2005-2006 CSIP Fellow
Crop and Soil Sciences
I am working on Soil Health in agricultural
ecosystems as a graduate student in an MS/PhD program.
As collaborator in the NYS Soil Health Project I am evaluating
a series of physical and biological tests as potential
indicators of agricultural soil health. These indicators
are analogous to tests a doctor might perform for our
annual check-up. We plan to offer these soil health tests
for a fee to farmers and gardeners. Several of these tests
are allowing us to see soil health differences caused
by different agricultural management practices, such as
tillage, crop rotations and additions of organic matter.
They provide quick and tangible assessment of soil health
and insight into ecological processes.
It is imperative that students learn to
understand their interactions with, and dependency on
the natural world, so that they can make informed decisions
about their use of resources, such as water, soils, fertilizer,
pesticides, energy and minerals. In addition, basic scientific
concepts in physics, biology and chemistry become much
more interesting to students when they have direct relevance
to their own lives. I would like to partake in developing
this important understanding in students, using inquiry
methods and hands-on exploration of plants (specifically
the growth of our food), soils, seeds, water and microbes,
both in the classroom and outdoors. Because of the hands-on,
participatory nature of my research, some equipment (infiltrometer,
penetrometer and rainfall simulator for example) is designed
to be taken into the field for farmer-demos, and thus
would be easy to bring into the class room. I would be
excited to help students set up vermicomposting systems
to study their ecology over the course of a semester.
I can also provide access to the Master Composter educational
sites, or to the Ithaca Community Garden plots, where
I will be growing over the next seasons.
I would like to set up workshops with hands-on components
to be taught in a variety of class rooms. Also, I would
like to collaborate in a long term project, involving
students on a daily or weekly basis. I am very much looking
for a long term collaborative relationship with a teacher
and a group of students (earth science, environmental
science, biology and chemistry seem most appropriate,
but I am flexible), in which we share ideas, and learn
from each other about teaching, science and teaching science.