Fossil Pollen Analysis of Tsuga canadensis decline in Larkum Pond in Otis, Massachusetts

Fossil pollen analysis of sediment cores can provide data which is important to the reconstruction of the local flora and indicate patterns of disturbance. In this study, core samples taken from Larkum Pond in Otis, Massachusetts in February of 2007, were analyzed to identify evidence of the mid-Holocene decline of the eastern hemlock (Tsuga canadensis). Also, we will speculate as to its cause and comment on its ecological implications. It is hypothesized that there will be an observable decline of eastern hemlock across the sediment core sample depths. Analysis of the fossil pollen data show a marked decrease in the proportion of hemlock and an increase in the proportion of shade-tolerant, early-successional species such as beech and birch. Pine also showed an increase but to a lesser extent, presumably due to its shade-intolerant characteristic.

Sustainability Case Study: The Paper Industry

The future of the paper industry is finite. Based on capitalistic models of business, profits must continue to grow while costs are continually pressured to remain low. Considering that the paper and wood pulp industry is heavily regulated in the United States, the extent to which the industry pollutes is contingent on the integrity of the regulations set forth. The growth of the industry since the industrial revolution has affected the legal landscape along with other large industries such as plastics, textiles, and petroleum products. Within the past two centuries, advancements in paper-making technologies, increase in global commerce, and the low cost of paper products has led to alarming increases in paper consumption which has caused significant environmental damage and untoward social implications.

Strategies to Conserve Farmland in Northern Berkshire County

In partnership with Berkshire Natural Resources Council (BNRC) and Berkshire Agricultural Ventures (BAV) we explored strategies for farmland preservation in Northern Berkshire County. Farm owners face increasing development pressures, issues with program accessibility, and farmland succession planning. Specifically, we investigated issues facing farmers in Cheshire, Lanesborough and Adams and proposed recommendations for preservation and conservation of individual parcels that meet the minimum criteria of certain state, local and federal programs. We conducted a GIS analysis of farmland in these municipalities and focused on parcels which are prime candidates for preservation that are not currently utilizing available assistance programs. Results will help these organizations steer their efforts towards furthering the preservation of existing farmland.

Red-Backed Salamander Abundance Relative to Plant Community Composition of a Transitional Northern Hardwood Forest

A 28 acre transitional northern hardwood forest was surveyed for Plethodon cinereus density in addition to conducting adjacent vegetation surveys using plotless and quadrat techniques. Due to higher shading from a dense canopy cover, substantial ground litter layer and a high soil pH, it is hypothesized that P. cinereus density is higher in areas where higher basal areas of deciduous trees exist versus coniferous trees. The data show higher capture numbers in areas of high dominance of coniferous trees such as white pine. The data did not support this hypothesis and as such, failed to reject the null hypothesis. Small sample size and lack of group identification skills were likely sources of error in this study.

Cyanobacterial Bloom Risk Assessment of Pontoosuc Lake

Cyanobacterial blooms can be toxic to human and animal health. The purpose of this study was to examine temperature, dissolved oxygen, zooplankton density, and nutrient level data which influence algal succession patterns and determine if Pontoosuc Lake is at risk for a cyanobacteria bloom. We expected that the lake’s biological and physical characteristics would moderately support a cyanobacterial bloom due to the heavy development around the shoreline and probable commercial and residential use of synthetic fertilizers on adjacent parcels. As such, we hypothesized that N:P ratios would be less than the threshold of 7:1, supporting the possibility of a cyanobacteria bloom. The data supported the hypothesis, showing that total nitrogen to phosphorous ratio (N:P) is 6.125:1 in the epilimnion and 14.15:1 in the hypolimnion, which is within the threshold for cyanobacterial bloom risk.

The Efficacy of BMP’s on E. coli Bacteria Levels in the Hoosic River

In 2014, a small privately-owned cattle farm on Walling Road in Adams, Massachusetts implemented several “best management practices” (BMPs) to address Escherichia coli (E. coli) contamination of the Hoosic River. Research conducted by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission (BRPC), and Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts (MCLA) identified this parcel as a significant source of bacterial contamination. The purpose of this study was to examine water quality samples obtained downstream of the farm and determine if the implementation of these BMPs were successful in reducing E. coli contamination of the Hoosic River. On September 13, 2017, eight water samples collected from four testing locations were subjected to the Colilert enzyme substrate test, along with a field blank and a lab blank for controls. Total coliform and E. coli bacterial load results were recorded and analyzed using Microsoft Excel. It is hypothesized that E. coli levels would remain high at the source, despite BMP implementation. The data supported the hypothesis showing that the BMP’s implemented did not reduce E. coli levels at the source.

The Effects of Salinity on Freshwater Copepods

Calcium chloride, among other sources of nonpoint source pollution, can be detrimental to aquatic species in rivers and streams. Calcium chloride (CaCl2) enters waterways primarily through runoff from impervious surfaces such as roads and storm drains in the form of road deicer. The purpose of this study was to examine the effects of salinity on freshwater copepod survival under laboratory conditions. Over a 7-day study period under lab conditions, 3 groups of copepods were exposed to 2 PSU (Practical Saline Units), 4 PSU and 6 PSU CaCl2 solutions. Survival rates were recorded and analyzed using Microsoft Excel running paired, one-tailed t-tests. It was hypothesized that as calcium chloride concentrations increased there would be a lower survival rate between days 1 and 3 when compared to days 3 through 7, relative to controls. Although the data did not support the hypothesis that survival rate would be lower within the first three days, increased salinity negatively affected survival rates in both time distributions.

Anthropogenic Seismology: A look into Earthquakes and Fracking Activity in Oklahoma

This analysis focused on uncovering any meaningful significance between the location of M3+ earthquakes in 2015 and underground injection wells in Oklahoma. More specifically, I was interested in finding out what the probability that the distribution of earthquakes is occurring due to random chance. Defining and testing whether earthquakes occurring at a certain depth, location and magnitude are related to fracking activity is out of scope of this analysis. However, determining preliminary pattern analysis using GIS is a prudent first step.