up the east coast to Nova Scotia. It is listed as either Threatened or Endangered in six of the twelve states and all the Provinces where it has been found. It is currently being considered for listing by the Massachusetts Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program. In order to aid in the management and conservation of this species, current population characteristics will be described and new populations will be sought. I will be collecting data on the vegetation community and soil characteristics where N.bifolia populations are located. This information will be used to search other sites with similar characteristics to locate potential population sites.
*Claudia J. Ford: Dr. Gladys Tantaquidgeon and the Plant Medicines of Southern New England Women
PhD Advisor: Dr. Alesia Maltz
Dr. Tantaquidgeon was a Mohegan tribal elder whose life crossed three centuries, 1899-2005. As a trained anthropologist and ethnographer she was pivotal to preserving tribal history and served as a crucial bridge between the 18th century knowledge of her grandmothers and the importance of their legacy for the 21st century. Dr. Tantaquidgeon’s work included important ethnographies of many of the tribes of the current northeastern US. This paper examines the information that Dr. Tantaquidgeon collected about the use of plant medicines for women’s health concerns in the 18th and 19th centuries, and compares it to information that was collected by other important Native historians, ethnographers, and scholars. Do the historical records tell us the stories of particularly important women’s plants and how knowledge of those plants was shared among Native and non-Native women in the past?
Claudia Ford is a midwife and a doctoral degree student in environmental studies who is conducting research on 18th century Southern New England women’s knowledge and use of plant medicines in the libraries and archives of the Mashantucket Pequot Research Center.
*Katelynn Frei: The Use of Remote Infrared Cameras to Asses the Diversity, Density, and Distribution of Nocturnal Primates in Nyungwe National Park, Rwanda, Africa
M.S. Advisor: Beth Kaplin
Primates are generally a well-studied order, but there is a lack of information and very few studies conducted on nocturnal primate species. Other than increasing species richness in several ecosystems around the world, nocturnal primates play important roles like seed dispersal, seed predators, social interactions, pollination, and overall utilizations of distinct niches within their communities. A unique, new method to assess diversity, distribution, and density of nocturnal primates are remote infrared cameras. Their ease of setup and versatility make cameras suitable for a variety of analyses. The purpose of this study is to obtain the frequency of occurrence of nocturnal primates in habitat types surrounding the Uwinka visitor/research center in Nyungwe National Park, Rwanda.
A total of 25 remote infrared camera traps will be set up along contour lines ranging from 1800-2500m in elevation and spaced approximately 200 meters apart, respectively, using ArcGIS 10 around Uwinka study site. Wood platforms will be built, approximately 1/2m x 0.5m, as a base for fruit bait or an applied scented medium to attract a broad range of targeted nocturnal primate species. This will also provide a stable platform for the animals to perch which would increase the probability of capturing the animals in the pictures. Placement of the camera will be slightly above these fruit bait stations and pointed to the center of the station to obtain the best possible picture of the primates. Each camera system will be programmed with a 2-shot interval and a 30 minute delay between each trigger and will be active 24 hrs each day. Capture indices will be calculated based on number of images of a species divided by total trap days in a given habitat. Comparison of differences in primates captured in specific habitat types and elevation gradients will be determined using the Analysis of Variance statistical test. This data will be used to support any climate change implication as well as overall distribution of these primates.
*Melissa Ann Gaydos: Conservation of the Leatherback turtle (Dermochelys coriacea) in Vieques, PR: Nesting and hatchling success related to incubation temperatures
MS Advisor: Beth Kaplin
A wide diversity of reptiles exhibit temperature-dependent sex determination (TSD), including all sea turtles species and populations studied to date. For species with TSD, like the leatherback sea turtle (Dermochelys coriacea), understanding the natural variation in offspring sex ratios is critical in developing management decisions aiming to conserve and increase the production of hatchlings for this endangered vertebrate. In order to estimate the hatchling sex ratio for the entire breeding population, information from all nesting beaches in the range of a metapopulation is critical. The purpose of this study is to conduct a baseline analyses of leatherback nest temperatures throughout the 2013 nesting season at Playa Grande, in Vieques, Puerto Rico. The objectives are to detect variation in incubation temperatures within leatherback nests at Playa Grande and identify variation of nest temperatures across the season in relation to changes in precipitation patterns. Temporal changes in clutch size and the predation environment for hatchlings will also be observed. Furthermore, abiotic characteristics such as beach temperatures and moisture levels will be quantified across the season.
By conducting this study, a better understanding of the natural variation in leatherback offspring sex ratios produced on the island will be critical to current and future conservation efforts established in Vieques. Across a larger scale, monitoring and comparing temperatures at a variety of different beaches will generate more power to test hypotheses about the differences in TSD patterns among leatherback populations. Further documentation of how annual and seasonal changes in weather affect leatherback sex ratios produced at various nesting sites will also become especially important as global temperatures continue to shift. Monitoring these affects is essential given current projections of human population growth occurring in tropical coastal areas. Having such knowledge will improve our ability to predict how land use and global climate changes will affect future leatherback populations ; allowing us to make more informed, adaptive management decisions for this species.
*Erica Hermsen: Using camera-traps to test the efficacy of different bait types in luring cheetahs (Acinonyx jabatus) in Kenya, Africa
MS Advisor: Peter A. Palmiotto
Cheetahs (Acinonyx jabatus) in Kenya are in danger of extinction due to habitat loss, human conflict, and loss of genetic diversity. In order to develop sufficient conservation measures for cheetahs, population characteristics such as home range, demographics, and genetic health must be understood. Capturing live cheetahs for biomedical sampling and radio-collaring is the most reliable method for obtaining such information. Over the last decade, Action for Cheetahs in Kenya (ACK) has been working to capture cheetahs in Kenya to obtain biological samples and secure radio-collars, but have had limited success. Therefore, in order to increase the success rate of capturing cheetahs, a variety of bait types (brand-name perfume, laboratory prepared custom-made perfume, live goat, predator decoy, robotic goat, and soiled cheetah bedding) were analyzed using camera-trap stations. Out of all six bait types, the robotic goat showed the highest potential in luring cheetahs to traps. The live goat proved to have the least potential in luring cheetahs due to disturbance of other carnivores. Information gleaned from this research was provided to ACK and the Kenya Wildlife Service for use in capturing cheetahs for conservation research.
Laura Hilberg: Geographic Variation in Nelson’s Sparrow (Ammodramus nelsoni) Song
MS Advisor: Jon Atwood
Many bird species display geographic variation in their song, which can occur as graded variation across the landscape, or as dialects, which have sharp boundaries. Because birdsong plays such a central role in avian behavior, it is crucial to understand normal variation in order to identify changes that could affect social communication, territory establishment and defense, mating behavior, and, ultimately, reproductive success. The purpose of this study is to provide important background information on geographic variation in the song of Nelson’s Sparrows. I recorded the song of 33 sparrows at 4 salt marshes along the northern coast of Maine and measured several parameters of song including length and peak frequency the song, and of elements and sub-elements within the song. Due to small and uneven sample sizes, I was excluded two of the four marshes from further analyses. The two remaining sites (Bass Harbor Marsh and Machias Marsh) were statistically different based on 4 song parameters: the peak frequency of elements A and B, sub-element B1, and number of sub-elements included in element B. Although multivariate analyses were not significant, there does appear to be some evidence suggesting geographic variability in this species, particularly based on frequency and syllabic structure. This study is the first to systematically describe normal patterns of song in this species, and provides a basis for ongoing studies into environmental factors that may affect normal song acquisition and production.
*Erin Hilley: Myrmecochory and Corema conradii at the Cape Cod National Seashore: Is C. conradii Dispersal Limited without the Aid of Ants?
MS Advisor: Rachel Thiet
Myrmecochory (dispersal of seeds by ants) is a principal seed dispersal mode of many plant species worldwide and is prevalent in certain ecosystems. Ant seed dispersal has been well established in xeric environments of Australia and South Africa; however, little research has been conducted on ant seed dispersal in the coastal environments of northeastern North America. Here, ants may play a significant role in dispersing the seeds of Corema conradii (Broom Crowberry), an important species of threatened coastal heathland ecosystems. We conducted field studies at Cape Cod National Seashore to evaluate whether C. conradii is dispersal-limited without the dispersal activity of ants, and whether the season of prescribed burns affects the relationship between ant seed dispersal and C. Conradii seedling density and spatial distribution. We observed that mature C. conradii fruits with elaiosomes drop from parent plants to the ground and are then dispersed by a variety of ant species. The distances and locations that ants dispersed fruits away from parent plants were consistent with the distance and location seedlings occurred away from the parent plant; however, the distances that ants dispersed fruits, location of seedlings, and the primary species of ants dispersing fruits varied by burn season. Our findings suggest that ants are the primary biotic disperser of C. conradii fruits and that without the aid of ants transporting fruit to locations away from the parent plant, C. conradii reproductive success would be dispersal-limited. Additionally, prescribed burning may impact the long-term recovery of C. conradii and similar vegetation of heathlands and related plant communities. These findings highlight the importance of conservation practices and management decisions that preserve the sensitive ecological interactions among species and their abiotic environments.
Brett Hillman: Breeding bird assemblages in scrub-shrub habitat resulting from timber harvests in a New Hampshire reservation dominated by oak and pine
MS Advisor: Peter A. Palmiotto
The decline of songbirds that specialize in scrub-shrub habitat in the Northeast has in part been attributed to the suppression of many of the natural forces that created this type of community, such as fire and floods. In order to remedy this decline, timber harvests have been suggested as a means of creating scrub-shrub habitat. While a number of studies have looked at the dynamics of how songbirds colonize areas that have been harvested using different methods, none have taken place in the oak-pine dominated forests of southern New Hampshire. In addition, other studies have characterized harvested areas primarily by type of cut (clearcut, shelterwood, etc.), whereas this study focused primarily on forest structure. The main purpose of this study was to investigate relationships between forest structure and breeding bird assemblages in the oak-pine dominated Bear Brook State Park in New Hampshire. Statistically significant relationships between vegetation structure and three measures of species richness (all species as well as two targeted subgroups: scrub-shrub specialists and species that are declining in New Hampshire) were evident. As basal area increased, all three species richness metrics decreased. As stem density increased, in terms of both total stems and a subset of stems between 1 and 2 m tall, species richness also increased. The results of this study indicate that on average, study points that had been recently harvested and had the vegetation characteristics typical of a regenerating forest post-harvest supported more species (overall and for both targeted subgroups) than plots in unharvested areas.
*Morgan Ingalls: Estimating Myotis lucifugus populations at Aeolus Cave in Dorest, Vermont using PIT tag technology
MS Advisor: Jon Atwood
Aeolus Cave in Dorset, Vermont is the largest known bat hibernaculum in the state (Davis and Hitchcock, 1965). However, there has been controversy over the number of bats that actually hibernate in Aeolus Cave each winter. In their 1965 paper, Davis and Hitchcock estimated that there were 300,000 bats hibernating in Aeolus (Davis and Hitchcock, 1965). This was discounted in 2001 by Trombulak who considered this number to be far too large (Trombulak, 2001). In 2007, White Nose Syndrome, a fungal infection caused by the fungus Geomyces destructans, first infected bats in Aeolus Cave (Butchkoski, 2013). Since then, populations have been greatly reduced. After assessing the number of bat moralities at Aeolus due to White Nose Syndrome (between 20,000 and 30,000 just in the first large room), David and Hitchcock’s estimate may have held true.
While winter hibernaculum counts have been done in the first room of Aeolus Cave, few counts have gone past the constriction that separates the first room from the rest of the cave. This study will use PIT tagging technology to determine the number of Little Brown Bats (Myotis lucifugus), from both summer maternity colonies in Vermont and from the fall swarm at Aeolus Cave that are hibernating deep within Aeolus Cave, post- White Nose Syndrome.
*Ruth Kermish-Allen: Technology Tools and Environmental Education: A Partnership for Powerful Education
PhD Advisor: Jimmy Karlan
This session will share a model for community-based environmental education projects, which combines place-based education strategies, non-hierarchal learning environments, and applied technology plans to stimulate inquiry-based learning. The environmental education field needs to increase the rigor of its’ data collection and methodologies to be able to compete and be heard in the nation’s STEM debate. This presentation will share 8 years of experience of gathering research data and developing evaluation methodologies to be bride the gap between EE and STEM.
The focus of the presentation will be on the Energy for ME project, which partners with ten island and coastal Maine middle and high schools to use technology to measure local and community energy usage, with the goal of providing a better understanding of local energy needs and empowering student knowledge to action while fostering a greater sense of environmental stewardship through the process. This presentation will discuss the Energy for ME innovations including strategies to facilitate inter-generational learning, motivate student engagement and meet learning standards through the integration of real-time energy data in the classroom in a local context. By applying this successful model to the topics of local energy usage and efficiency, and adding methods for engaging families in student learning, Energy for ME aims to increase students’ understanding, motivation, and self-efficacy towards STEM concepts and careers.
This session will share the mixed-methods research and evaluation approaches used to capture the impact of community-based environmental education projects. We will explore how and when to use performance-based assessments, environmental stewardship measures, content assessments, interviews, and case studies for environmental education programs. Sample pre-post surveys, environmental stewardship measures, and other instruments will be shared and discussed. We will also discuss how to incorporate participatory research methods to partner with teachers and administrations to implement research and evaluation plans and make sure that they data collected is relevant for them and advancing their school goals as well.
*Elizabeth Pascale: The Role of Ants in Reaching Federal Recovery Goals for Lycaeides Melissa Samuelis (Karner blue butterfly) in the Pine Barrens of Concord, New Hampshire
MS Advisor: Charles Curtin
Lycaeides melissa samuelis, commonly known as the Karner blue butterfly, is a federally listed endangered species which has experienced dramatic declines over its historic range. In New Hampshire alone the species exhibited a 90% decline from 1983 through the 1990s, and by 1999 was believed to be extirpated from the state. In 2000 NH Fish and Game started its Karner Blue Butterfly and Concord Pine Barrens Program in order to reintroduce the species to its native habitat in NH, and it continues today in order to restore the local population to self-sustaining levels, based on federal recovery goals.
NH Fish and Game has utilized a number of techniques in their efforts to reach these goals, such as prescribed burning, periodic mowing, population monitoring, and host plant restoration. One factor that has only briefly been looked at is the role that ants play in Karner blue survival. Karner blues, as well as many other Lycaenids, are known to be associated with ants through a symbiotic relationship in which they are protected by ants in exchange for nectar that the butterfly larvae secrete. Ant-tended larvae have been found to have a higher survival rate than those not tended by ants, which may mean that they are vitally important for the conservation of this fragile population in the Concord pine barrens.
For my study, I will work with NH Fish and Game to specifically determine whether ants are critical to the survival of Karner blues in this habitat. I will sample the ant composition in the pine barrens by placing pitfall traps along transects throughout NH Fish and Game’s GPS-derived Karner blue population monitoring units. These traps will be divided evenly among three status categories of the species’ sole host plant, wild blue lupine (Lupinus perennis): native, restored, and control. Ant identifications will be used to calculate relative density, frequency, and diversity (Shannon and Simpson’s Diversity indices) of the species found throughout the monitoring units. I will compare these calculations to past and current Karner blue survey data in order to determine the significance of ant-Karner relationships in this habitat. Results from this study will advise on whether NH Fish and Game needs to include ants in their Karner blue butterfly management plan in order to reach recovery goals for the species.
Joseph J. Martell: Seasonal Movement of Trout in Northern New Hampshire and the Restoration of Indian Stream
Advisor: Peter A. Palmiotto
Indian Stream in Northern New Hampshire is one of the most significant tributaries of the Connecticut River. Poor land use decisions over the past 150 years have resulted in a river that is very uncharacteristic of the region. Summer water temperatures in Indian Stream in the past two years have soared as high as 28-32C. The majority of literature agrees that Brook Trout cannot withstand a temperature greater than 22C for an extended period of time. Because of these high water temperatures in the summer, trout populations tend to be more mobile and under more stress searching for cold water resources. For the past two field seasons three species of trout have been surgically implanted with radio transmitters in the upper sections of the Connecticut River and Indian Stream. The movement patterns of Brook Trout, Brown Trout, and Rainbow Trout were observed in relation to the time of year, habitat availability, and water temperature. Significant findings over the last three years have resulted in two upcoming culvert replacements, tree plantings, and major river restoration projects. A genetic analysis of the Indian Stream Brook Trout is in progress and more radio telemetry work is planned.
*Deb Matlock: Deep Environmental Education: Service to Earth and its Community
PhD Advisor: Dr. Joy Ackerman
Environmental education is, at its core, a gift of service to the world. Learning about the earth, exploring our connections, and asking challenging questions are needed in every facet of our lives and affect us on personal and communal levels. Deep Environmental Education (Deep EE) is a body of work I am currently creating to bring together various components of environmental education which focus on deep connection to self, place and the sacred.
This presentation will recount my experiences and findings in regards to Deep EE as experienced through my service project teaching a Master’s level course in spirituality and EE. I will also include my current thinking on the overall philosophy of Deep EE as well as offer a brief discussion about the individual components.
^Tierney Rosenstock: Facilitating pollination: the relationship of co-flowering species on fruit set in the Pink Lady’s Slipper (Orchidaceae).
MS Advisor: Peter A. Palmiotto
Insect mediated pollination is a vital part of ecosystem function and services. Pollination maintains genetic diversity within populations and helps ensure species survival. Due to anthropogenic activity, plant-pollinator relationships are threatened. Angiosperms that are pollinator limited are particularly vulnerable. Some of these vulnerable species are also rare and are targets for conservation. To be successful, conservation plans need to consider inter-dependent relationships between rare plant species and their pollinators. The purpose of this study is to determine whether a relationship exists between heterospecific co-flowering plant species and fruit set in a pollinator limited, deceptive orchid, Cypripedium acaule. To assess these relationships, data was collected in July 2012 from fifteen C. acaule populations. A tree, shrub, and ground cover inventory was conducted at each plot for natural community classification. Generalized linear models (GLM) and generalized linear mixed models (GLMM) were used to examine the relationship between C. acaule fruit set and density and proximity of heterospecific co-flowering species, conspecific density, and conspecific proximity across and within populations, respectively. Contingency tables were used to analyze associations between C. acaule fruit set and heterospecific co-flowering species, conspecific clustering (based on nearest neighbor statistics), and natural communities. The results indicate that dense, clustered populations of C. acaule among relatively high densities of heterospecific co-flowering plants, particularly Trientalis borealis, experience higher reproductive success. According to the findings of this study, in situ conservation management plans to improve the reproductive success of C. acaule should focus on promoting dense, clustered populations of C. acaule and high densities of heterospecific co-flowering species in and around C. acaule populations.
*Tamathy Stage: Muskrat preferences between common reed and native cattail for lodge construction and location in a New York State marsh.
MS Advisor: Beth Kaplin
The muskrat (Odatra zibethicus) is an ecological engineer, ranging from minor disturbances to the devastating eat-out of a marsh. Its adaptability and high fecundity have kept this species fairly common, despite massive habitat loss and marginalization. Although much research concerning the rodent was conducted in the middle 20th century, little attention has been paid to how it is coping with landscape and environmental change over the past decades. Not only are a fraction of original wetlands remaining, many of the flora are being replaced by invasive exotic species. The common reed (Phragmites sp.) in eastern wetlands of North America, for example, is an invasive species formed when a close relative to the native salt-water variety arrived, hybridized and expanded into many freshwater wetlands, displacing native cattails and other marsh plants. How muskrats are affected by these changes has yet to be determined. They rely heavily on wetland plants, particularly cattails, for food and lodge construction. Although muskrats will use whatever materials are available, some plants are better suited for building and forage. The common reed is a much weaker plant than cattails, and its nutritional value has yet to be determined. In this study I examined whether muskrats use common reed as a building material and if plant species will influence where muskrats build lodges. The study was conducted in the Sandhill Crane Unit of the Montezuma National Wildlife refuge in Savanna, NY during the summer of 2011. I looked at which plants muskrats were using for construction and at the vegetation surrounding lodges and compared that to 78 randomly generated points. Lodge materials data show that cattails are strongly preferred as a building material over other available plants. Results from the plant surveys imply that muskrats are harvesting cattails at a greater rate than the common reed. Distribution of the lodges showed that muskrats most preferred dense, pure stands of cattails. Should the common reed overwhelm this marsh as it has others, it may trigger greater dispersal by muskrats away from the marsh in search of more ideal vegetation patterns.
*Sadie Stone: Prescribed Fire Management in Pitch Pine Barrens throughout New England: Burned vs. Unburned
MS Advisor: Peter A. Palmiotto
Pine Barrens are naturally occurring habitats made up of pitch pine (Pinus rigida) and scrub oak (Quercus spp.) and are found in assemblages scattered throughout New England. Pitch pine is a fire adapted species and depends upon the disturbance of fire for seed dispersal and soil conditions which are most favorable post-fire. This ecosystem has become threatened due to fire suppression, resulting in the loss of rare habitat, flora, and fauna with consequences such as biodiversity loss. This study will compare herbaceous cover, vegetation composition, understory sapling composition and canopy density of three burned sites with three unburned sites in the same locations in New Hampshire and Maine. The data collected will be used to evaluate the effectiveness of prescribed fire as a management technique to mimic favorable post-fire conditions while striving to maintain a healthy forested ecosystem.
^Apollinaire William: Assessment of Climate Change vulnerability to food crop systems in the Mukungwa watershed, Rwanda
PhD Advisor: Beth Kaplin
Climate change is predicted to impact severely on natural resources humans rely on. Calls for preparedness to climate change impacts have been triggered in developed as well as in developing countries. Developing countries are predicted to be the most affected and particularly most African countries where food security is already a challenge. At the same time the importance of agricultural research and development for food security and poverty reduction have been increasingly recognized. Climate change adaptation and mitigation strategies may be enhanced when resiliency among communities is developed. However the effectiveness of these efforts is hindered by lack of sufficient funds, information, tools, skills, and particularly poverty that is plaguing most developing countries. While climate related information and technologies abound among mainstream scientists, policy makers, planners, decision makers and natural resource managers, it rarely reaches grassroots communities who are directly affected by climate change impacts. There is a growing recognition that strengthening climate adaptive capacity at the community level is important, and some scientists go even further by arguing that involving local people in climate research is effective for building resilient communities. The use of local knowledge and lived experiences for climate change adaptation has received increasing attention over the past few decades. Capitalizing on and strengthening local knowledge and opportunities is critical in alleviating poverty, building healthy communities, and tailoring climate policy, planning and management to the actual needs of people who are directly affected by the impacts of climate change. This proposed study will use interviews, field observations, remote sensing, and Geographic Information Systems (GIS) tools in the Mukungwa watershed in Rwanda to explore three factors relevant to climate change adaptation strategies: the assessment of the sensitivity of crops to variability in climate, the adaptive capacity of farmers, and the role of governmental and non-governmental NGOs and agencies in adapting to climate change. The overall goal of this study is to empower farmers to better understand their climate vulnerability, their adaptive capacity for resilient agriculture, and to formulate recommendations to policy makers, decision makers and natural resource managers about what strategies, skills and tools are needed to build resilient agriculture in the Mukungwa watershed.