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Past Research

Abstracts of many research projects including graduate student theses and dissertations can be found on the AEC Publications Page.

  • ESF Graduate Student and Faculty Research
  • Non-ESF and Outside Agency Research Projects
  • Undergraduate Research Projects
  • Biogeochemistry Research Projects
  • Managing White Pine in the Adirondacks: A workshop for foresters, loggers and landowners (PDF presentations available)
  • Great South Woods 

ESF Graduate Student and Faculty Research

Dr. Colin Beier - Dendroecology of Adirondack old-growth conifer forests

Objectives are to collect long-term records of tree growth using increment cores, for a variety of analyses, including (1) tree responses to climatic variation, (2) tree responses to mercury deposition, (3) tree responses to acid deposition, and (4) relationships between watershed hydrology, winter processes, and tree growth (in Arbutus watershed). Methods: Trees will be cored using 1.8mm diameter increment borers, at approximate breast height. Either two partial cores (bark to pith) or one full penetrating core (bark to pith to bark) will be collected from a maximum of 20 randomly selected trees in each stand. Tree height and DBH will also be recorded. Beeswax applied to borer will be used to seal holes left behind after coring, to minimize subsequent insect or fungal damage. Cores will be mounted in the field and analyzed using standard methods.

Phil-Goo Kang (PhD candidate) - Variation of stable sulfur and oxygen isotopes of sulfate during various discharge periods in the Arbutus Lake watershed

The major aim of the study is to provide the background data about sulfate concentration and isotopic value due differences in hydrological regime at Arbutus Lake Watershed. A particular focus of this work will be the development of quality assurance (QA) procedures for measuring stable isotope of sulfur and oxygen. This further development of QA is an important prerequisite for planned future studies including analyses of the discrepancy of sulfur budgets at Northern Eastern forests. Methods: Water samples will be studied to evaluate dynamics of sulfate using stable isotopes of sulfur and oxygen during various discharge patterns in Arbutus Lake watershed (e.g. inlet, outlet and in lake at Arbutus Lake, and discharges from S14, S15 and wetland).

Jonathan Cale (M.S. candidate) - The effects of beech thickets on northern hardwood forest biodiversity

Compare the impacts of beech thicket presence on groundcover plant, arthropod, amphibian, small mammal diversity. Study sites will be chosen from northern hardwood (Maple-Beech-Birch) stands within the Huntington Wildlife Forest. Stands with a history of even-aged management (clearcuts & shelterwood cuts), herbicide application, and recent management activity (<30 years) will not be considered. At least 20 paired plots will be established within dense beech thickets and non-thicket areas within qualifying stands. Floral sampling design consists of an 11.5m radial overstory plot with an 8m radius understory subplot. Additionally, the latter will contain a 16 x 1m belt transect spanning its diameter. The best transect will contain five nested 1m2 groundcover quadrats, spaced 1.5m from the ends and 2m apart. Faunal sampling will primarily be conducted during the 2010 field season and will utilize various techniques based on the target community. The small mammal community in these forests will be sampled using a 5 x 5 trapping grid with 20m spacing between grid points in thicket and non-thick areas. To examine the amphibian community I will disturb leaf litter and coarse woody debris for 15 minutes along a 16 x 2m transect. Tipulid sampling will conducted using pyramidal emergence traps constructed of industrial vinyl mesh.

Jordan Gross (MS candidate) - Evaluating greenhouse gas dynamicsbased on landscape geomorphology and antecedent moisture conditions in the Adirondack Mountains of New York

Greenhouse gas emissions will be monitored throughout Stream 14 and Stream 15 in locations with distinct geomorphic characteristics (headwaters, hillslope, near stream riparian zone) in addition to wetland areas near the outlet of Archer Creek. Water samples and discharge measurements will be taken at the outlets of S14, S15, and Archer Creek. The objectives are; to relate greenhouse gas emissions at the soil-atmosphere interface with specific landscapes based on hydrogeomorphic characteristics, to identify hot spots for greenhouse gas emissions using GIS based on topographic index, and to determine primary controls of greenhouse gas dynamics as a product of biogeochemical activity. Greenhouse gases will be collected from static chambers every two to three weeks to determine flux at the soil-atmosphere interface. Stream discharge will be measured and water samples will be taken to measure temperature, electrical conductivity, oxidation reduction potential, dissolved oxygen, nitrate, ammonium, chloride, dissolved organic carbon, SUVA (specific UV absorbance), fluorescence, and major cations.

Natasha Karniski (M.S. candidate) Effects of snow on American marten (Martes americana) and fisher (Martes pennanti) movements in the Adirondack mountains, New York

The purpose of this research is to evaluate the hypothesis that the distributions of martens and fishers are strongly influenced by interspecific interactions and differences in their abilities to move through snow covered habitats. In order to evaluate this hypothesis, I will conduct winter tracking surveys in the Adirondack region to test the following predictions: 1) a. In areas with both martens and fishers, marten tracks will occur in deeper snow on average compared with fishers; b. In areas with both martens and fishers, marten tracks will occur in softer snow on average compared with fishers. 2) a. In areas without fishers, snow depth at marten tracks will not differ significantly from random; b. In areas without fishers, snow hardness at marten tracks will not differ significantly from random.

Courtney LaMere (MS candidate) - Effect of variable mast production on American black bear reproduction and bear-human conflict in the central Adirondack Mountains

The purpose of this project is to identify patterns in production of forest fruit and beechnut abundance in the central Adirondack Mountains to examine the effects on (1) reproduction in black bears and (2) human-bear conflict levels. A better understanding of black bear ecology as it relates to annual variation in high quality foods is necessary to anticipate potential human-bear conflicts and population growth trends. We will use qualitative fruiting phenology data and quantitative beechnut production data collected on Huntington Wildlife Forest over a twenty year period and compare it to NYSDEC nuisance complaint records and harvest records for the same period. We will assess bear reproductive synchrony with natural foods over a twenty-year period using both historical NYSDEC data and current information provided by hunters. Reproductive tracts will be collected during the 2010 hunting season and dissected to determine reproductive status and litter size.

Patrick Raney (PhD candidate) - Response of New York State wetlands to climate change

Study the degree of climatic decoupling associated with various high conservation priority wetlands throughout New York State (principally groundwater fed wetlands or fens). We will be attempting to develop projections of temperature regimes in the sties in the AEC and the 40+ additional sites setup in NY state in relation to projected regional climate change. Methods: Four to five temperature sensors (iButtons) per wetland have been setup to record temperature on four hour intervals for approximately 340 days. These are setup approximately 10-20 cm below the soil surface. Additionally, in each wetland, one iButton is on a small stake situated such that the sensor is recording ambient air temperature.

Caitlin Snyder (MS candidate) - Status of nonnative earthworms in Adirondack Park, NY: threats to biodiversity on protected lands

Objectives of this study are to 1)Collect data on nonnative earthworm species and their distributions; soil and leaf litter characteristics; and plant and salamander species assemblages at least 20 sites across a pH gradient in the Adirondack Park; 2) Assess land use history of sites and compile a database of the cultural and historical aspects of the earthworm invasion; 3) Provide a report to APIPP and partner agencies, such as the Adirondack Park Agency and New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, detailing worm distribution and recommended strategies to limit spread of earthworms into areas void of earthworms and 4) Share information on invasive earthworms with landowners and park visitors.

Scott Warsen (MS candidate) - Evolving niche of the "coy-wolf" in northeastern forests and implications for biodiversity

The objectives of this project are to; 1) Calculate niche overlap among coyotes, bobcats, red fox, and (if possible) gray fox in the Adirondack region of NY State by documenting the relative importance of different prey species to their annual energy intake and 2) Identify whether coyotes are specializing on deer or switching to deer when snowshoe hare abundance is low by contrasting contemporary and historical coyote diets in the central Adirondack region and comparing trends in diet to trends in deer and snowshoe hare population density.

Jennifer Yantachka (MS candidate) - Effects of acidic deposition on songbird abundance and diversity in the Adirondack Mountains, NY

Objectives are to observe songbird abundance and diversity along a calcium gradient in the Adirondack Park to better understand how acidic deposition and calcium availability may be influencing songbird communities in the Adirondack Mountains. In addition, the project will evaluate the use of an automated digital recording system (ADRS) for songbird surveys in place of traditional point count surveys.Methods: Two to three 10-minute point count surveys will be conducted at each of the 12 hardwood forest sites where prior research has evaluated soil calcium content and snail, salamander, and vegetative communities. The same 12 sites will also be monitored with an ADRS composed of a recording unit with timer capacity and two omni-directional microphones. Surveys will be conducted from late May to early July.

Non-ESF and Other Agency Research Projects

Antioch University New England Graduate School - Mark Erler (MS) - Describing micro-climate heterogeneity in an Adirondack forest using corticolous bryophytes

This study's objective is to develop and practice an efficient and affective process for sampling bryophytes on tree bases. Following the completion of this study, a sampling protocol for further study of bryophyte distributions on tree bases will be developed and used during my dissertation research. Also, a database will be designed for the analysis of factors contributing to bryophyte patterns of distribution, and used during further dissertation research.

Biodiversity Research Institute - Dr. David Evers - Developing an exposure profile for mercury and calcium in New York songbirds and bats; Understanding methylmercury availability in herpetofauna of New York

This pilot field-sampling effort in the Adirondack and Catskill Mountains of New York State will be conducted to determine the mercury exposure of songbirds and bats foraging within the insectivorous pathway, relationships with available calcium for insectivorous birds and bats, and to identify geographic areas and habitats that pose the greatest risk. This effort will be linked with a broader network across the Appalachian Mountains. A pilot field-sampling effort will also be conducted for selected herpetofauna to establish an exposure profile of mercury in amphibians and reptiles for selected sites to establish interspecies relationships; identify species that may be at high risk and sample them opportunistically; identify habitats and geographic areas that are highly sensitive to methylmercury production and availability that may create a risk for amphibians and reptiles; and integrate sampling efforts with foodweb models developed for the common loon mercury monitoring program. Even though many species of amphibians and reptiles have declined in recent years, very few studies have documented the potential connection with methylmercury contamination. This project will represent the most comprehensive assessment of mercury in herpetofauna for the Northeast.

NYS DEC - Paul Jensen- Ecology of American marten in New York State

Objectives: 1. Characterize marten habitat selection at several spatial scales, including: a) landscape-scale(Adirondack region); ; stand-scale (home range); and c) fine-scale (within home range), and 2. Investigate the influence of American beech mast cycles and fluctuating small mammal populations on home range, foraging, and harvest dynamics of martens. Beginning in 2007 and over a 2-3 year period, I will radiocollar a total of 30-40 martens. This will include 15-20 animals in the southern Adirondacks and 15-20 animals in the High Peaks region. I will collect telemetry data on the ground where road/trail access exists and through the use of fixed-wing aircraftusing. Home ranges will be estimated using fixed kernel methods. Habitat selection at the stand-scale will be modeled using either utilization distributions. If an adequate number of marten relocations can be obtained during both phases of the mast cycle, I will test whether marten home range size and habitat selection differs as a function of prey availability. I will use backtracking techniques during winter to determine marten movements and habitat selection within home ranges Detailed vegetation and habitat structure data (for example, tree composition, dbh, coarse woody debris, understory vegetation) will be collected within established plots along marten track routes (i.e., used resources) and random track routes (i.e., available resources) during the winter and summer. I will extract habitat data available within a GIS along marten track routes and compare those data to what is available within the home range. Lastly, data collected at this scale may also be useful for testing hypotheses concerning differences in foraging strategies of martens during the two phases of the mast cycle.

Syracuse University - Dr. Charles Driscoll - Land-atmosphere dynamics of mercury and ecological implications for Adirondack forest ecosystems

For this proposed research, we have the following objectives: 1.Quantify and contrast pools and fluxes of Hg species in deciduous and coniferous plots at the HF; 2.Compare three techniques to estimate dry Hg deposition at the HF (total ecosystem measurements, deposition to surrogate surfaces and the inferential method). In an area of approx 10m x 10 m two pits will be excavated. At each pit, five replicate soil samples will be collected by horizon and analyzed for HgT and MeHg and ancillary measurements (e.g., organic C, pH). Soil water from upland soils will be sampled using replicate zero-tension lysimeters (Teflon) placed beneath the Oa and Bh horizons and within the Bs2 horizon at the two pits. In addition six small flux chambers (each approx 100 cm2), a throughfall collected (1 m2) and several litterfall collectors (each 1 m2). Monthly foilage samples will be collected.

USDA Forest Service - Forest Inventory and Analysis Project

USGS National Water Quality Assessment Program - Karen Riva Murray- Mercury cycling and bioaccumulation in stream ecosystems

Develop understanding of mercury cycling and bioaccumulation in stream ecosystems. Determine flux and mass balance of aqueous methylmercury, examine role of uplands and riparian uplands in methylmercury production and transport to the stream ecosystem. Determine methylmercury concentrations in key components of the aquatic food web. Compare findings with those in different environmental settings across the Nation.Methods: Periodic collection of water-column, soil, bed sediment, periphyton, macroinvertebrate, and fish samples for analysis of mercury concentrations. Flow measurements, water-sample collection for analyses of major ions, nutrients, and other constituents.

USGS - Jamie Shanley - Continuous in situ measurement of carbon quality as a tool for understanding stream mercury dynamics in northern forests

Objectives: To deploy continuous in-stream monitors for colored dissolved organic matter (cDOM; proxy for dissolved mercury) and turbidity (proxy for particulate mercury) in order to construct accurate stream mercury budgets for an entire water year. To demonstrate the value of in situ monitoring of cDOM (using this relatively new, state-of-the-art generation of sensors). Methods: We will have two sensors in the stream just upstream of the flume, with cables leading to datalogger on the left bank. We will monitor cDOM using fluorometer and turbitidity using optical sensor on sonde. Control measurement, data frequency, and data acquisition by dataloggers. Collect periodic low- and high-flow samples to establish empirical relations between DOC, and dissolved and particulate mercury vs fluorometer and turbidity measurements.

USGS - Laurel Woodruff - Mercury cycling in terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems

The study area is within the Fishing Brook watershed directly west of the Huntington Forest in the Town of Long Lake. The study area is the same watershed under study by the U.S. Geological Survey in Troy, NY. The study area will consist of several locations within the 25 sq. mi. watershed where soil samples will be collected for mercury analysis. Markings: No permanent markings will be left at the sampling sites. Objectives: The objective of the study is to determine the concentration of mercury in soils. The project aims to determine the spatial variation of mercury in soils in several different landscape types in the Fishing Brook watershed and to estimate the amount of mercury stored in watershed soils. Methods: Primarily surface soils will be sampled at several locations within the Fishing Brook watershed. Samples will be analyzed for mercury at a commercial laboratory in Canada.

Vassar College and Washington State University - Erica Crespi - Landscape level stress assessment of wood frogs

The objectives of this stury are to measure measures of physiological stress, genetic variation, and disease in habitats of varying habitat qualities, as predicted from ecological niche models derived from climate data, elevation, reports of abundances from museum databases (as well as land use, canopy cover, and other microhabitat measures taken from each collection site in the study)

Wildlife Conservation Society - Dr. Nina Schoch - Adirondack Loon Conservation Program


Undergraduate Research Projects

Undergraduates from SUNY ESF and other universities are fortunate to be able to participate in ongoing research projects or conduct their own projects at the Adirondack Ecological Center. This is a sampling of research projects from past years.


  • Monitoring of biological control agents on purple loosestrife in the Adirondacks, New York - Natasha Finch
  • Relationships between overstory/light environment and understory tree communities at Huntington Wildlife Forest - Martin Holdrege
  • The use of stable isotopes to obtain dietary information from Huntington Wildlife Forest mammals - Nory Mitchell
  • Marten americana micro-habitat selection in Huntington Forest - Erin Moody
  • Comparing the effects of residential density patterns on small mammal mbundances - Ryan Roberts
  • Pumpkinseed growth rate variation along the Hudson River Watershed - Einat Sandbank
  • Evaluating indoor and outdoor hands-on workshops about acidic deposition at the Adirondack Interpretive Center in Newcomb, N.Y. - Mellisa Santos
  • Occurrence of culturally important plants in primary and secondary forest - Aya Yamamoto


  • Rehabilitation of alpine vascular plants using moss - Pamela Aracena
  • Comparison of two ADK subcatchments - Mabelys Arias
  • Beaver activity influence on the movements of fish in Adirondack streams - Woody Cyr
  • Environmental controls of the deciduous-boreal forest ecotone in Adirondack montane forests - Gennaro Falco
  • Approaching management of invasive species in cases of conflicting values - Natalie Garcia
  • The effect of upland physical surroundings on amphibian reproduction within vernal pools - Katherine McKissick
  • Pine marten ( Martes americana) dietary habits - Tim McCoy
  • Is algal productivity of vernal pools in the Adirondacks region affected by road salt disturbances? - Jessica Oritz
  • Determine effects of beaver dam occupancy on downstream macroinvertebrate assemblages/ecosystems - Natalie Scheibel


  • The effects of calcium on the distribution of rusty crayfish (Orconectes rusticus) - Niazuddin Ahmed
  • Spatial dynamics and effects of beech bark disease on Adirondack forests - Pavel Dimens
  • Mercury accumulation in carnivorous plants in a biological mercury hotspot - Eric Ungberg
  • Aquatic plant density and its impacts on Castor canadensis - Christopher Lang
  • Comparing the effects of acidity levels on the distribution and diversity of zooplankton and panfish between Huntington and Cranberry Lake - Samson Lau
  • Effect of calcium on the abundance of breeding birds in the Adirondack Park, NY - Jennifer Ma
  • Impact of land use on the eastern chipmunks - Chelsea Reyes
  • The effects of varying Chilocorus stigma densities on Cryptococcus fagisuga populations - Joelle Chille
  • Effects of forest edge and anthropogenic noise emissions on foraging effectiveness and summer habitat selection of Adirondack bats - Larisa Bishop-Boros


  • Calcium Availability and Songbird Communities in Upland Northern Hardwood Forests of the Central Adirondack Mountains, New York - Larisa Bishop-Boros
  • The Effect of Edge Aspect and Distance from Edge on Plant Communities - Jordan Brown
  • The Effects of pH on 3 Adirondack Salamander Species - Aaron Davies
  • Woody Browse Abundance and Use by White-tailed Deer in Relation to Forest Management History in the Central Adirondacks - Mark Jackling
  • Comparison of Hair Snare Design for DNA-based Population Estimates and Analysis of the North American Black Bear - Jasmine Kosonen
  • Land Snail Biomass and Soil Calcium in Upland Northern Hardwood Forests of the Huntington Wildlife Forest in the Central Adirondack Mountains, NY - David Pomeranz
  • Establishing Rating Curves (stream stage vs. discharge) for Two V-notch Weirs in the Arbutus Watershed - Marysol Villanueva
  • Ground Level Vegetation Response to Mechanical Site Preparation - Maxwell Wightman


  • The Structure and Function of Beaver Meadows - William Dunker
  • The effects of White-Tailed Deer Odocoileus virginianus on Understory Herbaceous Species of the Northern Hardwood Forest in New York - Justina Fedorchuck
  • Habitat Selection of Common Turtles in the Adirondack Park, NY: What is the Role of Beaver Ponds? - Amy Fox
  • Assessment of Wood-inhabiting Fungi in Old-growth and Maturing Stands in the Adirondack Park, New York - Cesar S. Herrera
  • Effects of Liming of Soils on Salamander Occurrence within Huntington Wildlife Forest - Shavaun Jenkins
  • Effects of Nitrate Deposition on Green Frog Tadpoles (Rana clamitans) in the Central Adirondack Mountains of New York - Manuel Santana



  • Impact of Nest Flooding on Reproductive Success of the Common Loon - Charles Foutch
  • White-tailed Deer Activity in the Huntington Wildlife Forest in Relation to Environmental Variables - Daniel Hojnacki
  • Individual Trap Success with Relation to the Summer Home Range of Female White-tailed Deer on the Huntington Wildlife Forest in the Central Adirondacks - Ryhan Sempler
  • Examining Forest Regeneration of the Northern Hardwood Forest in Relation to Relative White-tailed Deer Abundance - Jeffrey Suraf



  • An Assessment of Songbird Habitat on Huntington Wildlife Forest, New York - Leah Burke
  • Flying Squirrel Population Densities and Habitat Assessment at Huntington Wildlife Forest - Madeline Fairbairn
  • Factors Regulating a Declining Snowshoe Hare Population -Meg Klepack
  • Evaluation of Within-stand Differences in Small Mammal Populations and Habitat - Timothy Marvin
  • Relationship between Small Mammals and Habitat on Huntington Wildlife Forest - Shannon Strusz


  • Long-term Amphibian Monitoring Project at Huntington Wildlife Forest - Debora Endriss
  • Vernal Pools: Physical Characteristics and How They Affect Breeding Success of Amphibians- Benjamin Klein
  • Evaluation of a localized white-tailed deer management technique with capture data - Jason Isabelle
  • The Spatial Dynamics of Predator Evasion by Small Mammals in the Adirondacks -Elizabeth Speith
  • Home Range Size Indicators for the Eastern Chipmunk (Tamias striatus) - Joneve M. Murphy
  • Learning behavior of the Red Squirrel - Darlenea Copney
  • Lichens of the Northern Hardwood Forest - Heidi G. Triftshauser
  • Assessing the rate of success for localized management of white-tailed deer using roadside observations - Stephanie Hauver
  • Analysis of the Accuracy of Radiotelemetry Station Locations -John A. VanLaningham

updated 2/11 CLD