Author:
Eric Hall
Subject:
Engineering, Environmental Science, Biology
Material Type:
Unit of Study
Level:
Middle School, High School
Tags:
License:
Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike
Language:
English

From Here to There with Woodchip Bioreactors

From Here to There with Woodchip Bioreactors

Overview

The information, activities and assessments included in these curriculum modules aim to tell a story.  This storyline will help students learn the basics of denitrification and the nitrogen cycle to make sense of our anchor phenomenon - the Gulf Dead Zone.  Students will learn that local conditions and actions can have a significant impact on global issues.  The activities with which students will engage constitute a meaningful pathway to understanding and are not intended to be used in isolation.  As you make plans for how these modules will be used, carefully consider the connections and interdependence of the activities, which make it difficult to separate the activities and is not advised.

From Here to There with Woodchip Bioreactors

In 2008, Dr. Michelle Soupir joined the Agriculture and Biosystems Engineering department at Iowa State University.  The goal of Dr. Soupir’s research program is to conduct basic research to move us toward more sustainable water systems.  Dr. Soupir uses lab- and field-based research projects to monitor the occurrence, fate and movement of nutrients and microorganisms in surface and drainage water.

In 2013, Dr. Soupir’s lab began a project on which these curriculum modules are based.  Experimental woodchip bioreactors were designed and installed at the Agricultural Engineering Research Farm near Ames, Iowa.  These pilot-scale woodchip bioreactors are used to evaluate the nutrient removal from agricultural drainage water.  Dr. Soupir’s students manipulate a variety of variables including hydraulic retention times, bioreactor fill materials, and influent nutrient conditions to determine the effectiveness and efficiency of the bioreactors and investigate ways to make bioreactors work better.