Research Experiences for Undergraduates
at Plattsburgh State University
Summers 2000 to 2005
National Science Foundation
William H. Miner Agricultural Research Institute
Plattsburgh State University of New York
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The Center for Earth and Environmental Science at Plattsburgh State University of New York, the W. H. Miner Agricultural Research Institute, and the National Science Foundation sponsored an eight-week summer research experience for highly motivated undergraduate students with broad academic training in the natural sciences and multifaceted interests in ecosystem research from 2000-2005. Our objective was to promote the professional development of undergraduate students through their participation in ongoing research of natural and managed fluvial and riparian ecosystems in the Little Chazy River watershed in northeastern New York. The research program objectives were to establish the spatial distribution of ecosystem types and assess how the physical infrastructure (e.g. geology, soils, physiography, and land cover) affects response variables such as stream discharge, water quality and especially the structure and composition of biotic systems in the watershed. Participants worked closely with the program's faculty mentors on research projects ranging from surface and ground water hydrogeology, water quality, nutrient biogeochemistry, stream primary productivity and riparian plant ecology.
Plattsburgh State University is located in the Champlain Valley of northeastern New York. The Champlain Valley is bordered by the Adirondack Mountains to the west and south and the Green Mountains of Vermont to the east. The St. Lawrence Lowland and the city of Montreal, P.Q. lie to the north.
Northeastern Clinton County is in the Champlain subregion of forest types in New York State (Stout, 1958). Forests in this region are predominantly white pine (Pinus strobus) or a mixture of northern hardwood species such as sugar maple (Acer saccharum), American beech (Fagus grandifolia) and white ash (Fraxinus americana). Most forests are privately-owned, but the region adjoins large tracts of state-owned forest in the Adirondack Park.The Little Chazy River watershed lies approximately 15 km north of the Plattsburgh campus (green outline in adjacent map). The Little Chazy River originates in the Adirondack foothills and flows eastward to Lake Champlain (blue area on map). The headwater region is underlain by the Cambrian Potsdam Sandstone and Precambrian meta-anorthosite and is covered by thin glacial soils. Included in the upland portion of the watershed is Altona Flat Rock (red area on map), a broad area of exposed sandstone bedrock discontinuously veneered with organic litter and humus. The lower, nearly 70% of the watershed, lies in the Champlain Lowland, a broad, low relief region underlain by Cambro-Ordovician sandstone and carbonate rocks and Late Pleistocene glacial, lacustrine and marine sediments. The Champlain Valley has the most intensively farmed agricultural areas on the eastern side of the Adirondacks. During the 1800’s forests were cleared for agriculture and modern dairy farms occupy level sites with deep, fertile soils. Forest cover in this region is primarily on sites with restricted drainage or stony soils with moderate fertility.
The Little Chazy River watershed also includes excellent examples of two types of ecological communities that are rare in New York State. Headwaters of the Little Chazy River are in the sandstone pavement barrens owned by Miner Institute, locally known as “Flat Rock” (Adams and Franzi, 1994; Adams et al., 2002; Franzi and Adams, 1993, 1999; Franzi et al., 1999). The New York Natural Heritage Program ranks sandstone pavement barrens as a rare ecological community type, with fewer than 20 examples in the world and fewer than 5 sites in New York (Edinger et al., 2002). Also, the limestone woodland ecological community type found at the Lake Alice Wildlife Management Area, adjacent to Miner Institute in Chazy, New York, is one of fewer than 20 similar sites in New York State.
David A. Franzi and Kenneth B. Adams, Project Directors
Center for Earth and Environmental Science
Plattsburgh State University of New York
101 Broad Street
Plattsburgh, New York 12901
FAX: 518-564-3152 or 518-564-5267