As a youth climate activist and enthusiast, I have gotten involved in numerous activities to better my understanding of our climate and the detrimental as well as beneficial contributions people make to its health and future. One of these activities was a research study I conducted over this past summer at Avalon Nature Preserve in Stony Brook, New York.
This amazing and educational experience allowed me to conduct a study as well as write a research paper on my findings about the effects of plant browse by the white- tailed deer on the population, species richness, and species abundance of the native, non-native, and invasive plants of the preserve.
The overpopulation of Odocoileus virginianus or the white-tailed deer within many ecosystems has posed for various issues to arise pertaining to the availability of native plants, increased population of invasive plants, and lessened species richness.
The white-tailed deer heavily prefer to browse native plants over the invasive plants due to many of them being unpalatable, thus diversity and abundance of native plants has significantly lowered. Within this study, individual 20 feet by 20 feet quadrants in Avalon Nature Preserve were analyzed for plant species richness and deer browse between the native, non-native, and invasive plants. Data collected was also compared to a previous assessment from 2010 found within Avalon Park and Preserve’s Plant and Habitat Guide in order to determine the effects the over populated white-tailed deer and their excessive browsing had on species richness in the present. The survey methods used to analyze each quadrant that was selected was done on a property that totals 187 acres. Evidence to support the claim that the white- tailed deer have caused great detriment to the native plant population and the species richness of the preserve was found in addition to evidence of evolution amongst the deer, as their resources became depleted by over browsing and invasive plant influx. Various statistical analyses using Microsoft Excel were used to display the effects of the deer browse including calculating and comparing correlation coefficient, the Simpson Diversity Index, Species Richness using the COUNTIF function, as well as conducting a T-Test, and calculating average, standard deviation, and variance.
In addition to this, I was able to utilize many technological advances that have been made in recent years in order to better understand the data I collected. These technologies included camera traps and the DJI Inspire 1 drone with FLIR camera equipping capabilities and remote controls connected via IPads. I was able to “copilot” the drone with my research mentor, Kayla Serina, in order to better understand the deer’s browsing patterns as well as the terrain of the preserve. This addition to my environmental research experience was very beneficial because it allowed me to gain experience in how modern technology can aid environmental researchers in understanding the climate and what needs to be done to better the health of its ecosystems.
Overall, the experience provided me with extensive knowledge of our changing ecosystem right here on Long Island and how the issue of white-tailed deer overpopulation as well as invasive species overpopulation has drastically caused significant impacts on the environment. Now that I have joined Students for Climate Action, I have learned about how I can connect the knowledge I have obtained from my research study as well as the knowledge I have obtained from our weekly meetings in order to advocate for policy changes and assistance from our government in battling this issue of ecological imbalance. As someone who possesses a strong passion for answering the unknown and advocating for positive change, my experience in environmental research has aided me in continuing to be the change our world desperately needs as well as continue to study our planet and how I can help better its health. I am beyond grateful
for this experience as well as being a part of Students for Climate Action and I cannot wait to continue to better our climate through political advocacy and studying it through more projects.
Amanda Ferrante -S4CA St. Anthony’s High School Chapter