Shelby Hoglund, Ph.D. student
Tell us a little about yourself.
I grew up in Minnesota and came to Arizona to study astronomy and physics. But I just couldn't ignore all the environmental issues around me, like how we manage our waste and the unsustainable practices of modern-day agriculture.
During my time as an undergraduate, I became more involved in environmental sciences. I was an undergraduate preceptor for Dr. Joan Curry's class (ENVS 210) and helped students more intimately understand topics like greenhouse gas emissions, climate change and sustainability. I then went on to get my Master's degree with Dr. Curry studying particle interactions.
What do you research and why?
I'm currently working on my Ph.D. with Dr. Joey Blankinship. I look at recycling organic materials into soil amendments. Compost is an example of a soil amendment--these are materials you add to soil to improve it's physical or chemical properties, like permeability or water retention.
My research is mostly in agricultural systems like vineyards and wheat fields. I'm taking a closer look at how compost and other soil amendments retain water and nutrients to benefit plants. I spend about 50 percent of my time in the field collecting samples and 50 percent of my time in the laboratory performing experiments or analyzing results.
Right now this research is very critical in the face of a changing climate and drought. Our arid soils in the Southwest have very little organic matter to begin with and we're filling up our landfills with nutrient-rich organic matter, which could help retain what little water we have. I'm trying to find ways to keep our soils healthy and manage our organic waste better.
What do you teach and what do you enjoy the most about it?
It's fun to teach critical thinking when discussing environmental concepts, like how we perceive greenhouse gas emissions.
My ultimate goal is to see my doctoral research impact policy.
Words of advice?
It's O.K. to pivot and change your plans!