Campus Comments - 121815

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Environmental Science Senior Capstone Presentations

On Thursday December 10, two senior majors in the Environmental Studies program presented the results of their Capstone research projects to a capacity crowd in the MacRury 140 lecture hall.

Max MaynardMax Maynard (right) of Manchester has been working with the Upper Merrimack River (UMR) Advisory Council to help monitor macroinvertebrates (insect larvae and other creepy-crawlies) at various designated sites along the river.  Macroinvertebrates -- or "bugs" as Max tends to call them -- are good indicators of water quality since they occupy the bottom of the food chain, and tend to stay in one place (unlike, say, fish).  They are also easy to count. Researchers simply place a basket of rocks on the designated site, wait a while, and then pull it out and count the number and type of bugs that have taken up residence on the rocks.

Max helped monitor a number of sites on the river during his time with UMR.  More importantly, he updated their data repository from a spreadsheet residing on a single computer which merely displayed basic information, to a portable, queryable system with built-in analytical tools.

Andrew Czachor (below) of Concord presented the results of his work on soil conditions in the Sycamore Garden, a continuation of an ongoing monitoring program begun by Prof. Tracey Lesser under an EPSCoR grant in 2014.

Andrew CzachorThe Sycamore Community Garden, located on the NHTI campus, was established in 2009 with 54 garden plots, but soon expanded to 138 plots due to popular demand, particularly from Concord's refugee community.  The recent addition of two wells allowed for further expansion of the garden to 168 plots.

Testing undertaken in 2011 suggested that the soil in the garden was lacking in nutrients, especially nitrogen.  This was not entirely surprising, since the land the garden was founded upon had previously been used for growing corn, a crop which tends to remove nitrogen from the soil.  More rigorous testing in Spring 2015 confirmed this diagnosis, and prompted the application of 100 yards of organic compost and 2000 lbs of lime to the garden in Fall 2015 after the growing season had ended.

Andrew performed his own tests on eleven randomly-selected plots in October 2015 and obtained the following results:

Nutrient Average Result Ideal Range
Nitrogen 2.65 ppm 30 ppm
Phosphorus 169.5 30-50 ppm
Potassium 88.6 ppm 170-280 ppm
Calcium 998.1 ppm > 300 ppm
Magnesium 118.4 ppm > 100 ppm

Note particularly that the nitrogen content is far below the ideal range.  This is by far the garden's most serious nutrient deficiency.  Andrew feels that applications of compost, while sufficient to maintain the nitrogen levels in a healthy garden, cannot correct this problem.  He suggests a one-time application of chemical fertilizer to bring the nitrogen up to an acceptable level ... although this would be a departure from the garden's "organic" tradition.

Andrew has one class left to complete his program in the spring, after which he is heading for SNHU for Bachelor's in Environmental Science.

Dec 18, 2015



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