My name is Nick Kawa and I am an Assistant Professor in the Department of Anthropology at the Ohio State University. My research centers on human-environment interactions, with specific focus on human cultural relationships to plants, soils, and bodily waste. I have studied the contemporary management of Amazonian Dark Earth (a fertile, anthropogenic soil associated with Pre-Columbian Amerindian settlements) as well as the contemporary botanical diversity found in association with it. I have also investigated the role that social networks play in the distribution of crop varieties found in rural Amazonian communities as well as hiring practices in American academic anthropology.
Currently, I am developing a new project funded by the Wenner-Gren Foundation that investigates the use and management of human excreta as a renewable resource for agricultural fertilization. Human “waste” has been used for millennia as a soil amendment, but its application has been rather limited in many industrial and postindustrial societies today. This project examines both the practical challenges and expanding potential applications for the use of treated sanitation waste (or “biosolids”) in industrial agricultural production, urban gardening, and ecological restoration in the contemporary US.