Addressing Climate Change
Undergrad Research Project Focuses on Nitrous Oxide Emissions
Since first learning about climate change in high school, Paige Martin has sought ways she can address the issue. As a senior at the University of Idaho, she found an opportunity through an undergraduate research project in the Department of Soil and Water Systems.
Martin began working in Assistant Professor Zachary Kayler’s lab in Spring 2021, and after only a few weeks, Kayler asked if she wanted to design her own research project. She decided to dive deeper into nitrous oxide emissions from agricultural soils. Like other greenhouse gases, nitrous oxide absorbs radiation and traps heat in the atmosphere, making it a dangerous contributor to climate change.
Martin will analyze soil samples taken post-harvest from a field using traditional nitrogen-based fertilizer and a field that is intercropped with a pulse crop – edible seeds of plants in the legume family such as chickpeas, lentils and dry peas – to see it the intercropping method results in less nitrous oxide emissions.
“Since synthetic fertilizer is one of the largest producers of nitrous oxide, I want to see if it’s possible to lessen their environmental impact by using pulse crops and intercropping methods to reduce these harmful atmospheric greenhouse gasses,” she said.
The Coeur d’Alene native didn’t see herself participating in research when she first arrived at U of I as an environmental science major. She was looking for an on-campus job when the opportunity to work in Kayler’s lab became available.
“It’s so cool to be part of something that I never thought I’d be a part of,” she said. “If successful, this could provide key insight into current environmental health issues associated with agriculture and help in guiding the future of sustainable farming practices.”
For Martin, the opportunity to network with fellow undergraduate and graduate students passionate about the same topics has been the most rewarding aspect of research.
“To be able to craft my proposal and collaborate with so many people on campus is really cool,” she said. “It’s really empowering, especially as a woman in STEM, to contribute something to the scientific community. The idea of someone learning something from my research is what makes me happy and feel accomplished.”
Article by Amy Calabretta, College of Agricultural and Life Sciences.
Photos by Melissa Hartley, Creative Services.
Video by Kara Billington and Will Knecht, Creative Services.
Published May 2022.