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Parkside Interactive Sustainability Laboratory

Dr. Sanders joined USC’s Parkside International Residential College (IRC) in fall 2014 as a Resident Faculty Fellow. As an IRC Faculty Fellow, she lives on campus at Parkside, plans outings, and hosts social events for students living within the community. Parkside IRC was formed to bring together a residential student body passionate about engaging in global issues, cultures and dialogues outside the boundaries of the traditional classroom. As a Faculty Fellow, Dr. Sanders leads workshops, outreach events, and classroom laboratory activities to introduce college and K-12 students to environmental issues across local and global scales. In 2015, she launched a large community garden space, The Parkside Interactive Sustainability Laboratory, and piloted a food waste composting program at the Parkside Apartments dormitory. In 2016, the garden was expanded to include a fully-functioning solar-powered aquaponics system, which was built with the help of USC students, as well as local K-12 students and teachers.

There are three major steps to the organic aquaponics system. First fish and worms provide nutrients to crops via their dirty water, which is gravity-fed to a plant bed filled with thousands of clay balls that house beneficial microbes. Plants then clean the dirty water by uptaking nutrients and the water is released to a third container housing freshwater lobsters that help clean up anything in the water that the plants do not uptake. The filtered water is then pumped back up to the fish tank with solar-powered electricity to begin the cycle again. The final products are vegetables, fruits, and protein (fish, lobster,… and worms if you are feeling brave).

Our fully organic garden space features:

  • A full-scale solar powered aquaponics system with goldfish, catfish and freshwater lobsters, featuring a 400 Watt Solar Photovoltaic System
  • Several urban growing systems (i.e. raised bed gardens, “growing socks”, vertical growing systems, self-watering pots, and more)
  • Three vermiculture worm composting systems (flow-through and stackable) that are fed with local juice scraps from the campus juice bar
  • Two additional food-scrap composting systems (i.e. tumblers and three bin static pile)
  • Fully automated drip irrigation

Below is a photo journal to document the progression of our Parkside Interactive Sustainability Laboratory over time. You can also check out coverage of one of our annual garden parties featured in the Spring 2017 edition of Viterbi Magazine or in the accompanying video tour.

We thank the USC Green Engagement Fund, USC Viterbi School of Engineering, USC Residential Education, and the USC Parkside Dining Hall for supporting our efforts! Contact ktsanders@usc.edu to request a tour or more information.

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