Poster Abstracts

The following is a list of abstracts submitted by students for submitted posters.  Students contributions are listed alphabetically. Additional abstracts will be added as they are processed.

The State of Large Landscape Conservation in Maine 2012
Garrison Beck, Ginny Keesler, Laramie Maxwell
Colby College

This poster provides an account of the roles of federal, state, and private conservation lands in large landscape conservation in Maine. We examine the growth in conservation land over the past 25 years, distinguishing between fee-owned lands and lands under conservation easement. We analyze a variety of case studies to determine the status of large landscape conservation initiatives. The importance of Maine in the larger contexts of the New England and the Northern Appalachian/Acadian ecoregion is highlighted. We determine that private conservation land and growth in conservation easements have contributed substantially to conservation land throughout the state. We conclude that Maine has relatively little federally conserved land and encourage the Governor and congressional delegation of Maine to support the approval process for the proposed National Park in Maine’s North Woods. Although collaborative conservation projects in Maine have achieved impressive results, development pressures remain. Therefore, currently existing federal, state, and private conservation entities must collaborate to achieve large landscape conservation goals. We recommend supporting and enhancing existing forums for discussing the future of Maine’s landscape as well as expanding the current conservation easement registry to include all conserved land and increase public accessibility.

Teaching Land Management to Undergraduates Using College-Owned Natural Areas: The Case of Ithaca College Natural Lands
Jacob C. Brenner, Jason G. Hamilton, and L. Leann Kanda, USA
Ithaca College, Faculty-Associate Professor (Department of Environmental Studies and Sciences)
Ithaca College, Faculty-Associate Professor
(Department of Environmental Studies and Sciences)
Ithaca College, Faculty-Associate Professor (Department of Biology)

Institutes of higher education own large tracts of land that often contain protected natural areas of various kinds, and these properties often occur within a matrix of mixed land covers and land uses.  Colleges and universities play an important role, in terms of land tenure, in large landscape conservation.  They also have great potential, by virtue of their teaching and research programs, to pursue innovations in large landscape conservation and management.  We present the case of Ithaca College Natural Lands, a 227-hectare system of protected natural areas, to illustrate the potential in natural areas management for integrating the educational mission of a college with complementary objectives of ecological protection, research, economic production, and recreation.  We focus on teaching land management within and outside the formal curriculum, highlighting a framework of landscape characterization, explanation, and management employed in an upper-level undergraduate course in environmental studies and sciences.

Mapping, Monitoring, and Controlling Invasive Exotic Plants on Ithaca College Natural Lands
Gabriella Ciabattoni, Jacob C. Brenner, and L. Leann Kanda, USA
Ithaca College, Environmental Studies (Undergraduate)
Ithaca College, Faculty-Associate Professor (Department of Environmental Studies and Sciences)
Ithaca College, Faculty-Associate Professor (Department of Biology)

Invasive exotic plants can threaten native ecosystems and present liabilities for land managers.  When plant invasions occur in natural areas owned by colleges and universities, they present unique opportunities to involve students in mapping, monitoring, and management.  We discuss efforts underway to control Japanese stiltgrass (Microstegium vimineum) on South Hill Natural Area, a 148-hectare conservation reserve owned by Ithaca College in central upstate New York.  Undergraduate students lead the way in this project by developing and applying mapping protocols, deploying high-precision global positioning system technology, coordinating cross-campus volunteer teams to remove infestations, and reporting project results.  The South Hill stiltgrass project has proven to be a good opportunity to integrate undergraduate education, research, and land management.

Incorporating Land Acquisition Cost Into Wildlife Corridor Design
Ryan Finseth1, Bistra Dilkina2, Carla Gomes1,2, Ole Amundsen3, Ted Weber3, Michael Schwartz4
1 Cornell University, Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management
2 Cornell University, Department of Computer Science
3 The Conservation Fund
4 The Freshwater Institute

Patterns of urban development and human activity invariably lead to a fragmented landscape.  Habitat fragmentation results in isolated populations of wildlife, thus threatening species viability.  Habitat corridors may facilitate the dispersal of species between otherwise isolated populations.  Identifying all likely corridors based on landscape resistance values is a first step in targeting conservation efforts.  We propose a methodology for corridor conservation planning that allows planners to choose which specific corridors to conserve such that ecological benefits are maximized, while at the same time taking into account economic constraints.  By incorporating the cost of land parcels into corridor planning, conservation objectives can be met cost-effectively.  By considering larger landscapes spanning multiple habitat core areas or populations that need to be connected, one can achieve economies of scale by choosing to conserve areas that serve multiple corridors.  In collaboration with the Institute of Computational Sustainability at Cornell University and the Conservation Fund, we apply this methodology to design cost-effective habitat corridors for forest species of wildlife in the three counties comprising the eastern panhandle of West Virginia.  We employ combinatorial optimization to solve for the optimal, cost-effective solution.  The problem is formulated as a mixed-integer program with a budget constraint.  Our problem formulation introduces additional flexibility by allowing one to vary the required width of the corridors.  We model land cost across the study area using a method based on the proximity to urban areas first introduced by Shi et al (1997).  We present preliminary results for a subarea of the panhandle for varying budgets and corridor widths.

Assessment of Climate Change Impacts on Wildlife Habitats in Dry lands Ecosystem – A Case Study of Al Sabaloka Game Reserve, Sudan
Ahmed A. Hassabelkreem and Salwa M. Abdelhameed, Sudan
University of Massachusetts, Environmental Conservation (Graduate)

As more than 80% of Sudan’s land is classified as dryland ecosystems with increasing trend of many environmental problems. It is getting critically important to know what is the current status of biodiversity in response to such environmental challenges. This study was conducted in Al Sabaloka Game reserve (Sudan), to detect the changes of climatic conditions and its impacts on Wildlife Habitats, as well as assessment of the other constraints facing wildlife in Dry lands. The approach of this assessment is a combined monitoring method. We used remote sensing technique (i.e. Landsat satellite images for the years 1987 and 2000), analysis of thirty years (1978- 2007) climatic data of the study area and ground field investigation for the habitat components as well as the occurrence and distribution of wild animals. More we supported the evaluation by interviews with local villagers around the site. The results showed that there were fluctuations and changes in the climatic conditions. The habitat was found very poor in structure and composition with rare occurrence of wild animals except few small mammals. Also many problems were obviously appeared, certainly sand dunes movement and desertification, decreasing in the vegetation density and grasses cover and lack of permanent water resources. In addition to the absence of government and local people efforts in conservation. The implications: the efficiency of such combined monitoring approach it would be base for similar investigations. The results are highly essential as baseline information for further detailed conservation plans, beside the possibilities of making some predictions about the future of climatic conditions, habitats and wildlife resources in the zone.

Engaging High School Students in Science-based Study Abroad Programs: Leatherback Sea Turtle Research and Conservation at the Pacuare National Reserve, Costa Rica
Jennifer F. Lilieholm1, Serena Morris2, and Robert J. Lilieholm3
1 University of Maine, Orono, Department of Mathematics and Statistics (Undergraduate)
2 Hampden Academy, High School Science Educator
3 University of Maine, Orono, Associate Professor (School of Forest Resources)

Science-based study abroad opportunities have grown significantly over the last two decades, and are now commonplace experiences for many students beginning in high school and continuing through college at the undergraduate and graduate levels. While thousands of study abroad opportunities are available, the number of nature-based programs has grown significantly in recent years, especially in the tropics. Study abroad programs provide unique opportunities for students to learn new knowledge and develop their interests in science, technology, engineering and math-related (STEM) fields. This is especially true for conservation and ecology programs, which typically expose students to hands-on research in a cross-cultural setting. This poster describes how high school students from Maine’s Hampden Academy participated in a Costa Rica-based field course on Leatherback Sea Turtle ecology to: (1) reinforce classroom-based science curriculum; (2) aid research and conservation efforts for a critically endangered species of international concern; and (3) influence in-country and visiting student knowledge and perceptions of resource conservation issues, cultural exchange opportunities, and STEM career opportunities.

A Participatory Approach for Modeling Alternative Future Land Use Scenarios around Nairobi National Park using Bayesian Belief Networks
J.T. McCloskey1, R.J. Lilieholm1, R. Boone2, R. Reid2, S. Sader1, D. Nkedianye3, M. Said3, and J. Worden4
1University of Maine, School of Forest Resources
2Colorado State University, Warner College of Natural Resources
3International Livestock Research Institute
4African Conservation Fund

We develop an adaptive and flexible framework for engaging experts and stakeholders at the household- and community-level that have different livelihoods and land use interests within Kenya’s Athi-Kaputiei Plains (AKP). We use Bayesian Belief Networks linked to GIS data layers to integrate empirical data and elicited stakeholder knowledge. The process is designed to address problems with past conservation-development strategies by allowing participants to build relationships among people with different land use interests in order to clarify opportunities and constraints, examine assumptions at the design phase of a project, and determine future actions and potential development scenarios. We use an example of four different livelihood groups in the AKP to demonstrate how the process might work to identify suitable areas for alternative land uses (e.g., wildebeest and livestock grazing, crop cultivation, and urban development), and to identify future compatibilities and conflicts between these different land use interests. The modeling process provides a maximal coverage strategy that allows decision makers to target and prioritize areas for protection or development, and to set specific strategies in the face of changing ecological, social, or economic processes. The process is iterative so that revised models can be developed as new data and knowledge arise, thereby helping communities and other interests learn from past successes and failures, and better evaluate the impacts of alternative land uses.

Identifying Opportunities for Watershed Protection and Regional Planning in a Mixed-Land Use Modeling Framework
Spencer R. Meyer, Michelle Johnson, Robert J. Lilieholm, and Christopher S. Cronan
University of Maine

The Lower Penobscot River Watershed of Maine (LPRW) is home to a significant regional interface between small, connected communities and the vast, undeveloped expanses of the Maine landscape. Parts of the LPRW have been identified as nationally significant areas that will likely experience further forest fragmentation in the coming years (Forests on the Edge 2005). Since 2000, 77% of Maine’s population growth has occurred outside of traditional town centers (Brookings 2006). The intrinsic land suitability for the often-competing land uses of development, forestry, conservation and agriculture is not well understood. This project uses stakeholder-derived models for land suitability to assess areas of conflict between land uses and areas of opportunity for conservation collaborations. We use small, stakeholder workshops to gather expert opinion and then Bayesian belief networks (BBN) to integrate stakeholder values with empirical spatial data to: (1) develop land use suitability maps that identify areas of potential conflict among land uses; and (2) assess alternative futures scenarios to analyze potential impacts of various land use and population changes. Through this decision support system, policy makers, planners and researchers will be able to conduct community and landscape planning across multiple spatial scales to identify targets for future conservation, human development activities, and working forest and agricultural lands in the state of Maine. This project places an emphasis on developing a modeling tool that is flexible and may be applied to additional regions nationally and globally, using local expert knowledge and publicly available data.

Spatial and Temporal Distribution of Conserved Lands in Maine and the Northeast: A First Look
Spencer R. Meyer, Michelle Johnson, Robert J. Lilieholm, and Christopher S. Cronan
University of Maine

The northeastern United States has often led the land conservation movement with innovations such as the nation’s first land trust, the Trustees of Reservations in 1891, and advent of large working forest conservation easements with what was in 1999 and still is today the nation’s largest conservation easement, the Pingree Family easement. While the northeast has now conserved a massive amount of land totaling more than eight million acres, little research has considered how we got here and how these lands are distributed throughout the landscape. In this study we investigated both temporal and spatial distributions of conservation lands in the northeast United States. The objectives of this study were to: 1) compare the spatial distribution of conserved lands in Maine with those of the northeast United States; 2) determine if there are differences in the spatial distributions of fee and easement lands; and 3) to quantify the difference in the amount of land conserved in Maine through time. We combined multiple spatial datasets with temporal information obtained through broad research using print and internet-based publications. Key results indicate that across the northeast easement lands are more highly clustered than fee lands. Within Maine, where few very large working forest easements comprise the majority of conservation easements, clustering is more prevalent in easements smaller than 1,000 acres. Within Maine, 38% of the total area conserved has been conserved since 2000.

Acadian Internship in Landscape Conservation & Stewardship
D. Slotten1, K. Mahung2, R.J. Lilieholm3, J. Levitt4, and Y. Davis5
1 Princeton University (Undergraduate)
2 University of the West Indies (Undergraduate)
3 University of Maine, Orono, Associate Professor
4 Harvard Forest
5 Schoodic Education and Research Institute

Sixteen interns from the U.S. and other nations took part in the 2012 Acadian Internship in Regional Conservation held at the Schoodic Education and Research Center (SERC) in Acadia National Park, Maine. The program combines formal coursework with a four-week paid internship assisting various nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) across Downeast Maine and southwest New Brunswick. Students came from Brazil, Ethiopia, the U.K., Hungary, Ireland, Lebanon, Oman, Palestine and the U.S., receiving instruction in conservation theory, tools, and methods from a diverse set of faculty, local experts, and guest lecturers. Participating NGOs included the Downeast Lakes Land Trust, Downeast Salmon Federation, Frenchman Bay Conservancy, Maine Sea Grant, Maine Coast Heritage Trust, Marine Environmental Research Institute, and The Nature Trust of New Brunswick. The Program wrapped-up with formal project presentations and a fund-raiser attended by nearly 200 people featuring “Bert and I” humorists Bob Bryan and Tim Sample. The Acadian Internship Program is a partnership of the Quebec-Labrador Foundation, the Schoodic Education and Research Center Institute, the University of Maine, and Acadia National Park.

Wild Energy: Assessing the Impacts of Renewable Energy on Wilderness Lands
Nikki Springer
Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies (Graduate)

Given the increasing demand for domestic energy, and the land-intensive nature of many types of non-renewable energy sources, it is not surprising that the National Parks Wilderness Areas are already experiencing the pressure and conflict between conservation and energy generation.  Yet without a consistent framework for evaluation, the NPS runs the risk of both inconsistent implementation of core values and failing to view their cumulative portfolio in sum rather than on a nuanced case-by-case basis.  Through collaborations with regional and national level leaders of the NPS, this work develops a set of strategic decision parameters to evaluate and compare proposed renewable energy infrastructure projects in or directly adjacent to nationally-designated Wilderness Areas.  Building off of intense analysis of several case studies detailing solar, wind, and hydroelectric projects in different stages of completion, evaluation metrics incorporate the competing environmental, economic, and cultural demands of developing utility-scale renewable energy infrastructure.
This work involves an analysis of the current state of NPS strategy, interviews and feedback from decision-makers and stake-holders at all levels, and a summary of current, decommissioned, and proposed infrastructure projects.  It provides a revised and comprehensive framework for project evaluation and a guide for strategy implementation.  Though focused on public lands, this methodology is directly applicable to the management of any large, diverse portfolio of land with competing needs and multiple stakeholders and provides a real-world model of reconciling the fundamental conflict of conservation and energy generation.

Ithaca College Natural Lands: A Case-Study in Student Leadership in Conservation
Amber Zadrozny and Madison Vander Hill, USA
Ithaca College, Environmental Studies (Undergraduate)

Ithaca College owns 227 hectares of undeveloped land known as the Ithaca College Natural Lands (ICNL) that is home to many student-driven conservation initiatives. The ICNL system was created in 2004 with the formation of a college-wide committee to oversee the management of Ithaca College’s undeveloped natural areas.  Since then, students have taken the lead on land management, ranging from volunteer stewardship and monitoring, to entrepreneurship in non-timber forest products, to recreational trail development. There has also been a multitude of student research projects on the various ICNL reserves.  Altogether, the student-led projects have made ICNL a valuable place to recreate, learn, and explore. There are many ways that students act as leaders within the ICNL conservation framework, as interns, stewards, and users of the land. We have found that maintaining a large area of undeveloped land under a conservation agreement has opened great opportunities for education, research, production, recreation, and environmental stewardship at Ithaca College.