MACUB (2021) Conference

Student Presentations

Environmental Biology and Ecology (EEB-1).

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Dr. Margaret Eiden

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Dr. Valerie Schawaroch (Ecology)

Zoom Meeting

Time: 10/30/21, 11:05AM -

Meeting ID: 844 3045 4335


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6-1. Saint Peter's University.

Winging It for Seven Winters: Project FeederWatch Sheds Light on Urban Birds. (Rodriguez, Katherine; Annon, Oshane; Nunez, Xiomara; Amaya, Claudio; Regis, Ben & Wydner, Katherine).

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Abstract: Birds in urban habitats face numerous survival challenges. In 2014, we began a multi-year research survey of birds that winter in urban areas with the Saint Peter’s University campus (Jersey City, NJ) as our study site. Our methodology makes use of the Project FeederWatch (PFW) protocol established by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. From November to April, birds attracted to resources (including feeders) within a designated study area are counted and reported to a North American database managed by Cornell. After four seasons of PFW (2014-2018), it was clear that only a few species are present every season, with House Sparrows (Passer domesticus) being dominant by sheer numbers. In Summer 2018, a grant enabled us to renovate a portion of the study area by removing English ivy and beginning to restore native habitat by planting native plants and wildflowers, especially those beneficial to birds and pollinating insects. Three seasons later, we have evidence that supports our hypothesis that “Restoring native habitat in an urban area will increase the diversity of winter birds (species richness)”. Since the start of PFW (2014) at our site, twenty-seven species have been counted but only five species have been present throughout all seven seasons: House Sparrow, Mourning Dove (Zenaida macroura), European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris), American Robin (Turdus migratorius) and Northern Mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos). In the two PFW seasons following the native plant garden (2018-19, 2019-20), the average number of species seen weekly increased compared to previous seasons with first-time reports of six native species: White-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta carolinensis), Fox sparrow (Passerella iliaca), American Goldfinch (Carduelis trista), Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia), Blue Jay (Cyanocitta cristata), and Sharp-shinned Hawk (Accipiter striatus). In the most recent season (2020-21), the number of species reported weekly increased further. Native species reported for the first time in 2020-21 were Black-capped Chickadee (Poecile atricapilla), Cedar Waxwing (Bombycilla cedrorum), Hairy Woodpecker (Picoides villosus), and Ruby-Crowned Kinglet (Regulus calendula).

6-2. Mercy College.

Does Flower Color Attract Native Bees? (Jimenez, Bianca; Dr. Eiden and Dr. Bukofser).

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Populations of native bees are declining partially because of a reduction in the numbers of native plants we have left in our ecosystem. However, scientists, botanists, and horticulturists, are advocating for and encouraging individuals to plant native plants in their own yards. Many of these native plants are bright in color and attract a wide variety of pollinators; however, what the human sees is not identical to what our pollinators see. Bees can see from roughly 300-650 nm (wavelengths of light) which explains why bees cannot see red. Bees are trichromatic and make up colors from a combination of blue, green, and ultraviolet light. Recent studies have shown that bees prefer blue, violet, and purple flower color. In this study, I hypothesized that native bees would have a preference for the purple colored flowers on the Penstemon digitalis ‘Pocahontas’ plant instead of the white flowers on the Penstemon digitalis ‘Straight’ plant. To determine this, the Chicago Botanical Garden’s Budburst protocol was used where bee visits were determined by counting the total number of bees that landed on flowers during a ten-minute period. Additionally, temperature, cloud cover, and phenology were recorded. Flower color wavelength was determined using a spectrophotometer. After three weeks of research, it was determined that native bees did have a preference for the purple flowers over the white flowers. However, honeybees had a preference for the white flowers instead of the purple flowers.

6-3. LaGuardia Community College.

Directional Orientation of Harbor and Gray Seals at Swinburne Island in New York City. (Luong, Victoria; Woo, Kevin; Biolsi, Kristy & Radhakrishnan, Preethi).

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Abstract: Safety at rest is important for preserving time to restore the demands of metabolic functioning. However, during these periods of rest, social species that gather collectively risk their safety and are subsequently vulnerable to threats, such as habitat encroachment and predation. It is imperative that social groups are consistently aware of their environmental surroundings. In this study, we investigated the directional orientation of harbor seals (Phoca vitulina) and grey seals (Halichoerus grypus), two marine mammal species typically found hauled out during peak low tide on Swinburne Island, which is an urban location within New York City. We examined archival photographs that were taken at Swinburne Island between 2014-2019, and we measured the orientation direction of each seal. We also recorded whether neighboring individuals, adults and juveniles, and similar/dissimilar species orientated in the same or different direction. Individuals must be vigilant to their immediate surroundings and potentially rely on social information cues imparted to them by conspecifics.

6-4. St. John's University.

Monitoring Water Quality Parameters in NYS Parks Using Neulog Sensors Post Covid-19. (Budhu, Eric; Bendeck Hincapie, Andrea; Liliah, Marisha; Ramos, Elizabeth & Schramm, Laura).

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Abstract: Regular, detailed monitoring of New York State Parks’ lakes post COVID-19 is of environmental concern. For multiple state and federal parks, COVID-19 restrictions caused researchers to miss fieldwork and sampling during spring and early summer, disrupting water, wildlife, and phenology studies. Our goal is to monitor the health of a sampling of NYS freshwater lakes on Long Island using sustainable methods to analyze water quality parameters. NYS parks selected for the study had an average increase of 31% in visitor attendance, comparing data available for 2019 and 2020. Weekly water samples were collected from NYS Belmont (40° 43’ 58.230” N, 73° 20’ 29.592” W) and Hempstead (40° 40’ 45.708” N, 73° 38’ 38.910” W) Lake Parks using Neulog sensors monitoring conductivity, pH, temperature, and turbidity from June 9 through September 21, 2021. Data collected were analyzed using the non-parametric statistical Mann-Kendall (MK) procedure to determine monotonic trends. Interestingly, the MK trend analysis indicates conductivity is probably decreasing at Hempstead Lake Park (COV = 0.27, S = -14, CF = 94.6%). Also, the pH trend is probably decreasing at Hempstead Lake Park (COV = 0.11, S = -12, CF = 91.1%). We observed no trend or stable trends for temperature and turbidity at both Hempstead and Belmont Lake Parks. Together, these data suggest that Neulog sensors may be a reliable and sustainable means to monitor water quality parameters. However, additional monitoring is required to determine seasonal trends and at additional NYS parks.

6-5. Kingsborough Community College.

A Study of Oyster Growth in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn, NY. (Pena, Steven; Polizzotto, Kristin & Ortiz, Mary).

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Abstract: Oyster spats were placed in a cage in the water at the end of Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn, NY to see if they would survive and grow. When oysters grow together, they create a natural barrier against storm waters. They also provide habitat for many different species. The hypothesis for this study is the oysters will grow while the number of survivors will decline. Four sets of growth measurements (Nov 2019, Jun 2020, Oct 2020, Jun 2021) were collected over time. Data collected included the number of surviving oysters as well as their size.  Descriptive statistics were performed on all four datasets. Inferential (parametric and non-parametric) comparisons were also performed (ANOVA, Wilcoxon Rank-Sum, and Kruskal-Wallis tests) on the data. The results of all inferential tests were “extremely statistically significant”. The initial number of oysters was 144, and the final count was 22. The oysters went from an average size of 1.606 ± 0.609 cm to 5.154 ± 1.346 cm. Based on the results; the hypothesis is accepted. The number of oysters decreased while the average size increased. Monitoring of the oysters will continue.

6-6. St. Francis College.

WHY ARE MARINE VIRUSES IMPORTANT? (Chitadze, Mariami & Nolan, Kathleen).

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Abstract: The discovery of novel viruses and new mechanisms underlying virus distribution and diversity exemplify the fascinating world of marine viruses - which orchestrate life in the ocean. The past decades’ research has revealed viruses as key players in the marine ecosystem, from driving bacterial and algal mortality and evolution at the nanoscale, to influencing global-scale biogeochemical cycles and ocean productivity. The large number of unknown viral populations in the marine metagenome emphasizes the need for further isolation, characterization and sequencing of specific marine viruses. By using and comparing the Sample Inventory and the Conventional Extraction methods scientists have developed some new insights and understandings of marine viruses. Another method that further enriches our knowledge of viruses is a Targeted Viromics approach. The oceans greatly shape Earth’s climate, hold 1.37 billion km3 of seawater, produce half of the oxygen in the atmosphere, and are integral to all known life. In a time where life in the oceans is under increasing threat (global warming, acidification, pollution, economic use), it is pressing to understand how viruses affect host population dynamics, biodiversity, biogeochemical cycling and ecosystem efficiency.

6-7. St. Joseph's College New York (Brooklyn Campus).

The Impact Rapid Temperature Change Has on the Swimming Ability of Larval Sheepshead Minnow (Cyprinodon variegatus). (George, Sophia & Perez, Kestrel).

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Abstract: Global climate change affects the world’s oceans having potential impacts on oceanic current patterns, average water temperature and variation in water temperature. Larval stages of fish populations are critical to study because mortality in the early life is typically extremely high, and they may be vulnerable to temperature changes and variation. The purpose of this experiment is to study the swimming ability, growth, and mortality of larval sheepshead minnow (Cyprinodon variegatus) under rapid temperature changes. Three treatments were created: warm/cold, which started at 28℃ for 6 days then decreased to 21℃, cold/warm which started at 22℃ for 6 days then increased to an average of 24℃, and variable which started at 22℃ for 4 days, increased to an average of 27℃ for 2 days, decreased to 22℃ for 3 days, then increased to an average of 26℃ for 3 days. Utilizing a video camera, frame by frame footage was tracked to calculate various measures of larval sheepshead minnow swimming including average velocity, maximum speed, and distance traveled. Fish maintained in the warm/cold treatment swam fastest, on average 90 mm/s compared to fish under the cold/warm treatment which swam 48 mm/s on average and variable which swam 54 mm/s on average. The data obtained from the warm/cold treatment suggests statistical significance in regards to average velocity, however, more trials with a larger sample size would need to be conducted. There were no statistically significant differences found between the initial length and final length of fish across all treatment groups although other swim differences existed. Ecologists can use this data to better understand fish populations in aquatic communities with rapid, unstable temperature changes. Since swimming ability may impact how effectively larval fish can escape predators and find food, this data can be used to further study population variability of different fish populations in the wild.

6-8. New Jersey City University.

Microplastic Abundance in Lake Hopatcong. (Gonzalez, Karla; Fitzgerald, & Allison).

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Abstract: Lake Hopatcong is one of the largest freshwater bodies of water in New Jersey and it once provided freshwater from southern New Jersey to Northern New Jersey (Smith, 2015). Due to the increase in plastic production in recent years this lake, like many others, is subject to plastic pollution. While there have been studies about plastic pollution in the ocean there is not much known about plastic pollution in lakes. To date, no microplastic survey has been completed at Lake Hopatcong. The purpose of this study was to provide a primary survey of the quantity and type of microplastic in Lake Hopatcong to visualize which areas are most affected due to higher microplastic count. To conduct this study a Manta Trawl net was used to capture microplastics at 11 different sites for 10 minutes. After preserving the samples, they were analyzed in the lab to determine what type of microplastics were found and where they were most abundant. It was hypothesized that the southern end of the lake would have more microplastics due to there being a dam where the lake empties out from. From the study it was concluded that the eastern edge of the lake had the highest amount of microplastics, and the southern edge had the second highest amount. This suggests that the microplastics are not flowing throughout the lake evenly and that they are getting trapped around the edge of the lake instead of flowing out of the lake.