Co-authors: Jennifer Slate and Cassandra Ceballos, Northeastern Illinois University
Title: The use of benthic wetland algae for tertiary wastewater treatment in Chicago, Illinois
Abstract: Due to their ability to uptake nitrogen and phosphorus, benthic wetland algae have great potential as a tertiary wastewater treatment solution. In collaboration with the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago, we are growing algae on a vertical belt that rotates through wastewater tanks. Preliminary data indicate that eutrophic algal taxa such as Cladophora sp., Nitzschia palea, Navicula cryptocephala, and Sellaphora saugerresii are dominant. In addition to determining which wetland algae are best able to grow in this artificial system, We are examining the impact of the algae on the functional diversity of microbes using EcoPlates. EcoPlates have 31 wells that each hold a different carbon substrate, including carboxylic and acetic acids, amino acids, and amides. When microbes utilize a substrate, they reduce a tetrazolium dye, causing a color change that is read by a spectrophotometer. A greater color change will occur if more microbes are present that consume a particular substrate, allowing the calculation of Shannon Diversity. The goal of this proposed project is to replicate a diverse algal-microbial community that will remove nutrients from wastewater, similar to what occurs naturally in wetlands. The use of vertical substrate to grow wetland algae is ideal for urban communities that have limited space for water treatment.
View Poster: https://www.wisconsinwetlands.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/02/Alexis-M-Leach-Poster.Leach_
Bio: Alexis Leach is conducting undergraduate research at Northeastern Illinois University through the McNair Scholars Program and the University Honors Program. She enjoys identifying local flora and fauna found in wetland communities. Lexi has a passion for restoration ecology and applied to graduate programs with an emphasis in plant biology and conservation.