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Junior Colloquium: Team SWAMP. Mentor : Dr. Dave Tilley Librarian : Mr. Robert Kackley

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Junior Colloquium: Team SWAMP

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Junior colloquium team swamp

Junior Colloquium: Team SWAMP

Mentor: Dr. Dave Tilley

Librarian: Mr. Robert Kackley

Members: ArshAgarwal, Allie Bradford, Kerry Cheng, RamitaDewan, Enrique Disla, Addison Goodley, Nathan Lim, Lisa Liu, Lucas Place, RaevaRamadorai, Jaishri Shankar, Michael Wellen, Diane Ye, Edward Yu

Research problem

Research Problem

  • Agricultural runoff, especially in the spring, leads to high nitrate levels in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed

  • Causes harmful algal blooms

    • Result: Dead zones characterized by depletion of oxygen and nutrients vital to aquatic wildlife

      • Dead zone: low oxygen area of water

Research problem significance of project

Research Problem – Significance of Project

Affects fishing industry, seafood consumers, environmental groups, residents of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed

Health of the Chesapeake Bay is vital for maintaining biodiversity

Purpose thesis hypothesis

Purpose & Thesis & Hypothesis

Purpose: To design a wetland that optimally removes nitrates from the Chesapeake Bay and its surrounding waters

Thesis: We want to investigate what combination of native plant species and organic amendments best remove nitrates from the Chesapeake Bay

Hypothesis: We expect significant differences between the varying microcosms and empty controls

Literature review agricultural runoff and river selection

Literature Review – Agricultural Runoff and River Selection

  • One of the largest sources of pollution into the Chesapeake Bay (Glibert et al., 2001)

  • Eutrophication causes harmful algal blooms

  • Constructed wetlands

    • Can remove up to 80% of inflowing nitrates (Crumpton & Baker, 1993)

  • Big Picture: Chesapeake Bay

    • Choptank River-largest eastern tributary in the bay (Staver, L., Staver, K., & Stevenson, J., 1996)

    • Tuckahoe Creek-34% of Choptank, accessibility (USDA Agricultural Research Service [ARS], 2009)

Collection of samples

Collection of Samples

Literature review plant selection

Literature Review – Plant Selection

  • Criteria for plant selection

    • Non-invasive

    • Native to the Chesapeake Bay Watershed

    • Biofuel-capable

  • Cattail (Typhalatifolia) (Fraser, Carty, & Steer, 2004; Matheson, 2010)

  • Soft-stem Bulrush (Schoenoplectusvalidus) (Rogers, Breen, & Chick, 1991)

  • Switchgrass (Panicumvirgatum) (Larson, n.d.)

Literature review biofuels organic amendments

Literature Review – Biofuels & Organic Amendments

  • Why biofuels?

    • To accommodate changing energy and environmental needs

    • Secondary data analysis

  • Cross-referenced list of Chesapeake Bay native, non-invasive plants with list of biofuel-capable plants (Fedler, Hammond, Chennupati & Ranjan, 2007; Wright & Turhollow, 2010; Zhang, Shahbazi, Wang, Diallo, & Whitmore, 2010)

  • Why organic amendments?

    • Increase differences in nitrate removal

  • Three carbon-based amendments

    • Glucose (Weisner, Eriksson, Graneli, & Leonardson, 1994)

    • Sawdust (Hien, 2010)

    • Wheat straw (Ines, Soares, & Abeliovich, 1998)

Project outline

Project Outline

  • Phase 1

    • Goal: Find the most effective organic amendment

    • Use only cattail

  • Phase 2

    • Goal: Find the most effective combination of plants with the amendment

    • Use cattail, soft-stem bulrush, and switchgrass

  • Phase 3

    • Goal: Implement a large-scale design of the most effective plant combination

    • Time and money permitting

Pilot microcosm design

Pilot Microcosm Design

  • 1:1 mixture of topsoil and sand

  • Plastic tubes inserted into ½ holes

  • Tubes pinched with clothespins

  • Cattails planted six inches apart from one another

  • Problems encountered

New microcosm design

New Microcosm Design

  • Spigot system installed as shown

  • Two inches of gravel, covered by polyethylene fabric.

  • 5 inches 1:1 topsoil/sand mixture

  • Plants: clumps of four

  • Water depth: 5 inches

  • Weighed microcosms

  • ½ Liter of topsoil from Tuckahoe for inoculation

New microcosm design1

New Microcosm Design

An improved procedure

An Improved Procedure

  • 8 week adjustment period

  • After adjustment period, add nitrates and organic amendments via a concentrated solution

  • Water samples from individual tubs

Plant groups

Plant Groups

  • We are using 8 groups:

  • No plants, no amendments

  • No plants with Glucose

  • No plants with Sawdust

  • No plants with Straw

  • Plants, no amendments

  • Plants with Glucose

  • Plants with Sawdust

  • Plants with Straw

Preliminary results

Preliminary Results

  • Average Nitrate (NO3-) concentration of Tuckahoe River Samples:

    • Spring: 2.67 mg/L

    • Fall: 2.65 mg/L

  • No significant difference between the concentrations across seasons, p > .05

Pilot data

Pilot Data

Data analysis

Data Analysis

  • SAS 9.2

  • Trial Run: One Factor Repeated Measure ANOVA

  • No significant difference across weeks

  • Nitrate removal significantly different from 0 (no change in nitrate concentration)

  • Phase 1: Two Factor ANOVA with One Repeat Measure

  • Compare different microcosm environments and week of trial

Future directions

Future Directions

  • Fall 2011

    • Carry out Phase 1 testing

      • Four 1 week trials

    • Collect sample data and analyze

    • Use results of Phase 1 in Phase 2 next semester

  • Spring 2012

    • Plant fresh microcosms and allow them to acclimate to greenhouse

    • Carry out Phase 2 testing

      • Six 1 week trials

    • Collect sample data and analyze

    • Tie up loose ends

    • Begin compiling thesis

Future directions cont

Future Directions (cont)

  • Summer/Fall 2012

    • Finish data collection and analysis, if necessary

    • Begin to implement Phase 3 of project, if time and funds allow for it

    • Finish first draft of thesis

    • Contact discussants for thesis conference

  • Spring 2013

    • Edit thesis

    • Thesis conference!

    • Make final changes to thesis after conference

    • Citation ceremony and commencement!

Team composition

Team Composition

  • Research

    • Everyone does everything

  • Writing/Literature

    • Subgroups

    • Group deadline: at least 2 weeks before hard deadline

      • Example: Junior Colloquium presentation was due internally 3 weeks before we had to present it!

Foreseeing problems

Foreseeing Problems

  • LOTS of unforeseen complications!

  • How did we account for these issues?

    • Build our schedules to work around the project

    • Talk about it!

    • Revisit the project timeline and make changes CONSTANTLY



  • Completed tasks:

    • Thesis Proposal

    • Pilot microcosm testing

    • New microcosm design

    • Phase 1 acclimation

  • To be completed:

    • Phase 1 testing

    • Phase 2 acclimation and testing

    • Thesis

    • Conferences

For the freshmen

For the Freshmen!

  • Put the work in early

  • Find a good mentor!

  • Form subgroups as needed

  • Don’t be afraid to talk to your team!

  • Use your librarian!

  • Focus on the big picture…



  • Dr. Dave Tilley

  • Dr. James Wallace and the Gemstone Staff

  • Ms. Betty Morgavan and the Greenhouse Staff

  • Mr. Robert Kackley

  • Dr. Bruce James

  • Mr. Brandon Winfrey

  • Home Depot in College Park, MD



  • Anderson, D., & Glibert, P., & Burkholder J. (2002). Harmful algal blooms and eutrophication: Nutrient sources, composition, and consequences. Coastal and Estuarine Research Federation, 24(4), 704-726. 

  • Crumpton, W., & Baker, J. (1993). Integrating wetlands into agricultural drainage systems: Predictions of nitrate loading and loss in wetlands receiving agricultural subsurface drainage. In: Mitchell J (Ed). Constructed wetlands for water quality improvement. St. Joseph, MI: American Society of Agricultural Engineers. 118-26.

  • Fedler, C., Hammond, R., Chennupati, P., & Ranjan, R. (2007). Biomass energy potential from recycled wastewater. Lubbock: Texas Tech University.

  • Fraser, L. H., Carty, S. M., & Steer, D. (2004). A test of four plant species to reduce total nitrogen and total phosphorus from soil leachate in subsurface wetland microcosms. Bioresource Technology, 94(2), 185-192. 

  • Glibert, P., Magnien, R., Lomas, M., Alexander, J., Tan, C., Haramoto, E., et al. (2001). Harmful algal blooms in the Chesapeake and Coastal Bays of Maryland, USA: Comparison of 1997, 1998, and 1999 events. Estuaries and Coasts, 24(6), 875-883. doi: 10.2307/1353178

  • Hien, T. (2010). Influence of different substrates in wetland soils on denitrification. Water, Air, and Soil Pollution, June 2010, 1-12. doi:10.1007/s11270-010-0498-6

  • Ines, M., Soares, M., & Abeliovich, A. (1998). Wheat straw as substrate for water denitrification. Water Research. 32(12), 3790-3794.

  • Karrh, R., Romano, W., Raves-Golden, R., Tango, P., Garrison, S., Michael, B., Karrh, L. (2007). Maryland tributary strategy Choptank River basin summary report for 1985-2005 Data. Annapolis, MD: Maryland Department of Natural Resources.

  • Larson, R.A. (n.d.) Nitrate uptake by terrestrial and aquatic plants. Unpublished manuscript, Office of Research Development and Administration, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Carbondale, Illinois.

  • Matheson, F. E., & Sukias, J. P. (2010). Nitrate removal processes in a constructed wetland treating drainage from dairy pasture. Ecological Engineering, 36, 1260-1265.

  • Rogers, K., Breen, P., & Chick, A. (1991). Nitrogen removal in experimental wetland treatment systems: Evidence for the role of aquatic plants. Research Journal of the Water Pollution Control Federation, 63(7), 9.

  • Staver, L. W., Staver, K. W., & Stevenson, J. C. (1996). Nutrient inputs to the Choptank river estuary: Implications for watershed management. Estuaries, 19(2), 342-358.

  • United States Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service (2009, June 16). Choptank River, Maryland: An ARS Benchmark Research Watershed. Retrieved from http://www.ars.usda.gov/Research/docs.htm?docid=18632.

  • Weisner, S., Eriksson, P., Granéli, W., & Leonardson, L. (1994). Influence of macrophytes on nitrate removal in wetlands. Ambio, 23(6), 363-366.

  • Wright, L., & Turhollow, A. (2010). Switchgrass selection as a “model” bioenergy crop: A history of the process. Biomass and Bioenergy, 34(6), 851-868. doi:10.1016/j.biombioe.2010.01.030

  • Zedler, J. B. (2003). Wetlands at your service: reducing impacts of agriculture at the watershed scale. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, 1(2), 65-72.

  • Zhang, B., Shahbazi, A., Wang, L., Diallo, O., & Whitmore, A. (2010). Hot-water pretreatment of cattails for extraction of cellulose. Journal of Industrial Microbiology & Biotechnology, 1-6. doi: 10.1007/s10295-010-0847-x



  • Completed tasks:

    • Thesis Proposal

    • Pilot microcosm testing

    • New microcosm design

    • Phase 1 acclimation

  • To be completed:

    • Phase 1 testing

    • Phase 2 acclimation and testing

    • Thesis

    • Conferences

  • Will discover optimum combination of plants to reduce nitrate levels running off into Chesapeake

  • Questions?

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