If you are interested in summer research opportunities for students at Black Rock Forest please check back here in February 2022 for our research internship form.
Black Rock Forest is a living laboratory for field-based research and education, encompassing native terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems that are increasingly rare in the region. The nearly 4,000-acre Forest features dramatic topography, more than 1,000 feet of relief, numerous lakes and streams and high species and habitat diversity.
Black Rock Forest Research Opportunities and Questionnaire 2022
Black Rock Forest Undergraduate Research Opportunities
Examining three methods of deer density estimates to better inform deer management practices at Black Rock Forest
Background: White-tailed deer densities have been increasing over the past decades in the Northeastern United States. This overabundant population can have a variety of deleterious effects on the ecosystem including the inhibition of forest regeneration, and through selective browsing, an increased abundance of invasive species. Black Rock Forest in Cornwall, New York has been estimating winter deer densities since the 1980s in order to inform deer management strategies. As new survey methods are developed through rigorous scientific study, a comparison of methods is warranted. Black Rock Forest has utilized two different overlapping methods and is interested in a third to incorporate into their management decisions.
Work required: Black Rock Forest is looking for a student to examine and compare three methods of deer abundance estimates (snow tracking surveys, pellet counts and camera traps) in order to inform management decisions and conservation. Students will use data collected over several years and contribute to the existing datasets if desired. No car is necessary for this project.
Mentor(s): Kate Terlizzi (email@example.com)
Long-term trends in precipitation events in the Hudson Valley
Black Rock Forest is interested in finding a quantitatively-inclined student interested in analyzing a long term, individual precipitation event dataset to detect trends over time. Questions related to global climate change over time are most of interest, such as: has there been an increasing frequency of extreme precipitation events over the past 62 years? Has atmospheric warming led to a decrease in annual snowfall events or snowfall amounts over time? A number of comparative analyses, such as comparing this data to Black Rock Forest streamflow patterns and/or regional precipitation and temperature datasets, are also of interest. Dr. William Schuster on the Black Rock Forest staff is available to assist with advising on the project and it could be helpful for the student to secure additional advising regarding statistical time series analysis methods. No car is necessary for this project.
Mentor(s): Bill Schuster (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Monitoring Thruway Culverts for Wildlife Usage
Background: Movement is a fundamental characteristic of life. For wildlife, moving across landscapes is essential for survival. Human infrastructure, such as roads, often impedes, and at times, prohibits successful animal movements. It is possible to ameliorate such barrier impacts by facilitating wildlife movements under (e.g., via culverts or tunnels) or over (e.g., via wildlife overpasses) roads and highways. A careful understanding of how structure attributes and landscape characteristics facilitate or impede wildlife usage of such mitigation strategies is essential for successful mitigation.
Project description: The successful candidate will join Black Rock Forest for our third year of monitoring existing culverts, tunnels, and bridge-spans passing beneath a section of Interstate-87 via motion-activated cameras. This work is a component of our larger project, the Hudson Highlands Wildlife Connectivity Project, which aims to better understand landscape connectivity for local carnivores within our region.
Location: Field work will be conducted principally along an ~9 km section of Interstate-87 largely paralleling the eastern boundary of Schunnemunk Mountain State Parks, near Cornwall, New York.
Duties, Responsibilities & Opportunities: The student will experience a small research, conservation, and education non-profit community and will execute scientific principles for wildlife conservation. Principal duties will include camera trap deployments and maintenance, including programming, deploying, and maintaining cameras and their equipment. This will include installing cameras (i.e., “camera traps”) at culverts and in the immediately adjacent landscape, re-visiting these camera traps approximately every 2-3 weeks to retrieve images, and possibly retrieve cameras at the end of their deployment. Once images are retrieved, the student will adopt existing strategies for managing these images and will learn to identify species within images, building a dataset of species use of culverts and species presence within the adjacent landscape. Recording data from culvert attributes and landscape metrics will be encouraged. Dr. LaPoint will aide in site selection and initial visits, but it is expected that the student will quickly learn the procedure and be comfortable taking task leads. Other research opportunities and experiences may present themselves via other ongoing projects run by Black Rock Forest staff or visiting researchers.
- have enthusiasm for wildlife conservation and science
- be self-motivated, respectful, and persistent
- possess a driver’s license
- be able to carry < 50lbs while hiking
- be confident with a map, compass, and handheld GPS devices (training available)
- be an effective communicator, both within the research team and the public
- understand the importance of and follow detailed instructions
- seek clarity whenever needed
- be willing to learn new ideas, strategies, and methods for conducting wildlife ecology research
Scott LaPoint (email@example.com)
Kate Terlizzi (firstname.lastname@example.org)
An examination of how spatial relationships between related tree species effects re-sprouting and rejuvenation
Background: Over the past 50 years, a number of forest pathogens have altered the forest community by eliminating once important tree species such as the American chestnut (Castanea dentata), American elm (Ulmus americana) and more recently white ash (Fraxinus americana). Numerous pests and pathogens threaten the forest ecosystem and can alter forest dynamics in a variety of ways. An increased global economy and global connectedness has altered and enhanced pathways of introduction for disease. Black Rock Forest in Cornwall, New York rests in the Hudson Highlands and is comprised of a mixed-deciduous hardwood forest dominated by a variety of oak (Quercus spp.) species. In 2008, Black Rock Forest initiated a large-scale experiment to examine how the forest ecosystem may change with a loss of its oak species. In this study, trees were selectively girdled to mimic death by pathogen. However, for multiple years many trees were able to resprout and some even produced a full canopy of leaves despite a girdling treatment. Recent studies by Suzanne Simard have suggested that neighboring trees can support each other and share resources. Black Rock Forest is interested in conducting an analysis based on tree mortality, spatial proximity and re-sprouting in order to make predictions about this resource sharing hypothesis.
Work required: Black Rock Forest is looking for a student to examine an existing spatial dataset on trees and tree mortality. The student will explore the relationship between girdled trees, resprouting and survival post-girdling. Students will use previously collected data and have the opportunity to add to the dataset if desired. A strong analytical and quantitative background and/or interest is required. No car is necessary for this project.
Bill Schuster (email@example.com)
Kate Terlizzi (firstname.lastname@example.org)