As a Freshman, Sarah Appleby was one of the first five students hired for Compost Cats, and she played a significant role in its growth throughout her undergraduate years. She graduated from the UA in May of 2014 with a B.S. in Veterinary Science, and is now attending the University of Wisconsin School of Veterinary Medicine. During her time with Compost Cats, Sarah learned valuable leadership and business skills which will be useful in a veterinary practice, but she also developed a passion for people and sustainability which drives some of her current interests in public and global health issues.
Taryn Contento worked for Compost Cats for over 2 years as the jack of many trades and graduated in December 2013 with a degree in Horticulture. She is currently frolicking through the Sierra Nevadas' working for the Forest Service Data Inventory and Analysis, collecting data on forest health. She attributes all of her happiness in college to the family that Compost Cat's gave her and the experience that she gained from a program that is second to none. The responsibility and freedom given to the student workers allows them to grow and learn in a way that cannot be taught in a classroom and in such a supportive environment that any future employer should be ecstatic to see the name Compost Cats on any resume (not to mention it is a blast!).
Lisa, native to the Tucson area, graduated in May 2014. She majored in Environmental Studies with a minor in Italian Language. She worked for the Compost Cats as a compost technician for two years, and was an intern for the UA campus branch of Linking Edible Arizona Forests, where she worked for an olive harvesting project. Lisa is finishing her minor in Orvieto, Italy, where she is gaining cultural and agricultural experience while working on a farm in central Italy.
Keith Martin is a former chef, restaurant manager, and most importantly, Compost Cat. He is currently teaching 3rd grade, and thinks that all home improvement projects should include as much safety gear as possible.
Rick Mick served as a Compost Cat the summer of 2013, during which he revolutionized the shameful art of impersonating rotting organic materials. He is now a writer for the Tucson-based Center for Biological Diversity, one of the country’s leading nonprofits in endangered species advocacy.
Jessica Thompson, OG Compost Cat 2010-2012, loves to get dirty with her friends. Though she loves compost itself, her time with the Compost Cats would have been incomplete without the close friendships she formed with her coworkers and Compost boss Chet, who she still considers her mentor. It was Chet who told her not to listen to the everyone who thought she had lost her mind and to chase her dreams all the way to Alaska after graduation. That was definitely the right advice. Since graduating magna cum laude in 2012 with a degree in environmental science, Jessica has spent 3 full summers on the pristine waters of Kodiak, Alaska, not using her degree at all. She is now a commercial salmon fisherman (never fisherwoman) and is the happiest she has ever been.
Alex is one of the co-founders of Compost Cats and spent three years developing the program while earning his B.S. degree in Chemical Engineering. He firmly believes that through Compost Cats, the University of Arizona is leading the way in initiating positive change for not only Tucson, but the state of Arizona on more sustainable waste collection practices. Currently, Alex works as an Energy Assessment Engineer for Ingersoll Rand in Seattle, Washington. His consultative work focuses on energy efficiency projects in industrial environments. In his free time he enjoys exploring the Great Pacific Northwest by foot, bike, and skis.
Maura Jensen was one of five original Compost Cats, and worked with the team from January 2011 to May 2013 when she graduated with a degree in Retailing and Consumer Sciences. As a Compost Cat, Maura learned the value of being able to wear whatever you want to work. Just kidding, kind of. She really did learn the importance of finding your community and truly enjoying your job and your coworkers. She is still on campus, working in the Eller College Dean’s Office. Instead of getting paid to get dirty, she now gets paid to drink coffee at desks. RAT BAGS FTW!
James is a senior studying environmental science and ecology. He believes that being sustainable is the most important thing we can ever do in our lives, because we only have one planet. Preserving our beautiful earthship for our children and their children is of the utmost importance, and his life is dedicated to protecting Madre Tierra. When he's not hugging up on trees, he enjoys running/tumbling down mountains, singing folk lullabies to compost piles, and living a lifestyle dedicated to all things hummus.
Suspect: Taylor Sanders
Major: Sustainable Plant Systems: Agronomy and Spanish Literature
Interests: Growing food, finding food, wearing food, photographing food, giving food, making food, eating food, enjoying food.
Emily Soderberg obtained a Bachelor of Science in Sustainable Built Environments within the College of Architecture, Planning, and Landscape Architecture. She joined the Compost Cats team in February of 2014, and as a Tucson local for 13 years, she couldn't be more excited to divert and transform waste from the community she loves and grew up in. After college, she hopes to pursue a Master's degree, volunteer internationally, and ultimately work toward changing our current food system so that the needs of all citizens can be met. On a personal level, she enjoys good company, music, trees, and cooking lots of vegetables.
Shota Austin is a senior majoring in Agricultural Business Management and Economics. He was the Equipment Specialist for the Compost Cats.
Jerry Mejia is currently a senior at the University of Arizona studying a B.S in Environmental Water Resource Economics. Growing up in Tucson he feels that the city deserves all efforts for better education, sustainability, and economic progress. All things that he feels Compost Cats represents. He loves basketball, eating out, and gardening.
On a nearly weekly basis, Patrick examines his current activities and daily ongoings and thinks to himself "this is all Chet's fault." Patrick really only joined Compost Cats in 2011 in order to drive tractors and heavy equipment. Unfortunately, he graduated from the University of Arizona and left Tucson before the Cats were ever allowed to operate said equipment. However, we are happy to report that he became so enthralled by the magic of decomposition that he went on to spend two years researching and initiating a large-scale compost operation at Northern Arizona University. After leaving NAU in 2013 with a MA in Sustainable Communities, he launched his own company to continue commercial-scale composting in Flagstaff. As the Director of Decomposition, Chief Technical Officer, and Head Equipment Operator for Roots Composting LLC, Patrick has now operated a long list of heavy equipment, including a John Deere 544J, a Bobcat S130, a Bobcat MT55, a John Deere 870, a home-built trommel screen, and a highly sophisticated bagging machine. All Chet's fault.
Erin Mae Smith
In May of 2014, Erin received her undergraduate degree in Environmental Science, with an emphasis in Sustainable Land and Water Management. She was a Compost Cat for two years. Her job consisted of diverting food waste from landfills by making compost, and educating the public on composting and waste reduction. She is particularly interested in food systems, and her goal is to work towards creating one that is regional and sustainable to reduce the amount of resources consumed and wasted during the food production and transportation processes.
Noelle Espinosa is a former Compost Cat (2010 through 2013). Noelle is currently a graduate student in the School of Natural Resources and the Environment at the University of Arizona studying soil microbial community ecology and carbon cycling in desert ecosystems. The Compost Cat program was an invaluable source of inspiration for the research she is involved in now. Through delivering presentations to teach composting and carbon cycling through the composting process, Noelle developed skills in science communication that she is able to apply to her research and development as a scientist today. In addition to the applications in academia, the compost program was a continuous learning platform for how to lead and work in interdisciplinary collaborations which is a true value for everyday life in her current field
Rachel has been with Compost Cats since the beginning and is one of the co-founders of the organization. She spent over three years with the program before she moved to her new home in Oakland, California. While a student at the University of Arizona, Rachel received a B.S. in Environmental Science and a M.S. in Soil and Water Science. Rachel was involved with Compost Cats throughout her undergraduate and graduate career and she believes this program transformed her into the environmental advocate she is today. Currently, Rachel is a Staff Scientist at an environmental consulting firm, Roux Associates, Inc., where she is a key member of their litigation team. She primarily focuses on environmental forensics, or the science of determining when, where, and why a pollution event occurred. When Rachel is not working she enjoys exploring all the great outdoors that California has to offer.
Compost Cat 2013-2014. Studying veterinary medicine, Ashley is finishing up her classes at the UA and looks forward to the stressful situation that is "vet school admissions". She looks back at her year of work as a lifetime of lessons and misses the days of moldy tomatoes, broken machinery, and the comradery that is unique to the Compost Cats team. With future aspirations of developing governmental programs to serve both humans and their companions, Ashley plans to take what she learned from Compost Cats and implement its values into the veterinary world.
Dylan worked for the Compost Cats from 2012 to 2013, during the transition from the Campus Agricultural Center to their current operation at the San Xavier Farm. Dylan graduated in May 2013 with a B.S. in Applied Mathematics and Environmental Hydrology. He has worked for the United States Geological Survey estimating Arizona’s water use, and currently works for the World Resources Institute in Washington DC. He focuses on GIS analysis of forest-water interactions, and finds where forest restoration efforts can improve long-term regional water security. Dylan’s time with Compost Cats has remained his measure of what it means to “love your work” and has made a number of lifelong friends from his time there. In his free time you'll find him tuning up old bicycles, playing ultimate frisbee, and rock climbing.
Madeline Ryder worked for the UA Compost Cats from 2012 until her graduation in December 2014 and considers the Cats to be some of her closest friends, kindred spirits and most interesting drinking buddies. As Chet has recounted many times, he saw that glimmer of a promising worker in her as she volunteered for the 2012 Tucson Meet Yourself festival, unfazed at the prospect of sorting out rotting baby diapers from compost bins. But she was more than a worker: she became the group's sense of humor, moral guardian and resident fashionista. She pioneered the stop-and-go style of tractor-turner driving, bushwhacked her way through university and governmental red tape jungles and planted the flag of food waste reduction atop A mountain for all of Tucson to behold. In her spare time, she also managed to graduate summa cum laude with dual degrees in Conservation Biology (B.S) and Environmental Studies (B.A.). She's now huddling in a corner with her safety blanket, afraid of all the free time and lack of structure facing her as she searches for similarly fulfilling work in conserving biodiversity and protecting the rights of the planet and the people living on it. And she started backpacking.
The handsome, hardworking, spectacular, and most importantly, modest man you are gazing upon is Scott Appleby. He is currently studying for a Double Degree in Mechanical Engineering and Applied Mathematics. He hopes to be able to apply these skills with a focus on sustainability. He loves making things to be as efficient as possible (in which he considers sustainability to be part of efficiency). As he was a cross country runner in high school, he learned the hard way that it is not efficient use of energy to start out sprinting if you can’t keep it up. He is also the “little” brother of Sarah Appleby, a cornerstone to the project.
Shelby Hoglund studied environmental sciences with an emphasis in pollution. She grew up in Minnesota and originally came to the University of Arizona to study astronomy and physics. Soon after arriving, she became interested in the environmental issues in Tucson. In her free time, she can be found riding around on her bike with the UA Cycling Club.
Patrick Brewer is an Environmental Studies major interested in promoting sustainable and happy living. He enjoys long walks, breakfast foods, and the joy of good company. Pat lives for the opportunity to work with a team to create positive, incremental change: something that the Compost Cats are quite familiar with.
Person of interest: Ashley Thiel
Major: Agricultural Technology Management & Education with a minor in Studio Art
Skillz: Digital photography, drawing, dancing, dog-petting.
Passions & Interests: Hiking, music, plants, food, and animals.