Honors Projects: Past and Present

Post Restoration Evaluation of a Natural Stream Channel Design Project

(Big Bear Creek Lycoming Co, PA) — Big Bear Creek is a tributary of the Loyalsock Creek. Hurricanes Agnes and Eloise, along with removal of a 100 year old dam resulted in the stream becoming wider and shallower. These impacts made Big Bear Creek an excellent candidate for natural stream channel design project. Due to large amounts of sediment load and bank erosion, 127 boulder structures were constructed on the stream from 1999 to 2002. Project partners include US Fish Wildlife, Dunwoody Club, Lycoming College, and others. Lycoming College has been doing stream monitoring of fish and macro-invertebrates pre and post construction since 1999. Data shows that brown trout populations have responded with higher densities then that of the native brook trout in the stream. Fish population densities range from 300-500 fish/200 m2. Water pH has improved slightly over the years, but the alkalinity levels remain low (< 10ppm). In the fall of 2007 a lime addition project was started to boost alkalinity levels. Macro-invertebrate density and diversity show an increase from pre-construction data.

-Nicole Rhodes, 2008

The investigation of Total Nitrogen Discharge of a Sequence Batch Reactor (SBR)

This is a preliminary study spawned from an Independent Study course and is funded by the Clean Water Institute, in conjunction with the Cromaglass International Wastewater Corporation.

-Jennie Yuda, 2008

A Comparison of Leaf Processing Rates and Fungal Biomass of Native and Invasive Species

-Theresa Black, 2005

The White-tailed Deer: A Comprehensive Study

Managing the white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) population is a difficult task in Pennsylvania. There are many groups of individuals involved, making it nearly impossible to reach consensus. Many people enjoy having these visitors in their backyard, because then they can observe them. Hunters are usually the first to say there are not enough deer. Nevertheless, biologists believe that a sound ecosystem must me considered above all else. The white-tailed deer population was estimated at the Montour Preserve through a series of sampling techniques, including browse surveys, point quarter surveys, tenth acre circle surveys, fecal pellet counts, and spotlight surveys. From compiling this data over several years, we can observe that the deer population was over its initial carrying capacity. According to the herbaceous studies, it is increasing, but the spotlight surveys suggest decline in the population. The opportunity to study deer at the Montour Preserve via radio telemetry was not an option. However, I was given the chance to study deer at a private farm with an enclosure. While this study was primarily used for becoming comfortable with the telemetry equipment, this data reflected how much each deer moved and where they spent the majority of their time within the enclosure. Further studies within this environment may allow Preserve personnel to make more educated guesses about better management techniques for their own deer population.

-Christina J. Appleman, 2004

The effects of Rosgen Style Trout Habitat Restoration on Trout Populations and Microhabitat Selection on Big Bear Creek

-Nathan T. Holmes, 2004

The Determination of Leaf Processing Rates and Fungal Biomass via a Chemical Index

-Anthony Sowers, 2003

Impact of Acid Mine Drainage and its Remediation on the Chemistry and Biology of a First-Order Stream in the Babb Creek Watershed, Tioga County, PA

-Michael Roger Morris, 2003

The Comparison of Leaf Processing Rates in Streams, Percent Organic Content, and Fungal Biomass in the Summer vs. Fall/ Early Winter.

-Christina Panko, 2002

Colonization of Benthic Macro-invertebrates following construction of Fluvial Geomorphologic Structures

-Geoffrey D. Smith, 2001

Leaf Processing in Streams and the Determination of Fungal Biomass via a Chemical Index

-Emily Stricker, 2001

The Effects of Trout Habitat Restoration and the Cessation of Stocking on Big Bear Creek

-Jud Kratzer, 2000

Effects and Relationships of Stream Hydrology, T.D.S. and Passive CPOM Retention on the Detrital Communities of Three North Central PA Streams

-Andrew D. Klinger, 2000

White-Tailed Deer (Odocileus Virginianus) Population and Impacts on the Montour Preserve

-Kent Allen Adams, 2000

Assessing the Carrying Capacity of the White-Tailed Deer (Odocileus Virginianus) herd at Rider Park, Lycoming County

-Ellen Klinger, 2000

White-Tail Deer Management at Montour Preserve

Honors Project Summary - Deer Study / Montour Preserver (PDF)

-Colleen M. Heisey, 1999

Detritus Processing of Four Species of Leaves in Three North-Central PA Streams

-Heather E. Jacobs, 1998

Analysis of Terrestrial and Aquatic Communities within Hemlock Hollows of North Central PA

-Joshua M. Laidacker, 1998

A Comparison of Leaf Processing Rates and Fungal Biomass of Native and Invasive Species

An invasive “alien species” is a non-native organism that causes, or has the potential to cause, harm to the environment, economy, or human health. They successfully establish themselves and overcome existing native ecosystems, out-competing native organisms for food and habitat. The goal of this project is to determine in an invasive species is consumed at a rates similar to native species in an aquatic ecosystem. The invasive plant used in this study was Japanese Knotweed (Polygoum cuspidatum), a plant native to Asia that has invaded stream banks in Pennsylvania. This species was compared to Sugar Maple (Acer saccharum). Leaves were incubated in Mill Creek, a second order stream, for a period of ten weeks and removed at two week intervals. Water chemistry was analyzed throughout the study. Aquatic hyphomycete spore counts were performed twice to determine the average amount of fungal spores present in the water. Surface area of leaves was measured before incubation and after removal to determine the processing rates. Leaves were weighed and burned in a muffle over in order to determine the percent organic content. Fungal biomass was determined by HPLC analysis of ergosterol, a component of fungal membranes. Macro-invertebrates were identified from each leaf pack. Japanese Knotweed was shown to have a faster decomposition rate than the Sugar Maple. The knotweed also had a lower percent organic content throughout the incubation period. The Japanese Knotweed acquired significantly less ergosterol than the Sugar maple, indicating less fungal growth. Invertebrates did not show any preference between the two species.

-Theresa Black, 2005

The effects of Rosgen Style Trout Habitat Restoration on Trout Populations and Microhabitat Selection on Big Bear Creek

The populations of Brook Trout, Salvelinus fontinalis, and Brown Trout, Salmo trutta, of Big Bear Creek, a tributary of the Loyalsock Creek in Lycoming County have declined over the past 100 years. To counteract large amounts of sediment pollution, 176 Rosgen style boulder structures were added from 1999 to 2002. These structures were intended to help stop bank erosion and to create fish habitat. In addition to this, stocking of trout was ended in 1999. This study determined the affect of these structures on the trout populations and trout micro-habitat choice and availability. Since implementation, trout populations were shown to rise and reach equilibrium between the two species. In addition, dominant trout were showing to prefer depth ranging from 0.39 to 0.54 meters, mean velocities from 0.28 to 0.41 meters per second, and focal point velocities from 0.13 to 0.26. Preferred substrate was also found to be cobble or boulder.

-Nathan T. Holmes, 2004

The Determination of Leaf Processing Rates and Fungal Biomass via a Chemical Index

The goal of this study was to determine leaf processing rates and to determine fungal biomass accumulations on different leaf species in different seasonal environments. Sugar maple (Acer saccharum) and River birch (Betula nigra) leaves were incubated in two Northcentral Pennsylvania streams; Mill Creek, which is a second order stream, and Big Bear Creek, which is a third order stream. Leaves were incubated for 7 to 35 days during the summer and for 14 days during both the early and late fall. Weekly water chemistry and aquatic hyphomycetes spore counts were done during the incubation periods. Incubated samples were analyzed in the lab using HPLC to determine the presence of ergosterol, which is a membrane lipid of aquatic fungi. The surface areas of the incubated leaves were measured pre- and post- incubation to determine processing rates. Additionally, incubated samples were heated in a muffle oven to determine percent organic content. Sugar maple leaves had higher fungal biomass accumulations during the summer and early fall, but declined slightly during the late fall. River birch had smaller fungal biomass accumulations during the summer, but peaked during the late fall. Leaf processing rates for both leaf species were significantly lower during the fall studies. Invertebrate colonization on incubated leaf samples was also significantly lower during the fall studies. Spore counts were significantly higher during the late fall than both the summer and early fall.

-Anthony Sowers, 2003

Impact of Acid Mine Drainage and its Remediation on the Chemistry and Biology of a First-Order Stream in the Babb Creek Watershed, Tioga County, PA

This study examined an acidic mine drainage discharge from the Klondike Mine Site, Babb Creek Watershed, Tioga County, Pennsylvania. Specifically, mine drainage effects on water chemistry, periphyton, and benthic macro-invertebrate communities of Red Run, a first order stream in the Babb Creek Watershed, were determined during fall 2002 and spring 2003. The effectiveness of a limestone diversion well in abating the mine discharge was also examined. Stream water at five sites was analyzed for chemical parameters indicative of mine drainage, pH, conductivity, total dissolved solids, and dissolved iron, aluminum, and manganese concentrations. Periphyton and benthic macro-invertebrate community diversity and density, as well as habitat quality were also determined. Results indicated discharge from the Klondike Mine Site is a source of mine drainage pollutants. Impacted sites show elevated concentrations of metals, and reduced pH (pH 3.41 to 3.46, fall 2002). The limestone diversion wells are effective in raising pH (pH 6.68) and decreasing metal concentrations. However, under high water conditions the diversion wells are less effective in abating mine drainage (pH 3.75, spring 2002). Periphyton community diversity appeared to be unrelated to pH or metal concentrations; however, sites with low pH and high metal concentrations exhibited filamentous algal blooms and lacked diatoms taxa found at the less-impacted reference site. Benthic macro-invertebrate community diversity was not strongly affected by mine drainage, however there were evident losses of Ephemeroptera and Plecoptera taxa. Mine drainage appears to decrease benthic macro-invertebrate community diversity. The limestone diversion wells degrade habitat and biological communities directly below their discharge. This is likely due to sedimentation from discharged limestone sand and metal precipitation. However, the limestone diversion wells benefit downstream communities. The site furthest downstream (approximately 500 meters below the diversion well discharge) exhibited the highest macro-invertebrate density and diversity of all sites. This study identifies possible relationships between mine drainage, mine drainage abatement, and biological community structure. These relationships should be tested in future long-term studies.

-Michael Roger Morris, 2003

The Comparison of Leaf Processing Rates in Streams, Percent Organic Content, and Fungal Biomass in the Summer vs. Fall/ Early Winter.

The purpose of this study was to determine processing rates, percent organic content, and fungal biomass with regard to season, three different leaf species, two sites and two methods. The leaf species of concern were Sugar Maple (Acer sacchrum), River Birch (Betula nigra), and Pin Oak (Quercus palustris). The leaves were incubated in two different creeks in North-central PA; Mill creek, which is a second order stream, and Big Bear Creek, which is a third order stream. The two methods used in the study were the leaf pack method and the leaf disc method. For the leaf pack method, incubation periods were seven, fourteen, twenty-one, twenty-eight, and thirty-five day intervals. The leaf disc method was a modified version of a previous study. Discs were incubated at 4 to 5 day intervals. Water chemistry was analyzed on a weekly basis to determine differences in pH, alkalinity, and nutrients and how they affected leaf processing and fungal growth. Ergosterol indicated fungal growth therefore, it was a method for quantifying fungal biomass. Ergosterol was extracted from incubated leaves and measured through high performance liquid chromatography. Spores were also filtered from 300mL stream water on a weekly basis. Spores may correlate to maximum fungal biomass activity. Sugar Maple had fast processing rates in the summer, while the leaves slowed to medium decomposers in the fall. River Birch and Pin Oak were both medium decomposers in the summer, but fall processing rates fell into the slow processing rate category. Fall processing rates were considerably slower than summer processing rates for all species. Percent organic content decreased over incubation time due to leafy decay and nutrient leaching. There were higher fungal biomass amounts in the fall as opposed to the summer. Invertebrate densities tended to increase with fungal growth during the fall, however there were significantly fewer invertebrates in the fall than the summer. There was a direct relationship between sporulation and fungal biomass in the fall. After significant leaf disc loss by the second incubation week, the leaf disc method was not found to be a useful means for analyzing fungal biomass. No comparisons could be made between methods or season due to leaf disc loss. Improvements on the leaf disc method, leaf pack incubation method, spore analysis, and post-incubation leaf storage may be useful to future studies.

-Christina Panko, 2002

Colonization of Benthic Macro-invertebrates following construction of Fluvial Geomorphologic Structures

In order to limit large scale erosion and large bed load movement on Big Bear Creek, Lycoming County, PA, member of the Dunwoody Club designed a habitat restoration project partially funded by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection. The project employed the Rosgen-style of fluvial geomorphology, a relatively new and unexamined practice on the East Coast. Construction of the 171 structures over a 1.8 mile stretch of stream required large machinery to alter the stream bed, causing large-scale substrate disruption. This study’s focus was to determine the impact that substrate disruption had on the benthic macro-invertebrate community and determine a time frame for complete return to prior levels. Immediately following construction (Fall 2000), densities ranged from 1 organism/meter2 to 57 org/m2 and by February 27, 2001 densities had reached between 630 org/m2 and 1818 org/m2. It was determined that benthos densities returned to prior levels rapidly. In addition, densities after construction far surpassed previous levels. Along with the invertebrate sampling, fish community and physiochemical conditions of the stream were monitored.

-Geoffrey D. Smith, 2001

Leaf Processing in Streams and the Determination of Fungal Biomass via a Chemical Index

Leaf processing of two plant species, sugar maple (Acer saccharum) and river birch (Betula nigra), was studied in two, north central Pennsylvania streams of different orders during the summer and fall. Processing rates, or K values, organic content, and macro-invertebrates were monitored at 7, 21, 28, and 35-day intervals in the summer and at eight intervals from 8 to 48 days in the fall. Ergosterol was extracted from incubated leaves using procedures by Newell (1988) and measured with HPLC. The effect of incubation time, plant species, season, and stream pH on leaf processing as assessed. Organic contents of both plant species decreased over incubation time due to nutrient leaching and microbial degradation. Processing rates for Acer saccharum and Betula nigra were significantly lower in the third-order stream than the second-order stream because of significantly lower pH and colder water temperatures (P=0.786, P=0.150). Acer saccharum decomposed significantly faster in the summer than Betula nigra in both Mill Creek and Big Bear Creek (P=0.787, P=0.689, a=0.05). Summer fungal biomass levels were significantly higher win the second-order stream due to the lower pH of the third-order steam (P=0.066, a=0.05). The highest fungal biomass concentration found was 2.28 µg/mg for the 7-day, Acer saccharum incubation. A significant difference was found between summer and fall fungal biomasses of Betula nigra (P=0.500, a=0.05). However, Acer saccharum had no significant difference in its summer and fall fungal biomass, possibly due to its fast decomposition rate (P=0.024, a=0.05). Total invertebrates in the summer increased as fungal biomass decreased. In conclusion, this study showed increased fungal biomass in the fall and increased processing rates in the summer. Future studies should try other methods of incubation extraction, along with a larger sample size because uncontrollable weather conditions cause sample loss.

-Emily Stricker, 2001

The Effects of Trout Habitat Restoration and the Cessation of Stocking on Big Bear Creek

The brook trout (Salvelinus fontinalis) and brown trout (Salmo trutta) fishery on Big Bear Creek, a tributary of the Loyalsock Creek in Lycoming County, Pennsylvania, has been declining over the pas several decades. The construction of 38 boulder structures, in accordance with Rosgen, was completed in October 1999 in order to help the stream deal with a large sediment load from the removal of a 100 year old damn in 1996. The structures are intended to protect the stream banks, narrow and deepen the stream, and provide more trout habitat. Stocking of hatchery-raised trout was ended in 1999 in hopes that wild trout would provide a sufficient fishery with a few years. This study determined the immediate impacts of habitat construction and will be used as a baseline for the next 4 years of study. No major changes occurred in water chemistry as a result of construction other than a rise in turbidity from 0 to 21 FAU (FAU=NTU), but even the turbidity returned to normal after construction. The density and makeup of the benthic macro-invertebrate community was not significantly impacted by construction. Construction caused a small scale migration of fish away from the disturbed areas, with electro-fishing catches of adult and age 0+ trout decreasing by 48% and 45%, respectively, in a site that underwent the construction of 4 structures.

-Jud Kratzer, 2000

Effects and Relationships of Stream Hydrology, T.D.S. and Passive CPOM Retention on the Detrital Communities of Three North Central PA Streams

Three North Central PA streams were studied to compare the differences in streams of marginal environmental quality to those able to sustain naturally reproducing wild trout populations. Data assessment fields included habitat assessments, water chemistry, benthic macro-invertebrates, mycelial biomass, aquatic hyphomycetes, fishes, and a microbial ecology assay. Habitat assessment data provided a hierarchy relating the quantity and quality of available fish habitat. As suspected, the control streams, with natural trout populations, scored higher than the study stream. Comparisons of water chemistry data revealed significance in pH variance, total dissolved solids, conductivity, and total phosphorus. Individual metric score comparisons reveled that the non-native trout stream decreased significantly, compared to its reference site, in community health, balance, and diversity, and in overall environmental quality, at some point during the study period. The most striking difference were seen in percent dominance and taxa diversity. However, mycelial biomass was not significantly different among the sampling sites. An aquatic hyphomycete survey revealed that the non-native trout stream had an overall lower share of reproducing fungi, relative that the total number of fungi in each sample. An electro-fishing survey performed at the study site was considered supplemental to the invertebrate data and revealed a similar impairment score. A bacteriological assay was performed on a fish lesion, found during the electro-fishing survey. The assay discovered two organisms on the wound, one identified as Pseudomonas spinosa and the over belonging to the Vibrionacea family, the latter of which was hypothesized to be the pathogenic organism. It was concluded by the study that further, more detailed analysis was needed in each of these data assessment fields, in order to draw any solid conclusions about the inherent difference found in clean and marginally clean streams. Recommendations were also made for changes in trout fisheries management practices in the study stream, based on both economic principles and this study’s broad survey of the marginally clean stream.

-Andrew D. Klinger, 2000

White-Tailed Deer (Odocileus Virginianus) Population and Impacts on the Montour Preserve

This is the second year in a long-term study on white-tailed deer (Odocileus Virginianus) and their impacts on the Montour Preserve. Deer densities were found using a spotlight counting technique in November and February (185.7 and 64.30 deer per square mile) and a fecal pellet group counting technique in February (31.08 deer per square mile). This data was compared to last year’s data. A significant difference between densities on hunted and non-hunted lad was found in November 1999 (Anova, P= 0.000), but not in February 2000 (Anovea, P= 0.052). Doe to buck ratios were determined based on November spotlight data. In 1999 there were 6.4 does per one buck. Percent of whole plants and twigs browsed was determined on three sites during November, and again in February. Sites three showed the lowest browse activity in all cases. Sites one and two both showed high browse activity

-Kent Allen Adams, 2000.

Assessing the Carrying Capacity of the White-Tailed Deer (Odocileus Virginianus) herd at Rider Park, Lycoming County

Deer density studies are of particular importance in protected nature preserves that often harbor overabundance of organisms otherwise controlled through human associations. This is the first year of a long-term deer damage study in Rider Park, just outside of Williamsport, Pa. This land had previously been open to recreational hunting, but all hunting has now been prohibited within the park boundaries for nine years. This study quantified damage to woody and herbaceous components of the park’s ecosystem and used these numbers to create environmentally dependant carrying capacity numbers. A 950 square meter exclosure was erected on the property and inventory of herbaceous plants inside and outside the exclosure were taken and used to determine similarity of the two environments. A total of 5 trees and 12 herbaceous plant species were found at these sites, and there was an 81.7% similarity between the two sites with respect to trees and an 87.8% similarity between the two sites with respect to herbaceous materials. The most dominant vegetation in the area is hay-scented fern and the most dominant tree was sugar maple. Deer browse of woody vegetation was studied in November and January and used to determine the amount of available biomass. This biomass was then used to calculate habitat sensitive carrying capacity numbers for twelve sites in the park. Carrying capacity averaged 47 deer per square mile in November and decreased to 7 deer per square mile in January. Percent browsed remained constant from November (70%) to January (71%). These carrying capacity calculations were compared with deer drive and scat population survey numbers to determine the severity of deer overpopulation within the park boundary. The population estimate of 63 deer per square mile within the park greatly exceeds the carrying capacity calculated. The dominance of hay-scented fern and other non-palatable deer species in the area illustrate that deer damage is present in the park. This is, however, the first year in a long-term study, and management decisions cannot be properly made until more data is collected.

-Ellen Klinger, 2000

Detritus Processing of Four Species of Leaves in Three North-Central PA Streams

Leaf processing of four riparian plant species [sugar maple (Acer saccharum), blue beech (Carpinus caroliniana), red oak (Quercus rubra), and sycamore (Platanus occidentalis)] was studied in three North Central PA streams. Processing rates (k), percent organic content, and macro-invertebrates colonization were measured after 2,7,14, and 55 days. The effects of stream order, time, and levels of acidity were assessed. In general, the acidic first order stream revealed an overall significantly slower decompositions rate (k=0.0034 daysֿ ¹). Carpinus caroliniana and Acer saccharum revealed faster average decomposition rates for all streams, with k-values of 0.0204 (daysֿ ¹) for both. Mayflies (Ephemeroptera: Heptageniidae) dominated in abundance in the third order stream. Stoneflies (Plecoptera: Taeniopterygidae) and net-spinning caddisflies (Trichoptera: Hydropsychidae) dominated in abundance in the second order stream. Only four invertebarates (Trichoptera: Hydropsychidae) were found in the first order acidic site. Percentage abundance of shredders was greatest in the October sample in the second order stream. A second study completed in March and April, 1998 assessed fungal growth via a chemical index measuring ergosterol content on Acer saccharum and Platanus occidentalis after 2, 7, 14, and 28 days of incubation in two streams of differing levels of pH. Platanus occidentalis exhibited the highest concentration of ergosterol after 28 days of incubation with values of 0.28 µg ergosterol/mg detritus for Mill Creek (pH= 6.69) and 0.14 µg ergosterol/mg detritus for the Morris study site (pH= 3.04). In conclusion, this study revealed significantly slower decomposition rates due to increasing acidity. Differences in stream order and time between September and October did not reveal any significance. A general trend of increased fungal biomass with increased time of incubation was found, although no definitive conclusions could be made due to small sample size.

-Heather E. Jacobs, 1998

Analysis of Terrestrial and Aquatic Communities within Hemlock Hollows of North Central PA

-Joshua M. Laidacker, 1998