USF anthropologists and engineers recently completed a third season of ethnographic research and an initial season of water quality research on the Placencia Peninsula of Belize – a PIRE project Caribbean research site – investigating perceptions and practices of sustainable water, wastewater, and coastal environmental management, resource reclamation, and their intersections with expanding tourism development and public health. During a nine-week field season, USF anthropologists Drs. Christian Wells, Rebecca Zarger, and Linda Whiteford, MA Applied Anthropology graduate students Eric Koenig and Ann Vitous, and Civil and Environmental Engineering PhD student Christy Prouty continued exploration of these themes, with a specific focus of examining institutional relationships and strategies toward sustainable resource management.
As part of this undertaking, we conducted numerous semi-structured interviews with key stakeholder industry representatives and village leaders as well as elders in the communities on the peninsula to better assess connections between human, natural, and engineered systems and situate knowledge about water use, tourism, heritage, coastal health, and wastewater in a local ethnohistoric context. We also administered 25 extensive verbally-administered surveys using the KoBo application for smartphones to a stratified sample of residents, migrant workers, and tourists in different areas of the peninsula. Questions were iterative in design and content, informed by interviews and participant-observation from the 2013 Pilot and 2014 “Scaling up” seasons, and used to gauge resident, worker, and tourist perceptions of important issues. Finally, we continued participant observation and photographic documentation of the daily/weekly rhythms of local activities in public spaces to monitor tourism activity flows and how they impact local water resources, wastewater systems, and related environmental services.
Our final phase of PIRE field research in Belize also sought to extend the scope of community and educational outreach activities, and build interdisciplinary, international research partnerships. Ann Vitous, as part of her MA research investigating community perceptions of tourism development on environmental health, carried out a photovoice project from late May through mid-July. This project sought to identify how the various ways of experiencing development have influenced perceptions on the impacts to the environment, the livelihoods of local villagers, and interpersonal relationships between local and expatriate communities. Participants were given cameras and asked to photograph areas in the village that have been most impacted by development. Pictures from pre-development stages were also solicited from long-term residents of the village. Interviews were used to supplement the data collected from the photovoice project.
“We are losing a lot of our green. We are getting a lot of the lagoons filled in because for real estate, we are like red meat. I mean, the thing is, it has driven up the cost of real estate so much that an average local family, hardworking average local family, can no longer afford to buy property in Placencia, or on this peninsula anymore. The people with money end up coming in and developing the lagoon, filling up the lagoon property. At some point I can’t see our children getting land, so they will have to start moving away.”
Christy Prouty, as a component of her PhD research in Civil and Environmental Engineering, partnered with Belizean entrepreneur, Luis Garcia of EcoFriendly Solutions to consider functionality, use, and perceptions of various household and commercial onsite wastewater systems that reclaim water and nutrients from the treated effluent. Interviews were conducted prior to water and wastewater quality testing to assess a range of the system adopters’ operation and maintenance practices. This information, in conjunction with quantitative water quality data, will be used to provide recommendations on system design(s), users’ manuals, and best practices, educational materials, and signage for organizations where the public accesses their systems.
Our team also continued educational outreach at the primary school in Placencia village. Ann and Christy facilitated a week-long series of interactive lessons at St. John’s Memorial Anglican primary school for Mrs. Shivers’ Standard VI students. During the lessons, they covered the water cycle, environmental health, the future of water, sources of clean and dirty water, and health impacts of contaminated water in a local context. The week culminated by playing Jeopardy to review all that was taught.
Eric Koenig and Christian Wells continued work on a community-based cultural and environmental heritage conservation project in partnership with a recently established non-profit organization called the Seine Bight Reservoir to Museum Foundation, the Village Council, local representatives of the National Garifuna Council, and the St. Alphonsus primary school in Seine Bight village. The multi-year project seeks to facilitate the transformation of a historic water reservoir in the village into a local museum of Garifuna culture and history and promote the cultural, educational, and economic aspirations of the village and the wider Garifuna community through heritage conservation, tourism development, and education programs. The main objectives for the project’s second year were to continue fundraising efforts for the construction of the exterior of the museum, plan exhibit design, and coordinate heritage educational outreach and research training workshops. As part of these efforts, Eric, Christian, and members of the Foundation are working with teachers at St. Alphonsus primary school to develop a lesson plan for Standard 5 students focusing on visualization and inter-generational knowledge exchange about Seine Bight’s cultural heritage and environment in the past, present, and future, which likely will be piloted in the fall. Also, Eric coordinated three heritage research training workshops in partnership with the Seine Bight Reservoir to Museum Foundation to build community research capacity in oral history interviews and GPS mapping in an effort to collect historical and cultural information for future exhibits in the proposed museum.
Based on the opportunities and challenges of the heritage conservation, research, and local tourism development project, Eric presented a co-authored paper (with Christian and Sarita Garcia) entitled “Reclaiming Development: Community-Based Heritage Conservation and University-Engaged Research in Seine Bight, Belize” at the 13th annual Belize Archaeology and Anthropology Symposium in San Ignacio, Belize. The presentation was part of a special panel “Examining the Representation of Indigenous Peoples in Belize and the Region,” and was well received among other provocative papers in the panel.
Throughout the nine-week field season, we continued to forge interdisciplinary, international research partnerships. In early June, Drs. Marilyn Brandt and Kostas Alexandridis – PIRE partners from the University of the Virgin Islands (UVI) – visited the Placencia Peninsula to meet with our team to discuss coastal human-environmental research curriculum development and seek out opportunities for dialog and collaboration on wider coral reef restoration initiatives in the Caribbean with local environmental NGOs. Dr. Maya Trotz of USF Civil and Environmental Engineering also made a site visit at the beginning of June to witness and document coral reef restoration efforts by the Fragments of Hope NGO at Laughing Bird Caye National Park. Furthermore, Christy and Ann partnered with the Southern Environmental Association (SEA) NGO to take and share water and wastewater quality samples to determine baseline values of their EcoFriendly systems’ performance, and Eric volunteered with SEA and Blue Ventures as a sorter for the annual Lionfishing tournament held during Lobsterfest weekend on June 19th.
Over the next few months, we will compile and analyze results from the “Winding down” field season and continue collaborations on research, education, and outreach with our international community partners and PIRE colleagues at UVI, UB, and USF.
This week we are featuring Lorena Sanchez video on “Reclaim is… Seed preservation,” an important topic for food security and urban farming and gardening. When asked what made her think of this video Lorena told us about a conversation she had with her friend trying to grow a plant at home from a fruit. “I was inspired to make this video when I became aware of how little people around me knew about seed preservation. As an example, my friend who wanted to plant a guava plant told me that she had just stuck an entire unopened guava in the ground. I covered my face, dumbfounded by her reply. No, no, no, the whole guava probably just rotted underground like this, you have to dry and preserve the seeds, I told her.” So she decided to take the opportunity to teach other about seed preservation by making a video for the “Reclaim Is” video campaign. To learn more about seed preservation she recommends a video on rice seed preservation by women in Bangladesh: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LOEVLxHMAGs
Lorena found out about the Reclaim Is video contest from a sign put up in her lab at the University of South Florida. “I did not think I had time to do a video however but then talking to Colleen I was inspired. She told me how many people in Africa were planting Monsanto seed and were no longer practicing seed preservation. I thought this was horrible as it just means big business controlling the poor even further and so I was inspired to look further into the topic. I then decided to make my video in an effort to teach people everywhere about the importance of seed preservation.”
When asked to tell us what Reclaim means to her Lorena replies, “Reclaim is closing loops (or circles). Just like the circle of life, all natural processes work in a circle and when human activities do not follow these circular patterns (like landfills) then the environment is thrown out of balance.” And she strongly believes in one of Reclaim’s tag lines when she says “In nature there is no such thing as waste as all of the nutrients go back to the earth in a balanced circle, or loop.”
Lorena Sanchez is an Environmental Engineering PhD student at the University of South Florida currently conducting research on Bamboo. To learn more about her work, you can check out her website: http://www.lorenasanchezvivas.com/
Check out Lorena’s video “Reclaim is…Seed Preservation” https://youtu.be/-iIz2_UN0BY
This week we will feature Dr. Ivy Drexler from University of South Florida who submitted her video to our previous photo and video campaign on reclaiming green energy from wastewater:
When interviewed, Dr. Drexler stated that “The video is the synopsis of my Ph.D. research, a culmination of four years of work in three minutes. I became increasingly aware of the importance of scientific communication after many failed attempts at explaining what it is I “do” to family and friends. I wanted to distill my research findings and their importance into a digestible format accessible to non-scientists. Once I sent this video out to family and friends, they said things such as “Now I get what you do!” or “Wow, that’s really cool” and “Glad there are people working on these problems!” Reclaiming resources is an important and necessary function of civil society, yet most people don’t think about it on a day to day basis. These videos let people think about it, without being judgmental, condescending, or too nerdy.”
Dr. Drexler heard about the contest through the reclaim facebook page and participated in the campaign because she “…wanted to enter to expand the viewership of my video, as well as to be part of the Reclaim community and its important message. ” To her Reclaim is…”Transforming waste products into opportunities. It can be as broad as mining nutrients from wastewater, or as local as turning recycled tires into flower boxes. It means creating not only a second life for a waste product, but a third, fourth, fifth…”
Her research team was recently awarded a National Science Foundation Innovation Corps Award for the technology mentioned in the video. http://tinyurl.com/ICARUS-I-
On this week blog we are featuring the video submitted by Carolyne Guto, which is based on her Masters’ thesis from the University of Natural Resources and Life Science, located in Vienna, Austria. Carolyne heard about our social media campaign through a PDF that was sent to her United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization – Institute for Hydraulic Engineering (UNESCO-IHE) personal e-mail. Carolyne thought that this was a great opportunity to talk to others about copra meal and how they plan to use it as fish food.
Her project is based on formulation of meal for different fish species. The main idea of the project is to be able to generate these meals with locally available ingredients. In the video she explains how, in Kenya, they take the coconuts to the factories to be processed and extract the coconut oil. The remnant of this process (byproducts), which cannot be eaten or used, is the copra meal. They replaced cottonseed cake in “sagana diet” which was formulated by Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute with copra meal, which is available in coastal areas. With this project they are trying to reduce the fish-feeding costs, and also looking at growth and mortality rates (of fish) between cottonseed and copra meals
For Carolyne reclaim means “to utilize something that is considered waste”. Currently, Carolyne is giving part-time lectures at Kisii University in the Department of Applied Aquatic Sciences, located in Kenya. Her Masters’ thesis is to be published online in the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences webpage.
Don’t forget to watch the video below.
This week on the blog we are featuring a video submitted by Samuel Dantas, an electrical engineering student from the Universidade de Brasilia (UnB), located in the capital of Brazil. Samuel learned about our social media campaign through one of our PIRE students, who is currently doing her research in Brazil. Samuel felt making this video would provide for a good opportunity to share with the world one of the research projects currently conducted at UnB- one that involves both students and the community in an effort to reuse materials.
Samuel’s video explains how the college of Engineering at UnB collects used oil and treats it so that it can be used as fuel for a fleet of UnB buses. These buses transport hundreds of students daily throughout the different UnB campuses that are located throughout the Federal District of Brazil. This novel idea taught members of the community to refrain from discarding used oil down the drain or in green areas; thus also allowing the community to play a role in preserving their local environment. This effort also includes outreach activities, where students attend local events to teach the community about how to collect the oil, as well as to show and give away some of the byproducts that are created from reused oil (i.e. soap).
For Samuel, “reclaim is recycling, reusing, and transforming something that people think is not useful anymore into something that can be important for many others things again.”
We encourage you to look at the project’s Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/pages/Projeto-BioGama/162420853845548?fref=ts and refer to their many videos on YouTube, which can be found by typing “Projecto BioGama” in the search engine.
This week, we are featuring the work of Shuai Luo, Mohan Qin, Hayden Tse, and Katherine Olson from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech). Shuai and Mohan are PhD students of Environmental Science and Engineering; Hayden and Katherine are undergraduate students, respectively studying Civil Engineering and Environmental Science. Their video placed as the third runner-up in our “Reclaim is…” Video Campaign. In this video, the students teach us about the use of a microbial electrolysis cell with forward osmosis (MEC-FO) system, which can recover ammoniacal nitrogen, water, and electricity from wastewater or landfill leachate. As students, the group feels that it is their responsibility to make contributions in this region. In order to achieve the goal of reclaiming water, nutrients, and energy, this research group combines microbial fuel cells with forward osmosis.
Shuai, Mohan, Hayden, and Katherine are all members of the Environmental Biotechnology & Bioenergy Laboratory (EBBL) research group at Virginia Tech. They learned about the “Reclaim is…” contest from their research group advisor, Dr. Zhen He. The group decided to get involved in the campaign in order to disseminate the concepts of water recovery and environmental protection. To Dr. He and his students, reclaim means recovering resources from wastewater, to protect the environment, help save resources, and reduce financial costs.
To learn more about Dr. He’s research group’s work with MEC-FO systems, check out their website (http://www.ebbl.cee.vt.edu/), and read one of their recent publications:
Qin, M. and He, Z.* (2014) Self-supplied ammonium bicarbonate draw solute for achieving wastewater treatment and recovery in a microbial electrolysis cell – forward osmosis coupled system. Environmental Science & Technology Letters. Vol 1, pp 437-441.
In this week’s blog we feature the video “Reclaiming waste for the community” submitted by PJ Accetturo. In this video we learned about a community aquaponic system in which fish waste is reclaimed as a fertilizer for both vegetables and aquatic plants. The system not only reclaims nutrients but also provides a food source to community members in need.
PJ Accetturo is a local film maker in the Tampa area. He currently works for a non-profit called The Underground Network which serves as an incubator for small to medium sized nonprofits. He found out about the video through a friend in the public health program at USF. When asked about what made him think of the video he replied, “I enjoy helping the community, and telling stories of places where people are reclaiming to make a difference.” To him “reclaiming is about taking waste and resurrecting it into use again.” Accetturo has made another video about The Well, the organization that made the aquaponic system featured in the “Reclaim is…” campaign submission. Donated bike parts are also reclaimed at The Well’s ReCylcle Bin that are given to people who need transportation. At The Well they reclaim more than water/energy/nutrients, they are reclaiming a sense of community. The Well offers a host of services like the aquaponically produced food and recycled bikes for people in need, more importantly it provides people with a voice, community, and friendship.
This week Reclaim is featuring our first runner up video winner of the 2015 “Reclaim Is…” video and photo campaign and creator Victor R. Flores, MA graduate from the USF Patel College of Global Sustainability.
When asked to write for this blog, Victor R. Florez said: “This video is one of several projects that I filmed during my stay in South India and is part of a series on sustainable agriculture, architecture and water management articles on my website. My good friend and Environmental Engineering student at USF told me about this contest and seeing how aligned it is with my daily work, I immediately begun writing the script. For me, Reclaim is the very foundation of biological life – our bodies reclaim oxygen to breathe, we reclaim vitamins from the sun, we reclaim water to survive, the food we eat is reclaimed from the earth which, itself, relies on this omnipresent process of natural chemical reactions. Thus, for humans, Reclaim is about better understanding our place in the larger ecosystem and living in a progressive manner that is conducive to life and healthy development.”
He further added: “This philosophy is the underlying theme of my Urban Villager website, a sustainability and self-empowerment blog that is an ongoing effort to raise awareness about detrimental settlement patterns and lifestyles and is committed to investing in projects related to sustainable community building and urban regeneration. I am a sustainability designer, cross-cultural liaison, and recent MA graduate from the USF Patel College of Global Sustainability.”
In the following weeks, Reclaim will be featuring our top video and photo award winners, their motivation behind producing their video and what “Reclaim” means to them. We will begin with featuring our first place video winner, Jordy Wolfand. Jordy is a PhD student in Civil and Environmental Engineering at Stanford University and she is part of the Luthy Research Group.
When asked to write for this blog, Jordy Wolfand said: “I’m so happy that so many people watched and voted for my video, thank you! I originally made part of the animation in a class I took last quarter called Educating STEM Thinkers, taught through the Institute of Design and Graduate School of Education here at Stanford. I’m dedicated to engineering outreach and think it’s important to be able to bridge the gap between academia and the public. I heard about the Reclaim Video competition through Re-inventing the Nation’s Urban Water Infrastructure (ReNUWIt), the NSF engineering research center I’m a part of, and I thought my video might be a good fit.”
She further added that: “I’ve always been inspired by the resiliency of nature, and I was excited to see so many of the submissions incorporate natural systems as a way to solve human issues. I think it’s essential we prioritize cycling resources to ensure a sustainable future, especially in urban areas. If you’re interested in learning more about the research ReNUWIt is doing to change how we manage urban water, check out our website at http://www.renuwit.org/, or my lab group’s website at http://web.stanford.edu/group/luthygroup/.”
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