Name: Emily Waters
Title: “Soil analysis of Hampshire College Lawns”
Faculty: Steve Roof is my official faculty supervisor, potentially will work with Beth Hooker and other soil NS faculty.
I would like to develop an interesting project examining the soil and microbial communities of Hampshire’s lawns versus other land uses, that can be an interesting project, while also contributing to the April 15th plan by providing data on the soils of the PPs for conversion.
As of now, I have three basic ideas/questions to consider, in order to make this project a little bit more interesting than just doing soil analysis and providing data:
- Hampshire lawns compared to what they may look like if mowing ceases: This would entail identifying parcels of land in the area that were previously maintained as lawns, and have since (preferably at different time intervals) been restored to meadowlands. We could do soil analysis on Hampshire’s lawn parcels, hay fields, pasture fields, and meadowlands in the area (1, 3, 5, 10 years since mowing stopped). This could potentially provide a nice story describing what changes to the microbial communities and ecological functions if we restore these parcels to meadowlands.
- Examining land use history: We could do the same analysis on Hampshire’s lawns, but compare this to previous land use history. This may include fertilizer application history, number of years maintained as lawn, land use before lawn, etc.
- The ecological homogenization of America: This project might include comparing the data from our soil analysis to other lawn soil data from around the country. Obviously a lawn in Amherst, MA looks exactly like lawns in Phoenix, Seattle, Miami, Chicago, etc. Is this true of the soil ecology? What are the implications of this?
I think all of these projects could be quite interesting, while also helping with the April 15th plan. I think a big first step for me is discussing these projects with the other students interested in studying soil. If the other students would be interested in collaborating, this could expand the scope of the soil analysis and potential lab work, and also questions that we could address. I think it would be really great to measure soil organic matter, microbial biomass, NO3- and NH4+ concentrations, and soil respiration. Depending on the number of hands, we could also do potential net N mineralization and nitrification, humic/humans or some measurement of labile carbon, and potentially some soil enzyme activity. I am fairly unfamiliar with Hampshire’s lab facilities, so I definitely need some help from NS staff/faculty about what options we have for these measurements. Some of this would also need funding.
My goals for this and next week are to meet with other NS students who may be interested in helping me with this project. I would also like to talk to other NS staff/faculty for any feedback on any of these project ideas and determining what of my suggested measurements we can do at Hampshire (I have also heard some discussion of sending soil samples off campus for analysis). I think once these guidelines have been narrowed down I/we can come up with a full proposal in the coming weeks, including protocols and a budget.
I am really excited to get to really apply my research interests to a project that could really make a long-term impact on the ecology of Hampshire! I am also excited to be able to take a break from writing my Div 3 and get some time in the field and lab. I am also very scared that this will suck up so much of my time and I won’t be able to write my Div 3.