Recent Undergraduate Research Examples

Cameron Snell at a lake

Cameron Snell (Advised by Dr. Michael Chislock)

Abundance of Microplastics in the Southern Tributaries Sediments of Lake Ontario

Project Summary: Cameron Snell’s project is focused on microplastics in sediments of southern Lake Ontario Tributaries (Oak Orchard River to Irondequoit Creek). Currently, there is extensive research on microplastics in open water of the Great Lakes, but only one on sediments. Microplastics float which is why studies are done on the surface. However, it is believed that the longer they are in water they grow a film due to algae. This film may cause them to sink, leading to a miscount of microplastics.

Snell has gathered samples from multiple locations using a dredge and density separation to remove all organic matter and identify the microplastics.

Kevin Nash taking notes in the field

Kevin Nash (Advised by Andie Graham)

The Effects of Human Disturbance on Eastern Bluebird (Sialia sialis) Fledgling Success

Project Summary: Kevin Nash’s research is to determine if human disturbance negatively impacts the number of Eastern bluebirds (Sialia sialis) that fledge the nest. He monitored 40 bird nest box sites located at SUNY Brockport campus during the summer of 2019. At each site, he identified the species nested, counted the number of eggs laid, and monitored the nests until the young fledged.

Nash will compare the number of successful fledglings to the distance to the nearest human disturbance (roads, baseball field, etc.) from each nest box to determine any relationship between next success and human disturbance.

Angela Becker (Advised by Dr. Rachel Schultz)

Cranberry Pond Wetlands Research Project

Project Summary: Angela Becker is assisting Dr. Schultz at a wetland in Cranberry Pond near Braddock Bay in Rochester, New York. A rare fen community has been rediscovered in the western section of the pond and is beginning to be invaded by cattail.

Becker is researching the soil substrate between the fen and cattail areas to determine if available nutrients differ in each as well as in the intermediate invaded areas. She is also surveying plant vegetation to help with future decisions on restoration in the area.

Jacob Kearney in the woods with a camera

Jacob Kearney (Advised by Dr. Chris Norment)

Pollinator Communities on Public Lands: Investigating New Opportunities for Management.

Project Summary: Jacob Kearey’s project is investigating the abundance of butterfly species and nectar sources in an area that was recently planted with native pollinator species and a pool in drawdown phase at Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge.

Kearney is looking to see if certain butterfly species show preference for certain nectar sources, which can then be applied and shared with management officials for future pollinator management plans.

Lily Denecke hammering a stake into a body of water to measure the water level

Lillian Denecke (Advised by Dr. Jacques Rinchard)

Interaction Between Dietary Thiamine & Lipid Content in Juvenile Steelhead Trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss)

Project Summary: Thiamine (vitamin B1) deficiency occurred in many salmonine species inhabiting the Great Lakes and the Finger Lakes. This deficiency causes neurological defects that can result in early death. Lillian Denecke’s project investigated the hypothesis that thiamine deficiency in fish is a result of a high lipid diet due to thiamine being used up to prevent lipid peroxidation.

Juvenile steelhead trout, raised in aquaria, were fed four diets (high lipid/thiamine, high lipid/no thiamine, low lipid/thiamine, and low lipid/no thiamine) over a six-week period with survival monitored daily. Fish from each aquarium were also sampled every two weeks to assess growth, lipid content, fatty acid signature, and thiamine concentration.

The preliminary results indicate that the fish fed high lipid diets had increased growth compared to the fish fed low lipid diets. In addition, the fish fed the low lipid/no thiamine diet had the highest mortality rate.

Katelyn Brown (Advised by Dr. Michael Chislock)

Trophic Cascades & Aeration in Lakes: Effects on Water Quality & Zooplankton Community Structure

Project Summary: Katelyn Brown’s research focused on the effects of an installed aeration device in Lake Lacoma. The aeration device ‘traps’ phosphate in sediments by creating an oxygenated environment from the surface to the bottom of the lake. A hypothesized indirect effect of aeration is facilitation of large-bodied zooplankton by creating a cold, well-oxygenated, deep refuge from potential fish predators.

Brown used a combination of in situ water quality monitoring and comparisons to historical data on nutrient dynamics and zooplankton community structure for this lake to address this question. She found that over the summer the phosphorus concentration in Lake Lacoma was still high, even with the aerator. The aerator did however have a positive effect on increasing the zooplankton community.