Nathan Manser, Colleen Naughton, Matthew Verbyla, and Meghan Wahlstrom-Ramler presented their research at last week’s conference hosted by the Water Institute at the University of North Carolina, entitled Water and Health 2013: Where Science Meets Policy (http://whconference.unc.edu/).
Nathan Manser’s presentation focused on the inactivation of Ascaris eggs in bench-scale anaerobic reactors that have been optimized for biogas production. Preliminary results indicate that the ideal conditions for biogas production in anaerobic reactors may actually enhance the survival of Ascaris eggs. Nathan plans to defend his Ph.D. proposal and advance to candidacy at the end of this year or beginning of next year.
Colleen Naughton, a Ph.D. candidate, also presented research results from a three-year study of a hand-washing intervention in Mali, using innovative techniques to monitor the use of soap and water. Results indicate that seasonality, gender, and proximity to a water source, among other factors, significantly influence whether or not communities continue to practice hand-washing.
Ph.D. student Matthew Verbyla presented a study comparing virus-particle association and virus removal in two stabilization pond systems in Bolivia: one consisting of three ponds in series, the other consisting of an anaerobic reactor followed by polishing ponds. Results suggest that a greater percentage of viruses in the anaerobic reactor effluent are associated with particles, which may protect them from sunlight disinfection in the subsequent ponds.
Meghan Wahlstrom-Ramler presented results from a study in Madagascar measuring the concentration of fecal indicator bacteria in shallow wells of different depths and at different distances from pit latrines. Meghan, who served two years in the Peace Corps through USF’s Master’s International Program in Civil & Environmental Engineering, will defend her Master’s thesis this Spring.
The abstract presented by the USF PIRE researchers about virus-particle association and virus removal in stabilization ponds was recognized with an Abstract Award, given to several groups the top submissions for the conference. USF PIRE student Erin Symonds, the lead author for this study, also presented the results of this study at the 2013 Water Micro Conference held this past September in Florianopolis, Brazil (http://www.hrwm2013.org/)
A team of four USF anthropology researchers recently completed a five week pilot season of research from May 26 – June 30, 2013 at the Caribbean coastal site of the Placencia Peninsula of Belize. The social science field research team included Dr. Christian Wells (co-PI of the PIRE project), Dr. Rebecca Zarger (PIRE Senior Personnel), Maryann Cairns (Doctoral candidate, Department of Anthropology), and Eric Koenig (MA student, Department of Anthropology), in partnership with Dr. Linda Whiteford (PIRE Senior Personnel) and Dr. Jim Mihelcic (PI) in Tampa. Previous to the summer fieldwork, in December of 2012, Drs. Wells, Zarger, and Whiteford conducted initial site visits in Belize to ascertain the appropriateness of two sites for the PIRE research project aims, and Placencia was selected as the best fitting location. The pilot season of research, as part of Section B.3 of the PIRE project research plan, sought to develop and test cultural and social data collection methods to investigate culturally-specific strategies of wastewater collection, treatment, and reuse systems in Caribbean coastal algal-based lagoon settings undergoing tourism development.
Our team conducted a series of 21 semi-structured interviews among a cross-section of key stakeholders including local elected officials, environmental NGOs, national government officials, and tourism industry representatives to understand perceptions of tourism development and wastewater management, and reclamation technologies. We also administered over fifty targeted, short digital surveys to residents, migrant workers, and tourists in order to gauge local and external perceptions of water and wastewater practices, management, and possible resource recovery technologies on the peninsula. Questions in the survey also focused on relationships between tourism development and coastal environmental health. As part of our effort to inform an integrated wastewater resource recovery innovation and adoption systems model for tourism-dependent Caribbean coastal lagoon settings – ‘a socioecological metabolism model of tourism’ – we conducted participant-observation at local events and locations to understand flows of people, materials, and energy around the peninsula and set up numerous informal meetings to listen to local perceptions. We derived two sets of research questions about viewpoints and strategies relating to these issues at the household and institutional scales organized around our over-arching research frame: ‘In what ways and to what extent do wastewater management and perceptions of wastewater enable and constrain sustainable relationships between tourism, local livelihoods and wellbeing, and coastal health?’
In late May, we arrived just as a change in management of the local water system—from locally-run water boards to a government-backed private company, the Belize Water Service Limited—took place. This transition was one of the initial steps in a long-term project supported by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) Caribbean Regional Fund for Wastewater Management (CReW) and the government of Belize to install a wastewater collection and treatment system on the peninsula. Listening to the concerns and viewpoints of various research respondents and community partners, we recognized that issues of water and wastewater management on the peninsula are highly politicized, especially in the context of tourism. Through these discussions, we found that many residents have concerns about water supply and quality in light of the plans for an integrated wastewater treatment and collection system the peninsula, especially concerning aquifer water supply with increased tourism demand (Wells et al. 2013).
Most residents we spoke with had septic tanks as their primary wastewater collection and disposal systems, but recognized the need for a large-scale wastewater system with increasing population and development. Many of the concerns that were raised about the implementation of the wastewater collection and treatment system centered on limited local transparency and accountability of project aims and discussions. Also, revenue loss from previous local management of the water system that had funded community programs and services was noted as a concern. Specific to the over-arching PIRE research question, we found that although wastewater was perceived by residents and tourists as dangerous, most of the people we interviewed and surveyed would be open to using reclaimed wastewater for irrigation and energy with adequate information (Wells et al. 2013).
From community members and tourists, we heard several concerns about impacts to the coastal environment surrounding the Placencia Peninsula relating to current development practices and weather events. The Placencia Peninsula is situated west of the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef system, extending south from the mainland of Belize as a narrow spit of sand. Spanning 24 km north-to-south between the main coastline and the peninsula is the Placencia lagoon. The lagoon is a shallow estuary with a maximum width of 3.4 km, has a perimeter of mangrove forest that provides critical habitat for marine and estuary species, and is fed by the drainage of three creeks from small coastal watersheds (Boles et al. 2011). This coastal lagoon setting is threatened by development practices associated with tourism, farming, and natural resource extraction. Residents, migrant workers, and tourists noted dredging and filling practices, mangrove clearing, the spread of garbage, shrimp farm effluent and seepage of septic tanks contributing to algal blooms, beach erosion, and decline in wildlife populations as major impacts of these development practices. Study participants also expressed concern about the threat of hurricanes and warmer sea temperatures to coastal environments and resident livelihoods. Since recreational activities associated with the coastal environment are a major draw for tourists and because many residents depend on the “health” of the coastal environment for their livelihoods, most local and regional stakeholders want additional information about the status of the aquifer, changes in coastal and municipal water quality, and about the specific effects of development activities impacting the coast (Wells et al. 2013).
Our preliminary results from the pilot season of research were presented by Dr. Rebecca Zarger at the Belize Archaeology and Anthropology Symposium in San Ignacio, Belize in July of 2013 (Wells et al. 2013). Analysis of data collected through semi-structured and informal interviews, targeted digital surveys, participant observation, and photo indexing during the pilot season of research is ongoing. Grounded theory coupled with a mixed methods approach is being used during the 2013-2014 academic year to identify patterns and themes relating to coastal health, tourism, and water and wastewater management by exploring, coding, memoing, and examining the data using qualitative, quantitative, and spatial analysis software programs including Dedoose®, IBM® SPSS, and ESRI® ArcMap. Types of exploratory analyses we will be performing during this phase of research include correlation, cluster, and correspondence analyses. We are submitting a paper based on our preliminary analyses, highlighting the political dimensions of local water and wastewater systems and their management in relation to the impacts of tourism development on the Placencia Peninsula, to the Journal for Cleaner Production by the end of November 2013.
After analyzing data collected during the pilot season, our next phase of research during the summer of 2014 will focus on “scaling up,” refining, and expanding the scope of our data collection and survey instruments as well as adding educational outreach components to the research project in collaboration with Elma Kay and students from the University of Belize.
With refined data collection instruments tested over an expanded area, results from the 2014 field season will be used to revise the complex systems model of ‘socioecological metabolism of tourism’ to better understand the social, cultural, economic, political, and environmental contexts influencing wastewater treatment and reclamation technologies on the Placencia Peninsula. This revised complex systems model will then be generalized to assist with modeling practices of wastewater disposal, collection, treatment, and reuse and adoption of sustainable wastewater reclamation systems in appropriate social and cultural contexts for the other PIRE Caribbean coastal field research sites of Progresso, Mexico; St. Thomas, USVI; and Tampa, Florida.
-Eric Koenig, PIRE Student
Boles, E., A. Anderson, R. Cawich, V. Figueroa, J. Franco, D. Grijalva, D. Mai, K. Mendez, A. Peralta, L. Requena, M. Rodriguez, and E. Sanchez. 2011. Rapid Assessment of Effects and Issues Related to Development in the Placencia Area, Dry Season 2011. NRMP 4552 Integrated Coastal Zone Management, Course Project. Belize City: University of Belize, Natural Resource Management Program. http://www.pcsdbelize.org/placencia-assessment.pdf, accessed February 5, 2013.
Wells, E. Christian, Rebecca K. Zarger, Linda M. Whiteford, Maryann R. Cairns, and Eric S. Koenig. 2013. The Impacts of Tourism Development on Perceptions and Practices of Wastewater Management on the Placencia Peninsula. Presentation at 11th installment of the Belize Archaeology and Anthropology Symposium, San Ignacio, Belize, July 2-5.
Dr. Frank Muller-Karger and his work with Stewart Middle Magnet School was featured in USF Magazine’s Fall 2013 issue. Dr. Muller-Karger and his students have spent over thirteen years developing a partnership with the middle school and as a result they recently received the Hillsborough County Education Foundation’s Business Partner of the Year Award. Congratulations to Dr. Muller-Karger and his students. Read more about their work in USF Magazine.
Congratulations to Maya Trotz who was featured in USF Magazine Fall 2013 Issue. Dr. Trotz spent the last year on sabbatical with the Caribbean Science Research Foundation (CSF) working to enhance STEM education in the Caribbean for K-12 students. She spearheaded the Sagicor Visionaries Challenge which encouraged secondary school students to identify problems in their communities and develop sustainable solutions. Students developed and presented over 50 projects from all over the Caribbean. Winners of the competition were awarded a seven-day all expenses paid STEM Ambassador Program trip to Florida. Now back at USF Dr. Trotz continues to cultivate and strengthen USF-Caribbean-Tampa Bay partnerships to enhance STEM education and address critical science and engineering problems.
Read the article about Dr. Trotz here:
Read the article about the Sagicor Visionaries Challenge here:
This past week, the International Water Association (IWA) Specialist Group on Wastewater Pond Technology held its bienniel conference in Baru, Colombia. USF was represented at the conference with an oral presentation about our research regarding the removal of helminth eggs in a stabilization pond system with poor hydraulics.
Our paper provides recommendations for updating the WHO Guidelines for Wastewater Use in Agriculture, based on data from a pond system where Taenia spp. eggs were detected in higher concentrations than nematode species such as Ascaris. One Taenia species in particular (Taenia solium) can cause neurocysticercosis, which is the leading cause of acquired epilepsy in the world (1). Previous reports in the literature (2, 3) have proposed design equations for the removal of nematode eggs based on theoretical hydraulic retention time (HRT), however, our results indicate that, despite a very high theoretical HRT, extreme short-circuiting may have caused a lower removal of Taenia eggs than predicted by previous design equation models. In the pond studied, a large portion of the tracer dye was detected in the pond effluent after less than 10% of the theoretical HRT.
Special congratulations goes out to the Conference Organizing and Scientific Committees, in particular Dr. Miguel Peña and Dr. Carlos Madera from Univalle in Cali, Colombia. The team did an excellent job attracting many high-quality presentations by researchers from around the world, which provided for a rich exchange of ideas and opinions!
(1) García, H. H.; Gonzalez, A. E.; Evans, C. A. W.; Gilman, R. H. Taenia solium cysticercosis. The Lancet 2003, 362, 547–556.
(2) Ayres, R. M.; Alabaster, G. P.; Mara, D. D.; Lee, D. L. A Design Equation for Human Intestinal Nematode Egg Removal in Waste Stabilization Ponds. Water Research 1992, 26, 863–865.
(3) Saqqar, M. M.; Pescod, M. B. Modelling nematode egg elimination in wastewater stabilization ponds. Water Science and Technology 1992, 26, 1659–1665.
Visitors from the Water Environment Federation and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) toured three of USF’s labs in March 2013.
Dr. Yeh showed the visitors his lab’s NEWgenerator(TM) which reclaims nutrients from wastewater while simultaneously producing clean water and energy. The NEWgenerator(TM) is an anaerobic membrane bioreactor (anMBR) and can be used for decentralized wastewater treatment. The tour also highlighted work using wastewater to grow algae for biofuels.
Check out the article for more information!
Dr. Daniel Yeh, USF associate professor of civil and environmental engineering describe innovative resource recovery technology to Nancy Stoner, EPA Assistant Administrator for Office of Water
Check out this featured article from the Water Environment Federation (WEF) Highlights. The article is about USF PhD student and WEF chief technical officer Matt Ries and the BioWET program kick off in July 2012.
Check out the article for more information!
Congratulations to USF for making it into the top five Master’s International (MI) programs by the Peace Corps! Check out this article from the Peace Corps for the rankings
USF currently has 24 students serving overseas as Peace Corps volunteers. These volunteers are spread between two MI programs, one for Public Health and one for Civil and Environmental Engineering. For the MI program volunteers spend one year completing coursework and then serve as Peace Corps volunteers for two years. While serving they complete research for their master’s degrees.
For more information about USF’s MI programs check out our Education and International Opportunity pages or follow link below to the MI program website.
Check out the Spring 2013 edition of Envision Magazine. The PIRE grant was featured as a front page article titled “Turning Wastewater into a Renewable Resource”
The Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering at the University of South Florida invites applications for one… twitter.com/i/web/status/9…
Here is a summary of a work being done in Costa Rica by USF Reclaim current and previous students.… twitter.com/i/web/status/9…
Today at 12:30 pm - Flint Water Study Updates at USF College of Engineering fb.me/1R8fwUxsI