Rooftop Research: Amy Stofenberg ’13 Studies Crop Growth on Stony Brook’s Farm
On Stony Brook Hospital’s rooftop farm last summer, senior Amy Stofenberg grew radishes. Using compost made on campus, the Ecosystems and Human Impact major performed a research experiment to test the efficacy of the Stony Brook compost versus commercial compost. She planted half of her crop in each mixture.
“The radishes didn’t grow very well in the Stony Brook compost,” admits Amy, who received a Sustainability Studies Summer Undergraduate Research Award to fund her study. “Now I’m sending my soil samples up to Cornell’s Nutrient Analysis Lab in Ithaca to find out what the problem was.”
After taking an Urban Agriculture class with Professor Marc Fasanella, Amy was inspired to do research in agriculture. She had the option to work in the greenhouse located in the Life Sciences building, but opted for the farm atop the fourth floor of the Health Sciences Tower.
“Agriculture grabs me,” she says. “My college interests have always been related to nature.” Two other Sustainability Studies students also received the award and experimented with crops including zucchini, tomatoes, peppers, cabbage, collard greens, string beans and broccoli.
This semester Amy is continuing her research through independent study, so she can analyze the data provided by Cornell. She credits her passion for environmental issues to the faculty in the Sustainability Studies program.
“One of my professors, James Hoffman, became my mentor,” says Amy. “Another favorite professor is Sharon Pochron. I’ve taken most of the classes they taught. Both of them encourage you to tackle difficult subjects and let you know about opportunities for internships. Also, the classes are small.
“I wanted to major in something interdisciplinary, and the Sustainability Studies program ties in all the natural sciences with economics and politics.”
Amy currently has a fulltime job with the planning department in her hometown, Smithtown, which will continue through the spring. After graduation, she will begin an internship in a national park through the Student Conservation Association, where she can explore her interest in outdoor education. That internship will take her through the summer. After that, she’s not sure what her direction will be. All she knows is that it will involve being outdoors and have something to do with growing plants.
“I’ll figure it out as I go along,” Amy says.
By Toby Speed; photo by John Griffin