The Compost Research & Education Foundation’s (CREF) Board of Trustees has announced the winners of this year’s Compost Research Scholarships for college students. Two students were awarded national scholarships. The Foundation received many worthwhile applications but these two stood above the rest.  The CREF annual scholarship is available to college students to assist with their current research projects. The goal of the scholarship is to encourage more compost-related research projects, a core mission of the Foundation. The students receive not only a financial award but are also invited to present their finished work at the USCC Annual Conference during a CREF research session. “Our Board of Trustees is always impressed by the quality of research projects we learn about from our scholarship applicants. We wish we could fund them all. We look forward to following our two winners throughout the year seeing the progress of their research and hearing about their results when their scholarships are completed.” Ginny Black, CREF Trustee Chair
Meet the Two Winners and Learn about their Research Projects
Maryam Saffari Aman is a Ph.D. student in the Department of Environmental Resources Engineering at SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry. Her research project will involve characterizing the prevalence and persistence of PFAS in commercially available compost. The information is useful to inform policymakers, producers of food waste compost, and potential buyers of compost about the fate and transport of persistent chemical contamination in compost and common feedstocks, as well as the potential health and environmental risks posed by land applying compost. Diversion of food waste to composting facilities commonly includes food packaging and post-consumer paper products that may contain PFAS.
This project will try to determine the distribution of PFAS in compost related to physical characteristics such as particle size and the fraction of organic matter. The plan is to develop and execute research experiments that are focused on deepening understanding of the chemical, biological and physical processes that affect the quality of composting processes that use innovative feedstocks such as non-marketable paper. The plan is that the results of the experiment will determine the level and fate of persistent chemical contaminants such as PFAS in feedstock materials, including innovative use of non-recyclable paper products commonly found in food waste streams as well as the presence and persistence of per- or poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in commercially available finished compost products.
Grant Goedjen is a doctoral candidate with the University of Minnesota’s Civil, Environmental, and Geo-Engineering department. Their areas of research interest include environmental chemistry fate and transport of emergent anthropogenic compounds focusing on pesticides and insecticides. Following graduation, Grant hopes to become a practicing Professional Environmental Engineer focusing on site assessment and remediation of hazardous materials in groundwater and soil systems.
Grant’s research project aims to examine degradation or lack thereof of commonly applied pesticides in commercial composting operations. By examining rates of degradation of the most frequently-applied pesticides and insecticides in various settings, they want to determine if composting alone sufficiently removes pesticides from left-over organic material before being sold as compost and re-applied to fields. To do so, Grant will be utilizing a hybrid lab-field assessment to monitor degradation of select neonicotinoid and fipronil insecticides in both commercial and laboratory settings. They hope the results from their research will help advance strategies for environmentally-responsible pesticide use in the agriculture industry and mitigate any reapplication of excess pesticides through compost in the future.
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