“According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, small family farms are responsible for 80% of the world’s food. This means that focusing on these farms here in San Luis actually has a broader global implication.” Bethany Loya, MA student in the Patel College of Global Sustainability at the University of South Florida.
USF students, Bethany Loya, Phillip Dixon and Kevin Orner, are in Costa Rica this summer carrying out research at the University of Georgia Costa Rica Campus on Anaerobic Biodigesters that are used to recover bioenergy from waste materials, such as livestock waste and crop residues. They are also getting the chance to live with Costa Rican families and experience the beautiful cloud forest region of Monteverde. Phil and Kevin are PhD students in Environmental Engineering at USF, and are part of the NSF Partnership for International Research and Education program at USF. Bethany is an MA student in the Patel College of Global Sustainability and is doing this research as part of her Master’s Academic Capstone Experience. She is spending June 15th – August 4th in San Luis de Monteverde, Costa Rica putting her Renewable Energy concentration into practice. Dr. Sarina Ergas is the lead USF environmental engineering researcher spearheading this collaboration.
Bethany Loya’s blog about her experience to date in Costa Rica says, “These past few weeks have really flown by. Since my last post, we have given the OK for the new biodigester to begin running and have started our Biochemical Methane Potential Assays (BMPs).
Originally, we did not plan to observe and assist with the construction of UGA Costa Rica’s new tubular anaerobic digester. Fortunately, plans changed and I was able to learn all about what it takes to build a tubular anaerobic digester for a farm here in San Luis.
Not only was the process impressive, but the cooperation of the staff and the process of problem solving reminded me that projects like this cannot be done alone. This biodigester is adjacent to an already functional digester and will also provide methane to the UGA Costa Rica campus kitchen up the hill. The hope is that this farm can serve as a model for farmers to visually see an alternative which benefits the small farm.
According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, small family farms are responsible for 80% of the world’s food. This means that focusing on these farms here in San Luis actually has a broader global implication.
Here at UGA, Fabricio has begun researching a compost recipe that will allow farmers in the area to take advantage of the local microorganisms and provide a better, long term, solution to helping crops grow other than chemicals.
This past week, we prepared Biochemical Methane Potential Assays (BMPs) using the compost recipe that Fabricio uses. BMPs are bench-scale test which help determine the biodegradability of a substrate anaerobically. In this case, I am interested in looking at Fabricio’s compost recipe and determining the benefits of running the contents in a biodigester. Instead of building a large biodigester (as you saw the long process), BMPs can be used to evaluate the potential for methane production.
Hoping for some interesting results!
Dr. Suzanne Boxman, former graduate student and Recliam social media team member, is currently a Postdoctoral researcher in Eilat, Israel. The following is a summary of her research project and progress so far.
Sunny Eilat is Israel’s resort town. Full of hotels, shoreline, and excellent diving, Eilat is the perfect getaway location. It is also an ideal location to study sustainable aquaculture systems as it is home to the National Center for Maricutlure (NCM). This national research facility conducts research on new methods for rearing high-value aquatic animal and plants species.
Beginning in the mid 1990’s NCM conducted pioneering research on integrated-multi trophic aquaculture (IMTA). The novel aquaculture system design produces not only fish, it also produces seaweeds on the nutrient rich effluents from the fish tanks. Eventually the system expanded to include additional species including bivalves and sea urchins. The seaweeds grow rapidly while simultaneously removing excess ammonia from effluents. A product on their own, the seaweeds can also be fed to bivalves or sea urchins thereby contributing to production of a third product.
The research has since progressed and current work is focused on the production of periphyton on the effluents instead of or in conjunction with the seaweed. Periphyton is a conglomeration of microscopic and macroscopic organisms including heterotrophic microbes, diatoms, algae, and cyanobacteria. Naturally present in most aquatic ecosystems it serves as an important food source for invertebrates and fish.
Considering its role in nature as a food source, current research at NCM is exploring the potential to use the periphyton first as a biofilter then, to use the periphyton as a supplemental fish feed. Preliminary research indicates the periphyton is rich in protein and carbohydrates. It is also effective at removing ammonia from effluents with up to 80% ammonia removal achieved.
Developing sustainable aquaculture feeds is one of the aquaculture industries’ biggest challenges. Periphyton has great potential to offset processed feed requirements while simultaneously providing water treatment in closed or semi-closed systems. Using periphyton to clean aquaculture wastewater is a perfect exampling of reclaiming nutrients and putting them to a better use.
For more information about Dr. Boxman’s experiences in Israel you can also check out her personal blog about living abroad at https://hereforthehummus.wordpress.com/
Mr. Kevin Orner, an Environmental Engineering PhD Candidate at the University of South Florida, was announced as a winner at the 8th Annual Graduate Student Research Symposium for his poster titled “Nutrient Removal and Energy Recovery from Digester Effluent Using a Microbial Fuel Cell”. On April 22nd, Kevin will represent the University of South Florida at the Statewide Research Symposium, an event designed to highlight the best research being carried out by graduate students in the state of Florida.
Dr. Mark Santana, former USF graduate student and Reclaim social media team member, is currently a Postdoctoral Researcher in Spain. The following is a summary of his research project and progress so far:
For many communities, tourism is a significant contributor to the local economy. This is the case for the many coastal towns in the northeastern coast of Spain, called the Costa Brava. During the summer, these communities, ranging from quaint, historic towns to lively party destinations, attract tourists from around the world. For over 60 years this tourism played a significant role in the region’s economy.
However, while tourism provides jobs and economic development, there are serious environmental implications for many communities that rely on this sector, especially water use. For the Costa Brava, the months with the highest tourism have the lowest rainfall, putting a strain on existing water resources originally used for a smaller community. In addition, climate change may result in dryer Mediterranean coastal regions, thus forecasting even more water shortages.
As a result of the aforementioned environmental and economic concerns, the Catalan Water Research Institute (Institut Català de la Recerca de l’Aigüa, ICRA) in Girona, Spain, is participating in European Union-funded research that aims to determine the economic, environmental, and social implications of the integration of water reuse technology in hotels in Mediterranean coastal communities.
More specifically, this research will result in the creation of a decision support system that will determine the environmental, social, and economic impacts of water reuse technologies. Technology vendors would then be able to use this tool to show their clients (most likely hotels) the effects of the integration of their technologies in the water management systems.
The case study that is the basis of our research is a hotel located in the coastal community of Lloret de Mar. In the 1990’s the hotel decided to install a water reuse system the collects water from the room showers and handbasins, treats it via a membrane bioreactor, and sends the treated greywater back to the toilets for reuse. Many days, almost all water use by the room toilets is treated greywater thus preventing the use of a significant amount of potable water.
What our research will do is first design a decision support system that analyzes the cost, environmental impacts, energy use, and social implications of this technology as well as other possible technological configurations at the hotel. Right now, we are at the design stage, and have just begun programming a simplified water cycle model to be integrated into the decision support system. When finished the water cycle model will be able to simulate demands, flows, and the integration of a wide range of technologies.
If you would like more information about the project, you can consult the website at: http://www.demeaumed.eu/index.php/inno/
The British Antarctic Survey is seeking a highly motivated Experienced Researcher (ER) in Biological Sciences to join the EU-FP7 Marie Curie CACHE project (Calcium in a CHanging Environment – http://www.cache-itn.eu/) to determine the impacts of climate change on the European shellfish industry. Your role will be to: Collate, critically appraise and produce a synthesis of data derived from various sources on the resilience and adaptability of cultured bivalves to climate change; Make predictions about how the industry could best adapt to climate change and the broader ecological consequences of such adaptations and;. Develop statistical models to predict the economic and ecological impacts of climate change to the industry. You will need to exhibit excellent communication and numeracy skills, must be prepared to travel widely within Europe and be able to produce comprehensive papers/reports within strict deadlines.