Over the past week or so I (and my two assistants) have made progress on a few fronts that I was worried about just a few weeks ago. I was able to do surveys in a few large organizations, we are now only missing three of the larger west-island farms (which I will try to do in the fall), and we are making some strides in community gardens and have met our 30 individual gardener objective.
We ended up reaching-out to some new contacts in 3 of the boroughs where we were previously unsuccessful getting into community gardens. We also contacted four boroughs we had yet to, in order be sure we would meet our objectives by the end of the summer. We should be rapping-up surveys in 4 gardens in the next two weeks.
Last Wednesday I biked 20km to visit a garden managed by a company that takes along young people to manage the gardens and learn about landscaping and agriculture. The site a visited was amazingly dense and productive, and I got the chance to present my work and talk about the importance of P to the group of young gardeners that were there. Such encounters are really pushing my science communication skills and I am very thankful for the opportunity. The project leader, with whom I was doing the survey, was wonderful because he has been teaching the group about gardening from a very scientific perspective. Not just telling them what to do to grow food, but really why at every step of the way. Central to these teachings are of course ecology, as the garden is an ecosystem, and the importance of soil (formation and management) as a little ecosystem, and the basis of the garden system as a whole. Although I do think of soil, I have been so focused on the role of P in gardens, it was great to talk about P within the context of the soil and how so many other components are key to productive and sustainable food production.
We have all been going out to the gardens and farms and thus not using the tablet-computer very much (and just doing the transcription online once we get back to our own computers). We have also had to supplement the survey form with separate excel sheets in some cases to be able to compile data into the value we need and keep a record of how we do it. This is mostly when respondents give us records of harvest, yield, or animal feed in the way they organize it internally, which doesn’t always match up with how I need it done to calculate a P budget.
In summary, data collection and processing seems to be moving along nicely, I now need to make sure that all follow-ups for data clarification or completion go well (along we of course continuing new surveys).
In news unrelated to field-work, but still important in thinking about changing ecosystems, food, and science communication, here are a few links:
The lab I worked in as an undergrad washing sediment cores and counting and identifying foraminifera has just published a wonderful paper in Science about the evolution of Cenozoic marine ecosystems and how they relate to our changing global realities in relation to anthropogenic climate change. I really loved reading this piece because it uses lots of great data while also presenting such a clear story. I could visualize past and present ecosystem and how they change while reading. The article highlights so well how the past is key to the future and that we need to look at legacies on both short and long-times scales to help us understand the world we live in, and how to make sustainable resource management choices.
Emily Cassidy et al. just published a nice piece in ERL examining crop allocation and how if we produced crops directly for human consumption instead of as animal feed and biofuels, we could feed our growing population. It’s a nice piece and relates so clearly to P sustainability and how dietary choices is an important driver (and thus solution) to P demand. Both her and my piece in ERL highlight how diet is key, and how there are just so many synergies in reducing meat consumption to ensure a sustainable food production system.
A friend shared a great art-science (nature) project that funds artist. It’s called iLAND and is based out of NYC. Finding this site is definitely keeping me excited about continuing to explore my work through dance.