Senior Honors Projects, 2010-2019

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

Date of Graduation

Spring 2016

Document Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Science (BS)


Department of Integrated Science and Technology


Wayne S. Teel

Jennifer E. Coffman

Joy Ferenbaugh


Extensive fossil fuel burning has released carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Under proper ecological conditions plants convert atmospheric carbon dioxide into stable soil organic matter, a natural and efficient means of mitigating climate change. In the symbiotic relationship between mycorrhizae and plants, mycorrhizae provide plants with essential nutrients in exchange for carbon sugars leaked from the plants. Mycorrhizae convert carbon sugars to an exudate called glomalin, a protein that assists in developing soil aggregates composed of sand, silt, and clay. These aggregates, called humus, store carbon for hundreds of years under healthy ecological conditions. Compost prompts soil microbes to aerobically transform organic matter into nutrients readily available to plants. Compost fosters the relationship between plants, mycorrhizae, and soil organisms to enrich the humification process. The Marin Carbon Project is an effort to augment this soil carbon sequestration process through compost application onto California rangelands. This project is being modeled on the East Campus Hillside to determine if compost boosts carbon storage within soils. The Hillside area has 1.5 acres of tallgrass prairie meadow. Eight 10 x 10 meter meadow plots were treated with compost, another eight meadow area plots served as controls, and the remaining 6 plots were located in the lawn area for comparison. Soil samples were gathered from each plot by the ISAT 320 class and analyzed by the Waypoint Laboratory. Additional samples were collected and then burned in an on-campus muffle furnace to calculate the total carbon from each sample. The data assembled from the muffle furnace was analyzed spatially and statistically to investigate correlations between the soil treatment and percentage of stable soil carbon. Across the trials executed, soil treated with compost had the highest carbon percentage. Results from this experiment will be integrated into the ongoing study of the health of the East Campus Hillside.



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