Finger Lakes Community College

2001 marked the beginning of a collaboration between the Department of Science and Technology, the Department of Environmental Conservation and Horticulture, and Braddock Bay Raptor Research.  For years, banders at Braddock Bay had been unable to record the sex of the Red-tailed hawks that had been banded and released as part of their annual banding program. A lack of sexual dimorphism in these raptors made it impossible to obtain this important piece of data with any level of confidence.

Researchers at FLCC designed and implemented a five year study plan to explore the possibility of identifying morphometric correlates of sex in this bird.  A PCR-based blood test was used to identify the sex, and these results were compared to a large data set containing morphometric data collected in the field prior to releasing each bird.  Students in FLCC’s A.S. Biotechnology Program participated in the project as part of an independent study course.  The benefits to the students became quickly evident, and led to a commitment by FLCC faculty to begin the process of bringing the research experience into the classroom.  

Ecological Consequences of Continual Volcanic Activity on the Lizard, Anolis lividus, from Montserrat

Beginning in 1995, the island of Montserrat in the West Indies has suffered acute and persistent volcanic activity from the Soufriere Hills Volcano.  Repeated volcanic activity, including large ash clouds, pyroclastic flows, and extensive erosion, has had a devastating effect on Montserrat’s ecosystems.  Research has shown that the long-term effects of the volcano on local wildlife can be severe.  Montserrat sustains a large number of endemic species, including an endemic anole, Anolis lividus. 

In collaboration with scientists at Harvard University, faculty and students at FLCC have been monitoring populations of this anole at multiple sites.  Research questions are focused on the effects of volcanic activity on the population, including evidence of adaptation to the dramatic changes in habitat characteristics that have occurred as a result of this activity. 

Muñoz, M. M. & Hewlett, J.A.  2011.  Ecological Consequences of Continual Volcanic Activity on the Lizard, Anolis lividus, from Montserrat.  Herpetological Review. 42(2): 160-165.

Our students participate in a wide variety of research experiences in both the lab and in the field.  Many of these students have also participated in local, regional, and national meetings where they have presented their research to professional and academic audiences.

North American river otter (Lontra canadensis) population studies

In the late 1990s, the New York River Otter Project aimed to restore river otter to the watersheds of western New York. From 1995 through 2000, 279 river otter were captured in eastern New York and released at 16 different sites across the western part of the state. Some of the release sites in western New York had been devoid of otter populations for longer than many local residents could remember.

In collaboration with scientists at SUNY Environmental Science and Forestry, faculty and students at FLCC will be exploring a number of questions related to the reintroduced river otter.  Research questions include a characterization of habitat use and latrine sites, population diversity and size, and feeding behavior and diet.

Viticulture

FLCC received $3.3 million from the state for construction of a Finger Lakes Community College Viticulture Center at the Cornell Agricultural and Food Technology Park in Geneva.  State Sen. Michael Nozzolio and state Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolbadvocated for the Viticulture Center, which is providing hands-on training to students in the college’s viticulture and wine technology two-year degree program.

FLCC's Viticulture program includes a research component.  Some of the varieties were planted with experiments/demonstrations in mind.  For example, the same clone of Riesling was planted on two different rootstocks with the hope to better understand vigor and yield implications of this decision.  With support from Terenew, a small startup company located in the Cornell Agriculture and Technology Farm, students inoculated some Cabernet Franc vines with a Trichoderma, a fungi that populates the roots of plants, that has been shown to cause both flavor and vigor differences in other types of plants.  Different training techniques are being used to observe expected fruit composition and vigor characteristics.  These experiments require data collection both during the growing and dormancy seasons.  All are considered long term experiments that require regular maintenance and data collection.

Macro and Molecular indicators of stress in corals and the use of biomarkers for the early detection of symbiotic breakdown

Coral Bleaching involves the breakdown in the symbiotic relationship between the coral and its algal symbiont. When this relationship weakens, the algae are expelled from the coral tissue and the characteristic “bleached” appearance results. While some evidence exists to suggest that this process has some adaptive value, scientists primarily consider this bleaching to be a result of stress. Repeated bleaching events are known to be damaging to coral, and widespread coral bleaching is considered a very serious environmental issue. Although both thermal and sedimentation stress have been shown to produce bleaching in coral, the exact mechanism of this induction is not well known. Many scientists suggest that if bleaching is observed in coral, the stress that produced that event may have occurred much earlier. In many cases, several stressors may have been integrated over weeks to months to produce the event. Recently, a small number of genetic markers have been identified that relate to the integrity of the symbiotic relationship that occurs in coral. Changes in the expression of these genes have been shown to be an early indicator of environmental stress, and the initiation of the symbiotic breakdown that results in bleaching.  This project is part of a larger collaboration with Florida Keys Community College, Mass Bay Community College (RIMES program) and Reef Check

New York State Black Bear

Finger Lakes Community College sits on the northern edge of a rapidly expanding black bear population.  In collaboration with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation(DEC), scientists and students at FLCC have been exploring numerous questions related to the biology of this majestic mammal.  Each winter, students are given the unique opportunity to visit bear dens as part of a two course sequence focused on black bear management.  Bear movements and ranges are studied with the use of GPS collars placed on bears.  In addition, students are able to participate in studies related to den characteristics, feeding and territorial behaviors, and reproductive biology.  To learn more about this project, and other wildlife studies, you can visitBearlyAlyssa and Backyard Beasts—two blogs devoted to wildlife projects at FLCC.  

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Through collaboration and resource sharing, a molecular ecology focus has emerged within the research program at FLCC.  Using nature’s molecular signatures, FLCC students and faculty have been exploring organisms and ecosystems on a whole new level.

RIMES in Montserrat

SCI 200 Course

The SCI 200 course at Finger Lakes Community College has been running for 6 years and falls into the CCURI category of a Course Undergraduate Research Experience, or CURE solution to bringing undergraduate research into the classroom.  Students in the SCI 200 course are introduced to the methods and techniques used to explore large-scale ecological questions.  The course then plugs them into ongoing research projects occurring in the region.  Students at FLCC are exploring questions related to the impact of a variety of stressors on reef health.  Current study sites are located in Montserrat and St. Kitts and Nevis in the West Indies.  The Youtube video below depicts the early stages of development of the course and includes an interview with Alison Milliman, FLCC’s very first Barry Goldwater Scholar.

Research Departments

Science and Technology

Biology

Clinton Krager and Kellie Aitchison

Biotechnology

James Hewlett

Conservation and Environmental Sciences

John Van Niel

Program Page

Viticulture and Wine Technology

City, State

Paul Brock

Program Page

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CCURI is supported through NSF #1524353 

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