Mentor: Dr. Susan Cameron Devitt
College of Agricultural and Life Sciences
"I applied to the program because I thought it would be a great way to gain valuable research experience before graduate school. I discovered a project that I was very interested in learning more about and found the program to be the perfect way to learn more about it."
Wildlife Ecology and Conservation
- Ecology and Conservation Biology
- Environmental Policy
- Wildlife Society
- Phi Gamma Delta
Hobbies and Interests
- Outdoor Recreation
An ecological and economical evaluation of aquaponics as holistic solution to climate change induced agricultural issues in the Corn Belt
The Corn Belt currently is one of the most productive agricultural areas in the world; however, conventional monoculture farming has led to serious environmental degradation due to release of soil organic carbon and harmful fertilizer, herbicide, and pesticide runoff. These factors (carbon and nitrogen pollution) also are also forcers of climate change. Climate models forecast a northward shit of the Corn Belt as land on the southern margin becomes less ideal for corn and northern lands become more ideal. Increase frequency of extreme weather and increase variation in weather will harm crop yields, and models have predicted a 40% decrease in corn yields for the decade of 2050-2059 making corn farming economically ineffective. Aquaponics is the integration of aquaculture and hydroponic farming. It is a closed-loop Integrated Biological System, in which nutrients such as nitrogen cycle within the system. In essence, aquaponics is a microcosm of an ecosystem that can be sustainably harvested year round when housed inside of a green house. The organisms involved include fish, plants, and microorganisms which convert nitrogenous waste from the fish into food for the plants. The resulting system can be stacked, which allows for the sharing of space as well as infrastructure cost. The extremely high production of biomass per unit area can help to reduce and even reverse land use change from native ecosystems to farmland. An ideal system will not only be highly resistant climate variability, but will also mitigate the factors contributing to climate change and environmental degradation. My hypothesis is that aquaponics is an ecologically sustainable and economically effective solution to climate change induced issues in Indiana and Illinois. In addition, I am exploring how potential policy incentives can affect the economic effectiveness and how ecological processes feed back into economic effectiveness. There are many possible solutions to the climate change induced issues in the Corn Belt; however, I believe one that mitigates climate change as well as increases resistance to climate change is increasingly important in a world with an ever expanding human population that is interdependent with the climate and environmental systems.