11th Annual Conference & Hudson-Mohawk Town Hall

November 8, 2014 | Russell Sage College, Troy, NY

"The Pedagogical Pursuit of Environmental 'Truth': Mobilizing our Collective Expertise"
Accepted Posters
(click the thumbnail to view poster)
TITLE: Connecting Scientific Uncertainty to Risk Assessment with the Aid of Monte-Carlo Modeling: A Case Study Using Mercury in Tuna
AUTHORS: Stuart Belli, Associate Professor in Chemistry, Vassar College
Jamie Kelly, Assistant Professor in Philosophy, Vassar College
PRESENTER: Stuart Belli, Associate Professor in Chemistry, Vassar College

A primary source of mercury exposure to humans comes from eating fish, with the top predator fish such as shark, swordfish and albacore tuna having the highest levels of mercury. EPA and FDA guidelines specify a maximum average daily exposure of mercury above which is considered unsafe. Based on these exposures and the typical mercury levels in each type of fish, guidelines can be formulated specifying the frequency and amount of a specific fish that can be safely consumed. This case study demonstrates how that calculation is made and engages the student in the process of using scientific data to formulate policy aimed at protecting public health.

Studies from the scientific literature report average and standard deviation for mercury concentrations in specific kinds of canned tuna, such as solid white and chunk light. Guidelines formulated using the average mercury levels assume that random selection of each can of tuna will expose an individual to that average amount. This can be modeled with a program such as GoldSim® using Monte Carlo methods to simulate the random selection of tuna from a population of known distribution (normally distributed, known mean and standard deviation). Results show that significant numbers of individuals will consistently exceed the specified reference dose.

Beyond the specific case of mercury in tuna, this exercise illustrates the application of Monte Carlo methods to investigate probability in risk assessment. Experimental science often produces quantitative data as a distribution; mean and standard deviation. Interpreting the numbers as probability can be challenging or even impossible analytically so Monte Carlo methods have proven to be useful in these situations.

TITLE: Developing an Environmental Research Inventory for the Hudson and Mohawk River Watersheds
AUTHORS: Alistair Hall, Sustainability Coordinator, Lucy Johnson, Emeritus Professor of Anthropology, Emma Bird, Research Intern, Evan Kamber, Research Intern
Vassar College
PRESENTER: Alistair Hall, Sustainability Coordinator, Evan Kamber, Research Intern, Vassar College
In collaboration with the Mighty Waters Initiative and the Environmental Consortium of Colleges & Universities we are compiling a database of research projects in the Hudson/Mohawk watershed. We have begun by collecting data from Poster Abstracts from the Vassar College Undergraduate Research Summer Institute, Vassar College Summer Ford Projects, Environmental Consortium annual conferences and Hudson River Environmental Society conferences. We are standardizing the information from these abstracts and consulting with the authors for information which is lacking in the abstracts. We have begun to prepare an interactive map which shows where in the watershed what kinds of research are being undertaken and by whom. Our aim is to help researchers, from K12 through professional, discover what is being studied so as to enhance their ability to undertake new or collaborative research projects.

TITLE: Discover Your Streams: Hudson River Small Tributary Ecological Characterisation and Public Signage
Gareth Hougham, Ph.D. Director Hudson Valley Arts and Science, Inc.
Hudson Valley Arts and Science, under funding from the Hudson River Foundation and Entergy, is engaged in a project titled "Discover Your Streams". It seeks to reintroduce the small Hudson River tributary streams running through Hudson Valley communities to the citizens who live there. There are two interrelated project components: 1) engaging signage illustrating the ecology and cultural-history of each stream and 2) ecological and baseline pollution assessment. The primary goal is to raise the public profile of these otherwise anonymous, neglected small tributaries. And to engage with regional colleges and high schools to build a unique stream stewardship program combining ecology and local-historical research.

TITLE: Emerging Contaminants Are New Threats to the Environment
AUTHORS: Hillary Jufer, Environmental Science Student
Elmer-Rico E. Mojica, Thesis Advisor, Department of Chemistry and Physical Science
Pace University
PRESENTER: Hillary Jufer, Environmental Science Student, Pace University

The United States Geological Survey (USGS) has defined emerging contaminants as any synthetic or naturally occurring chemical or any microorganism that is not commonly monitored in the environment but has the potential to enter the environment and cause known suspected adverse ecological and(or) human health effects. One large group of emerging contaminants consists of the pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCPs) that we purchase and use regularly. Other emerging contaminants include certain pesticides, nanomaterials, flame retardants, and plasticizers. Some of these examples have made their way to the environment and others are already present in wastewater, or agricultural and urban runoff. In this poster, we will discuss some of these emerging contaminants and how can they can be potential threats to the environment.

TITLE: Teaching Geology Through Free Choice Learning
AUTHOR and PRESENTER: Colleen Kearns, Environmental Studies Major, SUNY Purchase College

The theory of free choice learning is unique to out-of-school environments, such as museums; which allow people to learn, to identify artifacts, and to choose a specific option, theme, or space for learning. It is much different than the formal learning of a classroom, because people recognize themselves as visitors of the free choice learning center, rather than students. Their learning is strictly based on their choice to learn. People have to create deeper connections between their lives and the artifacts, in order to engage in them and gain new information. To support the free choice learning theory, I chose to remodel SUNY Purchase College's geology exhibition, located within the Natural Science Building, to allow a broader audience to learn about the importance of geology; specifically, the basics of mineralogy, the rock cycle and geologic time. To invoke the feeling of being within a museum, I re-designed the exhibition to be more interactive, informative, organized and interesting. My main objective is to inspire people of a non-science background to become involved with the exhibition, geology and the other natural sciences.

TITLE: An Ecological Research as Education Network (EREN) Project: Effects of Urbanization on Freshwater Turtle Population Structure Across North America
AUTHORS: Mary Beth Kolozsvary, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies and Sciences, Siena College; Madeline Santulli, Student, Siena College; Frank Sicignano, Student, Siena College; Elizabeth Caprotti, Student, Siena College; and, Devin Rigolino, Student, Siena College
PRESENTER: Mary Beth Kolozsvary, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies and Sciences, Siena College

The Ecological Research as Education Network (EREN; www.erenweb.org) was initiated in 2010 and serves to facilitate research and collaboration among students and faculty at primarily undergraduate institutions (PUIs). EREN's mission is to create a model for collaborative ecological research that generates high-quality, publishable data involving undergraduate students and faculty at PUIs. The TurtlePop project is research that was conceived, organized, and operated through EREN.

Freshwater turtle populations can be profoundly impacted by urbanization. Adult females may experience high mortality with increased road density near nesting sites, leading to a male-biased population. Juvenile recruitment can be reduced by the high density of predators that often exist in human-dominated landscapes, resulting in an adult-biased population. Faculty and students at 25 primarily undergraduate institutions and one high school are conducting a mark-recapture study of turtles as a component of a course lab or independent research. Siena undergraduates have been involved in various aspects of this project. In 2012, 2013, and 2014 undergraduates trapped turtles in Ann Lee Pond, Albany County, as part of an undergraduate research project, or as volunteers. In 2013, Siena undergraduates conducted the ArcGIS landscape analysis for this project. Turtle trapping will continue in Fall 2015 to determine if our results are species-specific, a consequence of relatively small sample size and trapping bias, and if patterns detected at local sites hold true over the eastern United States. EREN is proving an effective means to gather data on turtles over a large area of the United States. Through TurtlePop, undergraduate students are being introduced to authentic, collaborative ecological research.

TITLE: Collaborative Undergraduate and Faculty Research to Identify Potential Sources of Pollution in a Suburban, Mixed Land Use Watershed in the Hudson River Valley
AUTHORS: Nicholas McCloskey, Student, Siena College; Mary Beth Kolozsvary, Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies and Sciences, Siena College
PRESENTER: Nicholas McCloskey, Student, Dept. of Environmental Studies and Sciences, Siena College

The Kromma Kill is a tributary to the Hudson River that originates on the campus of Siena College and is prone to flooding and other water quality issues. This research is part of a collaborative research project that is using water quantity and quality monitoring along with rapid survey methods to identify areas of water quality concern and potential sources of pollution. For this portion of the project we focused on water quality and tested this in two ways. The first was by using macro-invertebrate kick sampling along with corresponding tests such as biotic index and percent EPT to determine potential hotspots of pollution or impaired sections of the watershed. The second included measuring baseline water chemistry and nutrient concentrations to determine water quality trends and to identify likely sources of pollution. We measured temperature, conductivity, specific conductivity, dissolved oxygen, nitrate, salinity, pH, total dissolved solids (TDS) and turbidity in the field. Based on data collected this summer we identified  potential hotspot locations of pollution and impaired water. In the future we will expand our testing and continue to monitor these locations as well as continue our baseline testing. Eventually we will integrate all aspects of this project to create a comprehensive, technically sound watershed management plan to aid in the water quality issues as well as creating community outreach programs to help protect this watershed from further damage.

TITLE: Promoting Values Through Service-Learning in Ecology
AUTHORS: Madeline Micceri Mignone, Ph.D., Michael Gordon, Kevin Knorowski and Chet Kleynowski
Dominican College
PRESENTERS: Kevin Knorowski and Madeline Mignone, Dominican College

BI 113 S Introductory Ecology is an introductory course opened to all students at Dominican College. As an innovation of this curriculum, a blended learning experience for students was instituted that incorporated theoretical ecology, laboratory protocols and application of real time experience into the course work. This included a mandatory service learning component. The service learning project integrated a real-time application of lab work through hands on experience in identifying ecological problems and designing an ecologically viable landscape that will solve both a terrestrial and an aquatic problem. In this specific project, the Rail to Trail project of the Town of Orangetown, New York will be enhanced with the service learning projects. 

As part of the BI 113 S course’s research and Service Learning Component, the students participated in two projects that were divided among the class.  The first part focused on the terrestrial ecological problem. The second part of the project focused on the wetland portion (which is part of the Hudson River watershed) of the campus. The students studied the drainage field within our campus. The students then presented a tentative plan to the community that included an ecologically sound landscape of both native terrestrial and aquatic and wetland flora based on the site studies.

TITLE: Geospatial Analyses of Drainage Network Structures and Implications for Flood Response and Stormwater Management in Small Urban Watersheds
AUTHORS: Katherine Meierdiercks, Ph.D., Michele Golden, Matthew Porter, and Elizabeth Caprotti, Siena College
PRESENTER: Matthew Porter, Siena College

Traditionally, the percent impervious of a watershed has been the focus of examining altered flood response due to urbanization. However, other elements of the urban environment, particularly those associated with the drainage network, can also play a role in altered flood response in urban watersheds. Recent research focused on urban drainage systems suggests that geomorphic properties of urban drainage systems can also impact flood response. In this study, GIS analyses are used to characterize the geomorphic properties of the Kromma Kill watershed, located in Albany County, NY. This has important implications for stormwater management strategies, especially those aimed at reducing the effective impervious surface coverage of urban watersheds. Geomorphic and land use properties of the 5 Kromma Kill subwatersheds (as determined from GIS analyses) are compared to the average runoff ratio of each subwatershed computed from 35 rain events in 2013. Results suggest a moderate relationship between runoff ratio and percent imperviousness of the Kromma Kill subwatersheds (R=0.67; R2=0.45) and stronger relationship between runoff ratio and the area ratio (R=0.96; R2=0.93). The geomorphic properties of urban watersheds (as determined using GIS) can help us to better predict hydrologic response and develop more effective watershed management plans.

TITLE: Knowledge and Attitudes of College Students About the Use of Elephants for Ivory
Xinyuan Zhou, Graduate Student in Environmental Science
Joshua J. Schwartz, Professor of Biology, Department of Biology
Pace University

An estimated 25,000 African elephants were killed for their ivory annually since 2011. The number is about one-tenth of the remaining population and it will likely lead to species extinction if the slaughter continues. Most experts blame the increasing demand for ivory in Asia, especially in the largest market, China. In order to better understand the cause of the ivory demand and to develop effective strategies to address the problem, we have conducted a survey to study attitudes about the use of ivory, other wildlife products and general environmental issues among Chinese college students. We will present some of our most interesting findings. In light of recent federal administrative actions and New York State legislation to ban commercial trade in ivory, we will also describe our plans to conduct a similar survey in New York City. Less attention has been paid to the US ivory trade than that in parts of Asia and, in fact, New York City has one of the biggest ivory trade markets in the world.
Russell Sage College Pace Academy for Applied Environmental Studies