Robert Michitsch

Robert Michitsch

Robert Michitsch

Speaker | University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point

Stevens Point, WI |

USCC Member

Rob Michitsch attended the University of Guelph, attaining his BSc in Environmental Sciences. Deciding to concentrate on waste management issues, Rob remained at the University of Guelph to attain his MSc in Soil Science and Waste Management. Following his experiences in Guelph, Rob accepted a Research Associate position with the Nova Scotia Department of Agriculture, working on several climate change and waste management projects. He started his doctoral research at Dalhousie University. Since Fall 2009, Dr. Michitsch has held an Assistant/Associate Professor position at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point in the Soil and Waste Resources Discipline, which is in the College of Natural Resources. He teaches classes in the areas of soil science and waste management, focusing on soil and plant analysis, composting and solid waste management topics. His research interests include the compostability of plastics, compost microbiology, compost teas, the breakdown of fluoropolymers, prion degradation and waste re-use.

Session Name: CCREF Presents Recent Compost Research: Parasites, Prions, and Urban Soil Rehabilitation

Session Time: Wednesday, January 29, 1:45 to 3:15 PM

Presentation Title: Composting deactivation of CWD prions

Presentation Summary: Through hunting, slaughtering or ingestion of CWD infected cervids, exposure to specified risk materials is considered an exposure route to prions that might lead to infection. Prions cause transmissible spongiform encephalopathy (TSE) diseases in animals and humans. The composting process has proven effective for the biodegradation of some recalcitrant organic contaminants, and the high number of microorganisms and high temperatures achieved during composting have prompted interest in this process for inactivating prions; however, literature on survival of prions in composting systems is limited. Since thermophilic temperatures do not definitively cause pathogen reduction, multi-barrier approaches are employed to improve pathogen inactivation. As such, primary-phase duration, C-substrate, compost water content, (an)aerobic conditions, drying, storage, antagonistic microorganisms, geosynthetic materials, NH_3 evolution, and other degradation methods (eg incineration) have been used to establish an unstable habitat for pathogen survival. Compost piles offer or complement these different approaches, which may prove useful to degrade infectious prions. The objective of this research is to use the composting process to decompose deer carcasses in a Midwest climate, inactivate E. coli NAR as an indicator of pathogenic bacterial activity during the process, as well as degrading infectious CWD prions during the process. Methodology and 2019 preliminary results will be presented.

Co-Author: Susanna Baker, UWSP,