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The Preferred Food Of Detritivores: A Composting Project

based on 8 ratings
Author: Shumit DasGupta
Type
Life Science 
Grade Level
Late Middle/High school 
Difficulty of Project
Medium 
Cost 

Red wiggler worms are the lion’s share of the cost here. If you can find them locally, be prepared to spend about $22 for a lb, although you will likely not need that many. Many plant nurseries will sell them for about $10-$14 for approximately 300 worms- more than enough. The bonus about doing this project is that much of what you need in the project can be used to set up your own vermicomposting system at home afterwards, and all the other components are recyclable!

TOTAL: $10-$30 
Safety Issues

Always wash hands after handling both worms and composted materials. 

Material Availability

Outside of procuring the correct worms, all other materials are easily available.  

Approximate Time Required to Complete the Project

While materials are easily available and the project may ignite a lifelong interest in ecology, it does take some time- you will get the best results if you give yourself not weeks but months- at least 2- to allow composting and the delicate underlying processes that bolster them to occur. It isn’t the most convenient of science fair projects in that respect, but considering our impact on the environment and our population growth, it may be the most important! 

Objective

The project aims to discern whether or not composting worms reproduce and thrive better with a specific food source.

To quantify the effect of specific food sources on red worm (Eisenia foetida) livelihood. 

Materials and Equipment / Ingredients

  • Red Wriggler worms(Eisenia foetida)
  • 6 Empty 2-liter bottles
  • Scissors and/or razor blade
  • Sharp needles
  • Packaging tape
  • Screen or netting or cheesecloth
  • Rubber band
  • Three different types of ‘food waste’- remains from your household meals.

Most materials can be found around the house or at the grocery store, with the exception of the worms. If they aren’t available at either a pet/aquarium store or your local plant nursery, they can be purchased online at the link listed in the bibliography. 

Introduction

Landfills are becoming…well, full. We generate more trash and waste than ever before in our species’ history, and disposal of it might be our greatest environmental concern, all taken in balance. Composting is an effective way to return our wastes to the earth in a way that makes the materials available to be re-absorbed by natural and geo-chemical cycles. 

Vermicomposting- composting with worms- is a fast and efficient way to do this. However, as a discipline, it is still relatively young, and the more informatiom that can be found on how to effectively compost with worms, the better.

A diagram of how to construct a composting column can be found here: 

Research Questions
  • What is vermicomposting?
  • What is the life cycle of Eisenia foetida?
  • What is the difference between aerobic and anaerobic respiration?
  • What is decomposition?
  • What is a detritivore?
  • How can an effective composting unit be designed?
  • Describe the internal anatomy of an earthworm.
Terms, Concepts and Questions to Start Background Research

Detritivore, compost, humus, landfill, red wiggler, cocoon, decay, life cycle, nutrient recycling.

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