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.