As 2016 chair of the Microbial Ecology section of the Ecological Society of America (ESA), Kristen DeAngelis, microbiology, recently received a $1,500 long-range planning grant to promote awareness of the role of microbes in composting organic materials. The award will fund one undergraduate from campus or the Five Colleges to be an Earth Stewardship Intern during the spring and summer to develop the society’s composter curriculum.
To draw attention to the new curriculum, the intern will also oversee donating three composter kits and curricula to one public school or garden in Massachusetts, one in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., where the ESA annual meeting will be held, and a third elsewhere in the United States.
DeAngelis encourages faculty and advisors to bring this opportunity to the attention of their students this semester at www.micro.umass.edu/deangelis/EarthStewardshipIntern
DeAngelis says that objectives include promoting the long-term involvement of students and members of the ESA microbial ecology section through expanding outreach and earth stewardship activities, including donation of composters to schools. “We are working to create this as a long-standing tradition of our section,” DeAngelis says.
The microbiologist points out that managing and eliminating organic wastes from the total waste stream is an important ecological and sustainability issue. In 2011 alone, more than 36 million tons of food waste was generated in the United States with only 4 percent diverted to composters or incinerators. “Thanks to support from the ESA and our previous long-range planning funding, we have run the composter program for two years and awarded kits to community gardens in Sacramento and Baltimore,” she says.
The new intern to be hired will continue and expand the composting program with four objectives.
They are first, to update the composter curriculum by creating an online version accessible to anyone, and also to either translate it into Spanish or facilitate this process to reach underrepresented groups in the environmental sciences.
The intern will also develop an online composter kit available at cost to anyone, which will include a free PDF of the composter curriculum and links to purchase all the supplies one would need to start a composing program.
He or she will also work to provide a composter award to a local community garden in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., the ESA 2016 annual meeting host city, including contacting community garden organizers.
Finally, the intern will host open composter awards to two public school garden or community garden programs in the United States, location to be determined.
DeAngelis adds, “This will continue the internship program developed with soil microbial ecologist Jessica Gutknecht at the University of Minnesota and will continue to develop and expand composting toolkit materials that will provide valuable information to schools and organizations.”