Date of Award

2-2019

Degree Name

MS in Biological Sciences

Department

Biological Sciences

Advisor

Pat Fidopiastis

Abstract

In a large agricultural operation, such as the one at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, disposal of deceased animals is an immense issue. The cost of transporting and rendering every dead animal is inhibitory to the general function of the agricultural operations and their thin budget. Therefore, we propose that composting mortalities could be an economical alternative. Composting is a recognized method for taking animal waste products along with carbon waste and turning it into a pathogen-free, nutrient-rich topsoil. Carcass composting is in fact performed in other countries and states to varying degrees of success. However, the California EPA limits carcass composing to only private land. Therefore, the purpose of this work was to determine the efficacy of killing pathogens by composting using bench top composting models. Ultimately, our goal is to provide “proof of concept” data in order to gain permission for a full-scale carcass compost pile to be set up at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.

Using thermo tolerant Salmonella senftenberg as an indicator organism, we performed bench top trials of traditional and carcass compost in the lab. Samples were inoculated with S. senftenberg and kept at 55°C for 15 days in accordance with the California EPA and Test Method for the Examination of Composting and Compost (TMECC). Samples were then plated and processed for multiple tube analysis and most probable number. Samples were also partitioned for a viability qPCR with propidium monoazide (PMA) to compare to the classic techniques. Using these methods we were then able to track and produce thermal death time data for S. senftenberg in both traditional and carcass compost. By comparing the types of compost, we were able to determine that the composting method presented by the California EPA and the TMECC produces safe, pathogen free compost, even when inoculated carcasses were introduced. However, even with removal of dead cells by PMA, qPCR did not outperform the classical microbiological methods for as tracking pathogen killing.

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