Wildlife Ecology

MinerInstitute Fall 2009/PSU Fall 2008 

This semester we moved Wildlife Ecology and Management up to Miner Institute in Chazy, NY as part of the Applied Environmental Science Program (AESP) at SUNY Plattsburgh and commenced weekly adventures in wildlife. 

Students have been working hard on their group research projects, designed from the onset from with their own interests in mind. Franklin, Evan, and Brad are surveying forest stands for woodpecker damage in plots affected and unaffected by the ice storm from the late 90's. They are using coring and point-quarter methods to gather information about their sites, woodpecker preferences, and  long-term growth trends, in an attempt to determine the most preferred tree characteristics. 

Britney Curry, Matt Burdick, Taylor Beaton, and Beck Alvord are working with Stealth Cams in various locations (compost pile at an agriculture/dairy facility, local campus woods, and urban areas) to assess site-specific visitation frequency and species richness  using this non-invasive survey method. So far, it appears that coyotes, cats, deer, and other mesocarnivores are visiting. 


Our class and the Stealth Cam at the Miner Institute compost pile...the smell was a little overpowering and warranted masks for some. Note Brad is going a bit over the top given his HAZMAT internship gear from the summer.


Lisa Zimmerman and Matt Soranno are working an inventory of roadkill and are learning important GPS and GIS skills. Lisa is tracking from Saranac Lake to campus, and Matt is surveying the route where his herpetofauna surveys have occurred this fall. They are attempting to determine whether there are areas more prone to vehicle collision and if those spots are species-specific. This information might provide useful to local Dept. of Transportation workers, as well as community members who commute these routes daily. 








Here are some recent pics of independent projects at SUNY Plattsburgh associated with the Wildlife class:


Brett Goldberg surveying small mammals in riparian areas.



Brett collecting saliva for future salivary amylase gels.




Matt Soranno is a Plattsburgh State University grad student (Natural Science) and he is surveying riparian areas for herpetofauna as a follow-up to his thesis work identifying plants at those same sites. Brett (above) is sampling mammals at these sites to get a well rounded survey of our riparian habitat wildlife.

Matt Soranno PSU graduate student setting his drift fences and pit fall traps, along with cover boards and shoreline surveys of amphibians.


 American toad success in a pit fall!

small salamander found in Matt's survey.

drift fence at the sandstone pavement barren, Altona Flatrock (Miner Institute).

Finally, Mary Bennett, Roy Otsuka, and Carolyn Strauss are looking at the giving up densities (GUDs) of small mammals in forested, riparian, and urban areas. They are adding predator scent into the containers to determine whether these animals are altering their foraging behavior based on predation risks.

making GUD boxes in the Miner basement. Gotta love glue guns!

predator urine!!!!



It will be very interesting to hear these presentations at the end of the semester....very cool indeed!

Wildlife Ecology at Miner is a unique experience, such that students can spend a full day in the field learning techniques and meeting professionals who apply these innovations before returning to campus for lecture, analysis, and article discussions. Each week we meet to survey different taxa (birds, herps, fish, mammals), thus students are learning current techniques for surveying wildlife in our area. We met with Mike Peterson to band birds at his home in Elizabethtown using mist nets and later made our way along Route 9 stopping at Noblewood Park, Wickham and Ausable marshes and other wetlands.

Evan MacDonald, Mary, and Carolyn  observing Mike Peterson with a bird.



everyone watching at the mist net for birds!




bird getting ready for banding in beekeeper hat.

Noblewood Park, Williston, NY site of the largest pitch pine in New York...man that's a big tree!


Great blue heron at Ausable marsh

The class attended the regional Wildlife Field Conference this fall at Wanakena NY and camped alongside Cranberry Lake.  Students and I attended lectures concerning the use of motion cameras for monitoring animal movement, proper safety when handling animals, track plating, research on-going in our region, animal immobilization, and perhaps most exciting had a chance to fire a dart rifle.

Matt, Roy, Lisa Zimmerman, Mary, and Steve Kramer mastering the art of smore construction at Cranberry Lake campground.

Becky Alvord kicking butt at poker all over the campground.

Roy and Courtney working w/ Roland Kays to assess speed and distance using a motion camera to monitor wildlife movements in the field at the Wildlife conference.

Britney Curry and Matt Soranno radio tracking to a coyote collar at the wildlife conference.

Brad...we're getting closer to the collar!




 Tranquilizer guns!

Wildlife Society field meeting Fall 2009 SUNY Plattsburgh representing!

Wanakena, NY

Additionally, the class surveyed small mammals using Sherman traps at Rugar woods (chipmunks, flying squirrel, Peromyscus spp.), Atwood Rd. Chazy, NY (woodland jumping mice, northern short-tailed shrews, Peromyscus spp.), and a riparian area on the Little Chazy (Peromyscus spp., Sorex spp., chipmunk).

Carolyn Strauss is taking metrics on her small mammal capture.

Taylor Beaton is giving his mouse some water to collect saliva samples for a gel.


Becky Alvord is getting a nice body length measurement on her small mammal.

check out Evan's technique!

Taylor is weighing his animal using a Pesola spring scale.

Vermont Institute for Natural Sciences (VINS) wildlife rehabilitation center (Quechee, VT). This is the rehab room behind the scenes.

raptor lunch on display...and no one got creeped out. This is a true sign that my class rocks!

Awaiting the live raptor program...what a nice fall day!

Mary Bennett's wingspan is about the same as this osprey!

Roy is checking out the differences between flight feathers in some birds. Franklin Diggs and Britney are looking at another wing.

resident bird on the mend!



Students and I inventoried fish at Lake Alice and the Little Chazy River using minnow traps, met up with Sean Hilpl at the  Ed Weed fish hatchery in Vermont and Brian Chipman working to apply lampricide to the Lamoille River.

Ed Weed Fish Hatchery in Vermont. Very interesting and informative visit. There is a lot of interesting science going on here...ask for Sean Hilpl (PSU alum) for a great tour!!




Lisa Zimmerman and Brad Beck identifying minnows in Lake Alice Wildlife Management Area (Chazy, NY)

Becky and Taylor checking out our catch at the Chazy Recreation Park.

Evan and Mary identifying sunfish at Lake Alice.

Mary and a crayfish.

Matt and Roy looking at the key, while Franklin, Brad and Mary tend to the minnows.


Visit to the lampricide treatment on the Lamoille River, VT.

Brian Chipman speaking to Roy, Franklin and Lisa regarding the damage lampreys cause to fish.

Team Blaze Orange at Lake Alice Wildlife Management Area during duck hunting season. We are prepared for minnows and hunters!

Most recently, students and I hiked and sampled for salamanders and other herps in the FERDA plots at Paul Smith's Visitors Interpretative Center with Milt Adams.

 Paul Smith's Visitors Interpretative Center.

Notes at the bog overlooking the St. Regis canoe area.

FERDA plots...herpetofauna surveys with our educator Milt Adams at the Paul Smith's VIC.

We're about to flip cover boards and logs in the single tree cut.

Matt Soranno...no herps here!

Rare spotted salamander at the FERDA plot.

Matt Burdick leading discussion in the lunch pavilion at the Paul Smith's VIC. He really did a fabulous job sharing Errington's class article Of Muskrats and Marshes. Gotta love muskrats at high densities with their entrails and all!!

Excellent bear sign on this beech tree. The FERDA plot understory was chock full of regenerating beech thickets intermingled with mostly some specimens that have appeared to stand their ground against the scale and Nectria fungus.

Twin Valleys, Lewis, NY...glow dusting and overnight camping experience. Note Evan singing into the flashlight...priceless pic!

Britney, Becky, and Evan "Groban":)

glow dusting Peromyscus spp. and using a UV light

Brad Beck releasing an animal w/ glow dust powder. The rest of the class is getting ready to track him/her.


Another animal successfully dusted.



owling against the pines and hemlock.

Campfire #2 for the wildlife gang!! It was cold that night. Smores were good! Lisa and Brad are toasting some mallows.

hard at work the next morning w/ strong java and some great articles!!

off to go point quarter for the woodpecker research project! Team blaze orange!

Matt Burdick and Carolyn Strauss hard at work sampling trees and looking for cavity damage.

love this picture...Franklin Diggs coring away. Note: this is the start of their research project before they counted the rings:)


Team wildlife crunching numbers, led by Evan MacDonald.

Tomahawk trap with a marten (left, middle) and talking about trapping deer with Paul Jensen (NYS DEC) at the Huntington forest in Newcomb, NY (right).


Paul demonstrates the use of a handling cone for marten.

Visit to Richard Harwood's Bearswamp Taxidermy shop in Peru, NY. 




Richard is preparing the ear on this white-tailed deer so it can be fit to the mold.




Roy is demonstrating the ear mold for the deer.



Fish are tricky to mount.



They require a lot of air brushing and skillful attention to detail and fish anatomy. 

Hides are placed in this canister with tanning solution.


Wildlife Ecology in the AESP class photo fall 2009.



small mammal museum specimen prep.

Northern short-tailed shrew ready for sewing.



Well done Brett!


seed digests today...learning about the rumen of deer.

Here is what we can expect in our cow, our surrogate for rumen bacteria.




Everyone heading in to see the fistulated cow.



 here she is...


Mary Bennett is collecting her sample.

Digester, where we will see how much dry weight has been digested by rumen microbes from our hickory nut, beechnut, and acorn samples. We are wondering just how nutritious these seeds are from an animal perspective.

Running salivary amylase gels with our collected Peromyscus spp. saliva samples from earlier in the semester.



look at these fabulous new pieces of gel electrophoresus equipment!





Demonstrating the gel technique.

Mary is adding the starch-agar solution to the gel we just ran...awaiting enzyme reaction.



Becky Alvord is sloughing off the starch and will be ready to counter-stain the gel in iodine!! Exciting!

Deciphering the gel bands...serious business!

Success!!Low bands are P. leucopus and high bands are P. maniculatus.

Stay tuned for highlights from the research presentations...a semester long journey!


Plattsburgh Wildlife Ecology

Fall 2008

We began our class field experiences with an early morning small mammal trapping session at Rugar Woods, a tract of land adjacent to PSU's field house. The tract borders the Saranac River, so we expected to catch a handful of small mammals and we found none, but learned enjoyed a jaunt in the woods and learning the nuts and bolts of using Sherman live traps.

From left to right we can see Adrienne, Kyle, Paul, Dan, and John with his morning coffee as I demonstrate opening a Sherman trap.

Ashely Rinn leads the class on a path to locating the raccoon VHF collar.  She is using the radio-telemetry equipment to guide her to the area where the signal is strongest in order to find the hidden collar. The picture in the above right show the collar array we are using right now.

 Mike Peterson, expert bird bander, removes some birds from the mist net one early morning in Elizabethtown, NY. Notice he is using the beekeeper hat to hold the birds until he can place tags on them...ingenious!

We captured an American robin and a Swainson's thrush...both common to the area of upstate NY.

Here is the robin, note the juvenile feathers with mottling.



At the True brook, Saranac NY cold water spot electrofishing with the help of Mark Malchoff and Dr. Tim Mihuc of the Lake Champlain Research Institute. What a great day to identify fish! Dr. Mihuc and Meagan Lebeau are hoping for brown trout.

Ashley, Dan, and Meg hard at work trying to net some stunned fish.




Charles Cross, Jillian Post, and Meg follow Mark Malchoff further upstream.



Minnow species in need of further identification.

Brown trout and dace.

Last night we met at Rugar Woods at 9:30PM to check our traps and glow dust rodents. We caught 2 white-footed mice and dusted the first with yellow powder and the 2nd with blue. We have video footage of the blue mouse climbing up a pine tree and perching in at the base of a branch looking down at our group!


This is a snapping turtle that was nesting and dropping her clutch on the edge of a slope to a stream in Huntington Forest, Adirondack Park in June 2008.

 We spotted this sun-bleached Eastern chipmunk in the Catskill Park, June 2008.

The red eft stage of the spotted newt.