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From Scraps to Soil: Composting With Worms and Isopods

How does the addition of isopods affect the nutrient levels in vermicompost?


Marc-Anthony Suarez, Christy Zheng, Steven Sierra, Aaron Nelson, Daniel Arias


Grace Avecilla

Project Period:

2023 Summer



Each day New Yorkers send 8 million pounds of biodegradable garbage to landfills. Composting in New York City delivers several environmental benefits while also decreasing the negative effects of food waste. A key component in making compost are organisms that break down food scraps. Many organisms decompose food waste by eating food scraps and excreting them back out as nutritional soil. A commonly used organism for composting is worms. This made us wonder if worms can work alongside other organisms to provide higher nutrient levels. We investigated how the addition of isopods changes the nutrient levels of compost and if they can coexist with worms. We set up three compost bins: one with worms, one with isopods, and one with worms and isopods. We monitored worm and isopod populations and compost nutrient levels over the course of three weeks. We observed that the addition of isopods increases some of the nutrient levels, but the demands for housing isopods aren’t the same as worms, making it difficult to maintain cohabitation. Although our experiment had limitations, it points to the importance of decomposer diversity in composting systems.

This page was originally developed by BioBus Summer 2021 Jr. Scientist William Rhee.

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