Student Spotlight: Sam Peters

Sam Peters is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Environmental Sciences. His research passions lie in the environmental and health impacts of different agricultural techniques. He integrates knowledge and techniques from climate, agricultural, and exposure sciences to implement his research in the field and lab. Dr. Eri Saikawa—jointly appointed in the Department of Environmental Sciences and Department of Environmental Health—serves as his advisor. 

Peters is from Eau Claire, Wisconsin, and has worked on farms from small-scale organic to industrial. Peters’ dissertation explores the environmental and health impacts of three different emerging agricultural techniques. He has already begun work measuring the trace soil gas fluxes of a white clover and maize living mulch system in a northern Georgia climate. His second project will explore the environmental impacts of a maize and cowpea mulch system in the Cerrado region of northeast Brazil. Finally, he will use community-driven research to better understand how different urban agricultural techniques can clean up heavy metal soil contamination in Atlanta. 

Peters uses a Licor-6400XT Portable Photosynthesis System to measure the CO2 fluxes from soil. Here, he and research partner, Geoff Martin, are setting up the instrument in the research plots at UGA.

The first two projects involve collaborations with the University of Georgia and the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation. His work in Brazil will take place over the winter of 2017-2018 and is funded by the USDA's Borlaug International Agricultural Science and Technology Fellowship Program. The third aim strives to include community members and partnerships here in Atlanta that include the City of Atlanta, the United States Environmental Protection Agency, and Atlanta Food & Farm. Peters places great importance on creating global and local research partnerships (especially with citizens and farmers), which help to bring his work to a broad audience.

To measure the ammonia flux from soil, Peters and the Saikawa research group designed and built an acid trap, which uses a vacuum pump and sulfuric acid to measure ammonia concentration. Here, it is located in a living mulch plot, which contains clover throughout the growing season to fertilize the corn.

Beyond his research, Peters is involved in teaching, campus organizations, and community outreach. He received the On Recent Discoveries by Emory Researchers scholarship to help design and teach a freshman seminar on climate change and to fund his own personal research for two semesters. He acts as graduate student chair for the Emory Climate Analysis and Solutions Team. He has organized multiple events for the Atlanta Science Festival and started a citizen-science-based soil moisture project through the Captain Planet Foundation and NASA. He also worked with fellow Rollins students to develop and implement a lead awareness program at the Boys & Girls Clubs of America funded through the Innovative Solutions for Disadvantage & Disability's Break the Cycle program.

Peters plans to pursue his passions for research, teaching, and outreach following graduation, possibly as a professor. He hopes to continue to explore the connections between food, climate, and health throughout his career. 

Peters has been with the Saikawa lab group since he started at Rollins in 2015. Group members work on a variety of topics including energy policy, indoor air pollution, and global emissions modeling.