Student Research Spotlight- 2018 Forum Winners

2018 Sustainability Forum Winners

Supporting Food Production through Extension in an Amish Community and Educating New Agricultural Professionals in Kentucky

Izabela Gomes, Yaziri Gonzalez and Raul T. Villanueva

Amish are traditional communal groups recognized for their fundamentalist fellowship in which they remain separated from the rest of society. These communities are based on small agricultural production which is characterized by polyculture and intensive use of manual labor. The main means of disseminating knowledge today are technologies which are not compatible with the traditional Amish lifestyle. The University of Kentucky Research and Education Center, established a program to help these underserved communities in Western Kentucky by: (1) delivering science-based knowledge to Amish farmers (2) helping Amish farmers with different issues on food production practices, and (3) training two master degree students to conduct outreach programs with this community. Although this program is still in progress; preliminary reports on major pest management issues observed with this community, help provided to them, qualitative data obtained from survey before and after a field day, and personal experience of the authors will be displayed.


Building a Better Monarch Waystation

Adam M. Baker and Daniel A. Potter

Agricultural intensification and urbanization has led to the decline of the monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus). Most of the ongoing effort to restore monarch habitat focuses on conservation reserve farmlands, roadsides, and other large rural areas of the US Great Plains and Midwest. The 2015 National Pollinator Health Strategy, which calls to “restore or enhance” seven million acres of pollinator habitat by 2020, has spurred citizen scientist-oriented programs that promote the establishment of small, butterfly-centric gardens. Thousands of small gardens have already been planted, as a part of this “all-hands-on-deck” approach to restore enough milkweed to sustain eastern migratory populations, yet there is little information available about which species of milkweed are best for conservation plantings or how to set them up for ecological success. The purpose of this study was to address three questions about monarch conservation from a small garden perspective: 1) Do monarch butterflies readily find and colonize conservation gardens?  2) And if they do, what aspects of garden design are responsible for their success? 3) Which species of milkweed are most suitable? To answer these questions we tracked gardens for two years and evaluated monarch colonization, ovipositional preference, predator abundance, host-plant suitability, and tillering. A direct result of this study is to provide research based recommendations to millions of gardeners and citizen scientists interested in optimizing the conservation value of their pollinator gardens. Our results indicate that the species of milkweed included and how gardens are configured can strongly influence their overall conservation value. 


The Forestry Reclamation Approach: Measuring Sediment Mass Accumulation Rates in Reclaimed Mine Lands and Naturally Regenerated Logged Forests in Eastern Kentucky

William Bond, Kevin Yeager, Christopher Barton, Andrea Erhardt

With the arrival of Europeans, coal mining and timber production spread through the old growth forests of Appalachia. These disturbances have led to a decrease in biological diversity (i.e., plants and animals), soil and water quality, and changes in atmospheric composition due to reduced carbon sequestration. The Forestry Reclamation Approach (FRA) was developed to decrease overall recovery time for reclaimed mine lands and logging sites. This study hypothesizes that the FRA will result in larger magnitude sediment mass accumulation rates (SMAR) in reclaimed mine lands and logged sites as compared to those reclaimed using grassland reclamation. Three sediment cores were taken and three trenches were sampled within the Troublesome Creek drainage basin of eastern Kentucky. All samples were processed for radionuclide dating, grain-size, stable isotope analysis (δ13C), and particulate organic carbon (POC). Lidar data were used to identify valley fills near sampling sites, while historical aerial photography will be used to identify changes in vegetative cover. Radionuclide dating was used to determine SMARs over approximately 100 years. Preliminary results indicate that there has been a decrease in the magnitude of SMARs at sides where the FRA has been implemented, as opposed to areas with grassland reclamation. Overall, sediment accumulation rates have decreased over time for logged sites, while areas that were mined show large magnitude increases within the last 60 years.

No P On My Lawn!: An Educational Program to Reduce P in Stormwater

Nicole Funk, Brad Lee, Suzette Walling, Rick Durham, Gregg Munshaw

Nutrient pollution is a widespread problem – excess phosphorus from urban environments enters waterways and leads to algal growth. This harms aquatic ecosystems and contaminates drinking water. In urban settings, inputs like lawn fertilizers, lawn debris, and compost among others, add excess phosphorus to soils. According to 25 years (1990-2014) of soil sample data, 96% of Fayette County home lawns and gardens need no phosphorus application. This statistic spurred the University of Kentucky’s Cooperative Extension Service (CES) to implement the “No P On My Lawn” public education program. Through workshops for groups like neighborhood associations, the “No P” program informs citizens about the 5 Rs of nutrient management – right source, right rate, right time, right place, and right price of lawn nutrient application. The “No P” program encourages participants to conduct a soil test before applying fertilizer and provides free soil tests for their lawns and gardens. The program is evaluated through pre- and post- workshop surveys given to participants. Results show more than half of all participants understood that excess nutrients are detrimental to water quality. Meanwhile, 75% of participants were unaware that urban areas provide surplus nutrients to stormwater. Results from a post-workshop intentions survey reveal that 94% of participants are willing to carry out a soil test before applying a phosphorus-containing fertilizer to their lawn. Additionally, 98% of participants responded they would properly place fertilizer to minimize impact to runoff. The results from the “No P” program surveys indicate public education makes citizens aware of nutrient contamination and can persuade them to minimize their impact.


LIVABLE LEX: Sustainably Planning Lexington's Future

David Toda, Joseph Browning, Justin Bambach and Griffin Johnson

With an urban service boundary set in place to limit sprawl into its historic bluegrass landscape, the city of Lexington, Kentucky is faced with a unique challenge. How do you create a livable environment for current residents while also fostering a growing population in a way that will sustain into the future? One response to this challenge is the Town Branch Commons project. This downtown greenway corridor aims to expand the public realm by creating an environment that caters to pedestrians and cyclists. At the heart of this greenway, adjacent to Rupp Arena and the Lexington Convention Center, is the site of the proposed Town Branch Park. During UK Design Week 2018, students were challenged to answer the question: how do we better connect Town Branch Park to the surrounding communities? In response to this question, a group of students created the “Livable Lex” master plan. With a focus on the four spheres of sustainability: economics, community, environment, and the arts, the master plan proposes an expanded greenway system that connects parks and other green spaces across the city. Within this greenway are designated bicycle and pedestrian lanes separated from vehicles by vegetated buffers. The plan also highlights two areas where mixed use redevelopment can occur. Both sites are primly located to serve as gateway destinations to the park. The site design proposals draw from the master plan by creating environmentally conscience, mixed use communities that focus on the people that will occupy them.