Current Projects

  • ROAR team members are developing transdisciplinary grant proposals focused on diverting food waste from landfills. The initiative was initially funded by the Northeastern Experiment Station Directors Planning Grant NE1502.
    •  Funding:
      • Neher, D.A., Niles, M.T., and Roy, E.D. Incentive Funds for INFEWS, 12/1/16-3/31/17, $5,000. Office of the Vice President for Research, UVM.
      • Neher, D.A. Regional assessment of the quality control, food safety, environmental, user perception and marketing outlets of diverting food scraps from landfills. Northeastern Experiment Station Directors Planning Grant NE1502, 2/1/15-1/31/16, $10,000.
  • Persistence of enteric pathogens in manure-amended soils in northeast U.S. produce-growing environments, 9/29/14-present. ROAR co-founder Deb Neher partners with Catherine Donnelly (UVM Nutrition and Food Science), Manan Sharma and Patricia Millner (Environmental Microbial & Food Safety Lab, USDA-Agriculture Research Service). In Fall 2014, they established a field experiment to quantify survival of E. coli in raw manure applications to soils growing vegetable crops in Vermont. Data will be used to inform the 2011 Food Safety Modernization Act.
    • Funding: United States Department of Agriculture, Agriculture Research Service, Specific Cooperative Agreement 58-1245-4-110, Persistence of enteric pathogens in manure-amended soils in northeast U.S. produce-growing environments, 9/29/14-08/30/18, $500,000.
  • Integrated bedded pack management and fly control reduce mastitis risk by promoting a beneficial teat skin microbiome, 6/1/15-present. ROAR co-founder Deb Neher partners with John Barlow (UVM Animal Science) on this project funded by the UVM Dairy Center of Excellence. The goal of the project is to explore how the insect and microbial ecology of bedded pack housing and pasture may influence ectoparasite prevalence, the dairy cow mammary gland microbiome and mastitis risk on a pasture-based dairy farm.
    • Funding: Barlow, J. and Neher, D.A. Dairy Center of Excellence, Integrated bedded pack management and fly control reduce mastitis risk by promoting a beneficial teat skin microbiome, 5/1/15-4/30/18, $149,971.
  • ROAR co-founder Meredith Niles is leading a study focused on food waste perceptions and curbside composting behaviors and outcomes in Burlington, VT, 6/1/16 to present.
  • Variability in key physicochemical properties of anaerobic digestates produced using feedstocks with and without food waste, and suitability of solid digestates for gourmet mushroom production, 9/1/16 to present. ROAR co-founder Eric Roy is working with M.S. student Brendan O’Brien (funded by Casella Resource Solutions) to characterize digestates from anaerobic digestion systems around New England that process different organic materials, with emphasis on carbon, nitrogen, and phosphorus total contents and fractions. Preliminary results from gourmet mushroom trials have shown high yields when cultivated using substrate recipes including solid digestate.
  • Nutrient flows through centralized and decentralized wastewater treatment systems in an era of aging infrastructure: Spatial trends and opportunities for recycling interventions, 1/1/17 to present. ROAR co-founder Eric Roy is partnering with The Rich Earth Institute and others to: (a) map the flows of nitrogen and phosphorus to wastewater systems across New England, (b) use transdisciplinary methods to evaluate spatial trends, and (c) calculate the potential for recycling interventions to offset synthetic fertilizer given local constraints.

Completed Projects

  • Compost for management of plant pathogens and weed seeds, 4/1/10-3/31/13. ROAR co-founder Deb Neher partnered with Tom Gilbert (Highfields Center for Composting), Andy Jones (Intervale Community Farm), and Bruce Kauffman (Riverside Farm). In 2010-2012, they conducted a demonstration project to show that compost made to recipe kills plant pathogens and weed seeds. This project was funded by Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education Partnership program. Since then, we are evaluating compost recipe and process for its ability to suppress soilborne plant pathogens. Funded as a Northeast SARE 2010 Partnership Grant ONE10-123, Compost for management of plant pathogens and weed seeds, 4/1/10-6/30/12, $15,000.
    • Resulting publications:
      • Neher, D.A., Weicht, T.R., and Dunseith, P.† 2015. Compost for management of weed seeds, pathogen, and early blight on brassicas in organic farmer fields. Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems 39: 3-18.
  • ROAR co-founder Deb Neher has been earning Vermont Agricultural Experiment Station Competitive Hatch Program funding since 2009 on the topic of compost:
    • Funding:
      • Designing compost for disease suppression on specialty crops, 10/1/14-8/30/18, $60,000.
      • Compost biology for improving soil quality for Vermont agriculture, 10/1/12-9/30/14, $43,023.
      • Compost biology for improving soil quality for Vermont agriculture, 10/1/09-9/30/12, $24,000.
    • Publications:
      • Neher, D.A., Weicht, T.R., Bates, S.T., Leff, J.W., and Fierer, N. 2013. Changes in bacterial and fungal communities across compost recipes, preparation methods, and composting times. PLoS ONE 8(11): e79512.
      • Neher, D. A., Fang, L.†, and Weicht, T. R. 2017. Ecoenzymes as indicators of compost to suppress Rhizoctonia solani. Compost Science and Utilization. DOI 10.1080/1065657X.2017.1300548
      • Anya Cutler, M.S. 2016. Thesis: Ecological dynamics in compost-amended soils and the resulting effects on Escherichia coli survival.
      • Lynn Fang, M.S. 2015. Thesis: Biological indicators of compost-mediated disease suppression against the soilborne plant pathogen Rhizoctonia solani.
  • ROAR co-founder Eric Roy has developed a systems framework for design and feasibility assessment of phosphorus recycling with eco-technology.
    • Publication: Roy, E.D. Phosphorus recovery and recycling with ecological engineering: a review. Ecological Engineering 98: 213-227.
  • ROAR co-founder Eric Roy and colleagues mapped the flow of phosphorus at the watershed scale in coastal Louisiana, including agricultural systems, waste management systems, and forests. This work highlighted drivers of inefficient phosphorus use and identified a unique opportunity to integrate nutrient recovery and recycling into coastal re-settlement areas in an era of climate change.
    • Publication: Roy, E.D., M. Seibert, and J.R. White. 2014. Societal phosphorus metabolism in future coastal environments: Insights from recent trends in Louisiana, USA. Global Environmental Change 28: 1-13.