Our research program is diverse and reflects ongoing needs for new science coupled with the interests and expertise of the AWI Team. We conduct a combination of fundamental and applied research, with all of our research efforts rooted in practical needs for science to inform and support policies and management to conserve and protect our natural resources. Consistent with our mission, another key aspect of our research program is undergraduate education, wherein we involve Paul Smith's College students in all aspects of the research process in the same ways as graduate students are involved at other institutions. Thus, our students also present their work at conferences and co-author publications.
The overarching theme of our research program is Ecosystem Responses to Environmental Change, under which we investigate the gradual to abrupt changes that occur in ecosystems in response to environmental stressors. Environmental stressors being investigated by our team range from large-scale factors such as climate change, acid deposition, and invasive species to local factors such as shoreline development and road runoff. The goal of our projects within this theme is to determine whether and how these factors drive changes in ecosystems, which will then allow ecosystem responses to these factors to be understood and modeled.
The data collected from our regional network of lakes and streams being monitored under our water quality program plus the aquatic plant and invasive species data collected by our invasive species program provides the foundation for our investigations of environmental stressors. For example, we used the water quality data to determine the effect of watershed road density on sodium and chloride in lakes (Kelting and Laxson 2010; Kelting et al. 2012). We also conduct laboratory studies in controlled environments to investigate and understand the effects of stressors. For example, as a follow-on to the above study, we examined the effects of salt concentrations on model freshwater communities in the laboratory and found significant negative effects of salt within the range of concentrations observed in our field program (Dalinsky et al. 2014).
Examples of current projects within our research program include:
- Determining the regional effects of road salting on watershed nutrient export and soil base cation depletion
- Determining the regional effects of road networks and road runoff on stream water quality and associated aquatic ecosystems
- Investigating the effects of water temperature on growth rates of native and invasive milfoil species in laboratory mesocosms in an effort to understand how climate change may affect aquatic plant communities
- Developing environmental DNA methods (both field sampling technique and laboratory bench work) for surveillance of Asian clam and Zebra mussel
Some recent examples of Paul Smith's College senior thesis capstone projects completed under the mentorship of AWI team members include:
- Contribution Of Streamside Seeps To Stream Flow in the Smitty Creek Watershed (JD Lambrinos)
- Presence and Abundance of Microplastics within Flowing Waters of Private, Wilderness, and Other Forest Preserve Lands of the Northern Adirondack Park (Sinjin Larson and Patrick Colern)
- Possible Limiting Nutrients to Sugar Maple (Acer saccharum) Growth in an Adirondack Hardwood Stand (Kevin Kenealy)
- Effects of Road Salt on Soil Fertility in the Paul Smiths Area of Northern New York (Dylan Kirk)
- Assessment of Anion Retention within Variable-Charged Eastern-Central Adirondack Forest Sub-Soils (John Mullins)
- The Role of Terrestrial Leaf Litter Inputs on Drift of Aquatic Invertebrate Shredders (Zachary Simek)
Please contact us if you would like to learn more about our research program or are interested in a potential collaboration. We have well equipped facilities and are capable of performing and supporting a wide array of research activities.