canisters of soil samples in lab

Open Door Policy

The faculty and staff of the UF/IFAS Soil and Water Sciences Department pride themselves on being open and accessible to the public. We offer assistance in a wide range of areas. For example, our “open door policy” is especially true when it comes to helping with a school science fair project.

scientist and student at lab computer as part of open door policy in the soil and water sciences department

Dr. Ann Wilkie points out features of a microscopic image to Jackson Crook.

Recently, Dr. Ann Wilkie, research professor, hosted a Union County high school student in her lab. Jackson Crook reached out to her as a resource for his science fair project. The sophomore is focused on using animal waste to grow algae. In turn, that algae would be processed into biofuel.

After exchanging emails this spring, Jackson and his mom, Karen, visited Dr. Wilkie’s Bioenergy and Sustainable Technology Lab (BEST Lab) in July.

“I was happy to invite Jackson and his mother into the lab,” Wilkie said. “He was excited to be there and learn about the work we do. I think he left with some good ideas about his science fair project.”

scientist and student at algal pond as part of the soil and water sciences department's open door policy

Wilkie and Crook examine an algal pond at the BEST Lab on the UF campus.

As part of her research, Wilkie investigates and develops bioremediation techniques for agricultural and industrial wastes. The emphasis is on the microbial and environmental factors influencing biodegradation. Livestock waste management technology for energy production is one focus of her research.

The Soil and Water Sciences Department’s open door policy has a long history with students in Alachua and surrounding counties. Dr. Peter Nkedi-Kizza, professor emeritus, welcomed students seeking advice on their science fair research. That led to the department printing students’ posters before they went to the state competition. In addition, regional winners presented their research findings before the department’s students, faculty, and staff. The department also awarded them a certificate in recognition of their research work.