Research Opportunities

In addition to supporting the University’s food scraps diversion program and zero waste goals, the SCRAP Lab serves as a living laboratory for multi-disciplinary investigations into organics recycling.

Help us study the sustainability implications of creating a soil amendment via aerobic in-vessel composting through one of the below research topics: 

1. Not all compost is created equal. The bacteria and fungi profile and diversity can vary depending on the quality and type of inputs into the system. Test different input ratios of carbon to nitrogen and/or different carbon sources (e.g. wood shavings vs. wood chips vs. cardboard). Study the microbial communities over time based on feedstock type. Which combinations or sources result in finished compost that is most effective at…

a. Removing toxins or other pollutants from the soil?
b. Increasing the water holding capacity of soil/preventing erosion?
c. Promoting soil carbon sequestration?
d. Enhancing productivity and/or growing nutrient-rich and high-quality fruit and vegetables of crops grown on University food-growing operations such as Forbes Garden, the Frist Herb Garden, or campus farmland?

2. Experiment with different compost teas and extracts. What compost : water ratio is best at protecting plants from fungus or diseases?

3. Test the feasibility of the composting system in breaking down a range of bioware to inform University purchasing decisions around non-plastic eating utensils, plates, cups, take-out containers, etc. Consider contributing and comparing results in the Compost Council Research & Education Foundation (CCREF)’s Open Source Field Testing Program for certified compostable packaging.

4. Participate in a multi-year comparative analysis of using finished compost from the SCRAP Lab versus chemical fertilizers on University grounds.

5. Conduct an ethnographic study of different people’s experience and/or relationship with composting and soil amendments

6. What are the economic impacts of returning uneaten food to the soil? Quantify the positive externalities and ecosystem services provided through compost applications.

7. Conduct a Life-Cycle Analysis (LCA)  to evaluate the full range of sustainability implications on emissions, water use, etc. of using this type of technology versus other conversion processes.

7. Assist with graphic design and communication materials for site tours

Please contact Food Systems Project Specialist, Gina Talt ’15, with any questions or to express interest in operational or research opportunities.