Goats and a grad student: UA SRP trainee Hanna Hard partners with City of Tucson for research on grazing safety of landfills

Can goats safely graze on a capped landfill? That’s the question UA SRP trainee Hanna Hard (mentored by Dr. Monica Ramírez-Andreotta) answered in her Master’s thesis this year.

Hard partnered with the City of Tucson to determine if the Harrison Landfill in Tucson would be able to support grazing animals, specifically goats, without the animals accumulating toxic metals. The City of Tucson and UA SRP jointly funded this project.

The landfill operated between 1972 and 1997, and was sealed in 1999. Hard said she started with a literature review on landfills, landfill pollution and metals in landfill soil, which included looking through historical documents.

“I had to go through really old records that aren’t computerized, which is really new to our generation,” Hard said. “All the records of how this landfill was sealed, the engineering records and processes, were all just in binders and I had to sit in a back room and go through binders and binders.”

She also researched what kind of plants would grow in arid land and what metals those plants might absorb. The next step was taking samples of the soil and plants at the Harrison Landfill and analyzing the metal content.

Hard compared the metals found at the Harrison Landfill with plants that would take up those metals, and then checked that information against known goat grazing patterns. She found that there were no diets available to goats on the site that would pose risk of metal toxicity.

“I think the coolest part of this project, as a grad student, was that it was a real field site,” Hard said. “It was cool to have the historical documents and the remediation information on the site, because there’s been a lot of science conducted on this site already.”

Hard said the City of Tucson was pleased with her results, and have decided to go forward with the project and do a pilot test – grazing goats at the site, setting up cameras and observing how they behave.

While Hard said she wished she was still part of the project, after graduating this past May with her Master’s degree in environmental science, she has moved to Salt Lake City where she is pursuing her career goals of being a liaison between environmental science, environmental policy and business owners.

Congratulations to UA SRP trainee Hanna Hard, and best of luck in all your future endeavors!