Spotlight Marshall Somerville

Q&A with Marshall Somerville; Applied Horticulture Major; focus on Urban Forestry and Arboriculture; Hometown: Mechanicstown, Carroll County

Marshall Somerville; Applied Horticulture Major; focus on Urban Forestry and Arboriculture

What is your area of research or interest?
I'm researching a variety of subjects that are focused on herbaceous plant growth and their cultivation both commercially and in residential settings. 
Research has been a real smattering of many things. I with work Dr. Eichler on Albedo (light absorption / reflectance) from soils and ground covering with both quadcopter photography along with the potential to utilize common photography as a means to measure it. As part of a project in Greenhouse management I researched LED and the work being covered to expand PAR (Photosynthetic active radiation) in regards to plant growth. To that end I've now learned how to create circuit boards and populate them with LEDs as part of my indoor hydroponic system that I currently am working on as part of an individual investigation with Professor Majernik. As part of this work I am also hoping to setup a project to work with Dr. Eichler to explore the benefits of using 3D printing materials in greenhouse production as a means to both uniquely design and control the materials (using copper infused plastics as bacteria and root controls) to see if they can be both beneficial for plant growth. Lastly, I'm currently learning how to cultivate and manage gourmet wood mushrooms as a potential alternative to meat and general tasty food source that can be grown on a variety of incredibly sustainable materials with relative ease!

What made you interested in pursuing this area?
I grew up with my parents running a greenhouse business in Aurora, Ohio. They helped popularize and somewhat pioneered a few concepts regarding variety and potting techniques. While that business sadly didn't persist it carried over to the farm where we've planted and continue to focus on the cultivation of fruit trees. Also, the farm has 44 acres of managed forest that I've looked over for nearly a decade with the assistance of my father. 

How do your studies or classes at Kent State support you in your sustainability endeavors?I originally obtained a Business Management degree from Kent State University and during that time I enrolled in a Soil Management class taught by Professor Carlson. The drive to educate and energy Carlson brought to every class along with the sometimes extreme depth of knowledge really kindled my drive to get a Horticulture degree and hopefully provide some help to society via research and plant care. During that time I also met and have kept contact with a few of my class members and they've helped me with research into mushroom cultivation. The Horticulture program requires that students take 3 Co-Op work programs, this allowed me to work at The Davey Tree Company in Kent, Ohio. There I worked in their Plant Diagnostics lab handling plant specimens from throughout the United States. Plants can be as simple as soil, water, air and light; yet they can be incredibly more complicated building sustainable systems that provide meaningful benefits without the negatives that are so often seen in modern society really requires a broad spectrum of skills and knowledge that variety and focused information is provided at KSU; you just have to figure out how best to apply it.

What are your favorite accomplishments or projects you have worked on so far?
That's a challenge to really answer. My hydroponic and mushroom setup is one of the more complex projects I've worked on and thus far is successful. The hope is that I'll be able to grow food and potentially supply to my local community. The LED grow lights I've designed while needing potential further refinement far outpace commercial products for considerably less price; though I'd have to do an accounting of my labor.

What do you enjoy about being a Horticulture major?
While not everyone may believe in Climate change I sure see the writing on the wall. People need to be fed, but we also need a reasonably healthy world to live in. Horticulture and in general plant care provides a connection to nature while also benefiting those around us. While Professor Carlson and Professor Proffer have retired from KSU they provided classes overflowing with valuable information and I think their expertise helped foster real drive in many of their students. That said, we have some new talent on the block in the form of Dr. Eichler that has been great at helping continue the program. 

What career or path do you see yourself pursuing after graduation?
I plan on likely working for The Davey Tree company (assuming I can handle the travel time) or jumping directly into the Arboriculture PHD program at Michigan State University if they'll have me!

Can you tell us more about the student organizations or research you’re involved with?
Dr. Eichler and Professor Majernik are terrific sources of information. Other than that I'd gladly answer any questions or conversations via my KSU email (though I'm a bit slow at reading my inbox). 

What is one of your favorite spots on campus?
The KSU Salem campus has some great examples of plant species; I especially like the variety of Abies (true firs) along with the great Oaks on both sides of the Campus. Also if you get the timing right there's a Cornus kousa (Kusa dogwood) on campus that fruits yearly (they're edible and quite tasty). 

Anything else you’d like to add/tell think is important to mention? (anything else I missed?)
The Horticulture field, especially in our area, really does need well educated individuals! I wish there were more people enrolled. Horticulture doesn't have to be about big fields of crops, or working in a greenhouse. There are many facets and unique disciplines; all of which truly help society and cultivate the world to be a better place! Other than that not really. 

Thank you Marshall!

Kent State Applied Horticulture