Senior begins study on vermicomposting

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Photo Courtesy of Xela Gunvalson

In order to gain participants in her study, senior Xela Gunvalson sent out a survey with information via email.

With the environmental aspects of the world plummeting and an absence of action by many, senior Xela Gunvalson has taken advantage of the opportunity to conduct a research project that she was given in her BioMed class. She has begun to explore a method of composting called vermicomposting, and the effects it has on the behavior of those participating in the study.

Vermicomposting is the use of worms to convert organic waste into soil. Gunvalson is working with SLP Seeds, an organization based in Saint Louis Park that works to introduce the community to environmental conditions and solutions, to confirm her findings about Vermicomposting. The worms use a substance called coco coir, or the outside of a coconut shell, for bedding along with some newspaper. They can eat a variety of items, including most items that are typically composted. “If it gets too cold they’re going to eat slow, if it gets too hot they’re going to eat slow; so really 70 [degrees] is perfect for them,” Gunvalson said.

Gunvalson wanted to provide students with a form of indoor composting, but further research proved that the deprivation of sun during Minnesota’s harsh winters would make this difficult. “In doing further research, I realized that indoor composting without worms isn’t really a thing because you need the sun to help the organisms break things down, so that’s not practical in the winter,” Gunvalson said.

She sent out a survey urging sophomores and other students to participate, but only received one response, so she is considering opening it up to juniors and seniors. “I think I’m only going to have five or six [participants] because it’s kind of a complicated and in-depth process,” Gunvalson said.

My goal of this whole project is to teach individuals the importance of sustainability, give an understanding of vermicomposting, and see a positive impact on one’s overall well being.”

— Xela Gunvalson

Gunvalson has discovered an easy and accessible way to acquire these worms. The most preferred type of worm is a Red Wriggler. “The place that I’m looking at is LaVerme’s Worms in Duluth… so they’re just going to get delivered through Speedy to school,” Gunvalson said.

Because this is no elementary science project, participants and Gunvalson will be learning, training, and pretending to feed the worms for about a month. After students involved have received proper training, they will receive their worm bins to take home. The study will be conducted over about three months. “I want the data to be long and as far as possible,” Gunvalson said.

During this lengthy process, about 50-60 percent will be in-person training. Students will be reporting their findings and feelings to Gunvalson using the Remind app. “I also have a training schedule with the SLP Seeds person that’s required of them…they will also be reporting to me daily and weekly about their feelings because what I’m looking at is their behavior,” Gunvalson said.

A substantial amount of time has gone into this process, and Gunvalson has put together a training schedule to allow for the most definite outcome to the study. “What I would want people to know is that my goal of this whole project is to teach individuals the importance of sustainability, give an understanding of vermicomposting, and see a positive impact on one’s overall well being when having to repeatedly tend to this because it asks a lot of someone,” Gunvalson said.