Swikar Karki, SBE/SFR Ph.D. student, awarded national scholarship by the Compost Research & Education Foundation (CREF).

Scholarships Awarded to University Students for Compost Research Projects:

July 10, 2024…Raleigh, NC- The Compost Research & Education Foundation’s (CREF) Board of Trustees has announced the winners of this year’s University Compost Research Scholarships. Two students were awarded national scholarships. The Foundation received numerous excellent applications; however, these two applications were superior to the rest.

The CREF annual university scholarship is available to students to assist with their current research projects. The purpose of the CREF 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 US Composting Council’s Annual Conference during a CREF research session.

“Each year, we receive scholarship applications from students from across the country who are dedicated to pursuing research projects related to compost. It’s exciting to learn about these projects and it’s difficult to select just two winners. The CREF Board of Trustees are pleased that we can support our two scholarship winners and look forward to their progress this year,” said Lorrie Rossiter, CREF Board Chair.

Swikar Karki is a PhD student in Plant Science at the University of Maine, working with the Plant Physiology Lab and the Biomass Energy Lab. The topic of his research project is Investigating the Efficacy of Compost and Biochar for Sustainable Wild Blueberry Cultivation.

His research will focus on the impact of compost and biochar applications in wild blueberries in Maine. The study aims to understand how the combination of compost and biochar can improve soil properties, plant health, and crop productivity under drought conditions. Two representative wild blueberry farms are part of the study. Using a randomized complete block design, the study will include treatments such as biochar, biochar-compost mixtures, and compost. Soil samples will be analyzed for pH, nutrient content, organic matter, and soil fungal diversity. Additionally, crop physiological performance including water use, photosynthesis, and yield will be assessed. The study hypothesizes that the combination of compost and biochar enhances soil health, nutrient availability, and fungal activity, supporting plant health and increasing yield stability. This research aims to alleviate the impact of drought on wild blueberry production by addressing soil health and enhancing moisture retention.

The other winner is Kefang Nie, a Ph.D. student in the Department of Population Health and Reproduction at the University of California, Davis.

Her research project will investigate the microbial contamination and dynamics in commercial composting facilities and under documented home and urban composting units across California. In her project, fecal coliform concentration and presence of Salmonella spp. in finished compost will serve as direct indicators of the operation in these composting facilities.

Furthermore, the project will look to see if the presence of other foodborne pathogens in composting facilities expands understanding of microbial dynamics within these composting facilities. This knowledge will not only inform stakeholders of compost distribution regarding of regions, feedstocks, processing approaches, and other various factors, but also provide valuable insights into the potential risks associated with diverse composting practices.

Learn more about this scholarship program and past scholarship winners HERE