If there’s anything you’ve ever wondered about the ecological virtues of fungi, Dylan Smith ’16 can probably give you the answer. The integrated agricultural management student and organic farmer spent the spring semester exploring the nascent field of mycocyling — using fungi (specifically Pleurotus ostreatus, or the common oyster mushroom) to break down biological materials and pollutants. Smith’s results not only provided compelling evidence that fungi represent an exceptionally cost efficient and environmentally sustainable composting medium, they also yielded a vast crop of delicious organic mushrooms, which he now sells in partnership with Lee, N.H., -based Tuckaway Farm.
Smith’s work is one of a dozen Undergraduate Research Conference projects from the Thompson School of Applied Science presented in Cole Hall on April 20. Students in the integrated agricultural management, horticultural technology and community leadership programs pursued research questions that ranged from trellising options for passiflora to kitchen hydroponics and from a business plan for an agricultural high school to fundraisers for clean water, climate action and the Lupus Foundation of New England.
“It was a great opportunity to really focus on something I feel passionate about,” says community leadership student Olivia Lenox ’16, whose clean water project includes a viewing of the film “SlingShot,” about a water purification system developed by Manchester’s Dean Kamen. “It’s really gratifying to be able to tie together everything I’ve learned in the classroom for the past two years and then share it publicly.