Barlow students enrolled in Advanced Placement Chemistry recently presented their projects at the 69th Connecticut Science and Engineering Fair hosted by Quinnipiac University.
Every year, teacher Dr. Katharine Nuzzo chooses a research theme for the projects; this year, the theme was global climate change.
From aerosol pollution to microbial mats, the students spent numerous hours researching, collecting data, and creating poster boards for their respective topics.
Melani Zuckerman, who sees artificial fertilizer as an increasing threat to the environment, provided a summary of her project and what she hopes others will learn from it.
Q: For those who are unfamiliar with soil nutrients and microbes, how are they relevant?
A: Soil nutrients are incredibly important. Without key compounds containing elements such as nitrogen, magnesium, and potassium, plants would have little to no growth. Beneficial microbes help plants to uptake these nutrients, making it easier for plants to survive in harsh conditions. Without these nutrients and bacteria, we would have a very different environment.
Q: Why did you choose this topic?
A: This topic arose in my summer research. I discovered plant growth promoting rhizobacteria, and noted a missing piece of research encompassing phosphorus and acidic soil. I saw how damaging acidic soil can be to agriculture and how synthetic fertilizer can only make matters worse, and I wanted to prove that we don’t need these chemicals to grow plants.
Q: What do you see as a possible solution?
A: My research supports the idea that beneficial microbes can serve as an effective alternative to artificial fertilizer. They can maintain a high level of growth and nutrient uptake, while making the fertilizing process more environmentally sustainable.
Q: What is one thing you would like Easton and Redding residents to know about climate change?
A: You don’t need to look up statistics and global temperatures to see the effect of climate change. It really is all around us, even in the soil we step on.
Melani won the Backyard Science Award in the competitive poster category and the Presidential Scholars Award to recognize achievement and future leadership in STEM. For the Backyard Science Award she received $50 from the symposium organization.