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Research Spending & Results

Award Detail

Doing Business As Name:University of Kentucky Research Foundation
  • Tiffany Messer
  • (402) 472-2232
Award Date:06/15/2021
Estimated Total Award Amount: $ 529,104
Funds Obligated to Date: $ 501,479
  • FY 2021=$501,479
Start Date:07/01/2021
End Date:06/30/2026
Transaction Type:Grant
Awarding Agency Code:4900
Funding Agency Code:4900
CFDA Number:47.041
Primary Program Source:040100 NSF RESEARCH & RELATED ACTIVIT
Award Title or Description:CAREER: Impact of Pesticide and Antibiotic Cocktails on Nitrogen Removal Processes in Treatment Wetlands
Federal Award ID Number:2042761
DUNS ID:939017877
Parent DUNS ID:007400724
Program:EnvE-Environmental Engineering
Program Officer:
  • Karl Rockne
  • (703) 292-5356

Awardee Location

Street:109 Kinkead Hall
Awardee Cong. District:06

Primary Place of Performance

Organization Name:University of Kentucky Research Foundation
Street:500 South Limestone, 109 Kinkead Hall
Cong. District:06

Abstract at Time of Award

Nitrate is the most commonly observed chemical contaminant of ground and surface water in the world. This prevalence leads to nitrate being the major cause for drinking water impairment. Common use pesticides and antibiotics have also become ubiquitous in waterways worldwide, particularly in agricultural settings. While these chemicals are important for agricultural productivity, their release to the environment has resulted in significant impacts to agroecosystem food webs and human health, including bee colony disruptions, human reproductive and development disruption, and the spread of antibiotic resistance. Treatment wetland systems have the potential to be a cost-effective alternative to prevent the release of these chemicals and other emerging contaminants to the environment. However, there is a lack of understanding whether treatment wetlands can remove both nitrate and contaminant mixtures that exist in runoff; a critical knowledge gap that prevents more widespread adoption of this technology. The goal of this project is to develop science-based guidance for the use of treatment wetlands to remove contaminant mixtures and nitrate to improve water quality. This goal will be achieved by evaluating the influence of specific contaminants on wetland treatment processes using state-of-the-science tracers and automated sensing technology. Successful completion of this project may lead to cost-effective treatment alternatives for contaminants to protect human and ecological health in low income, rural communities. These results will be used to develop innovative community water quality education programs both locally and remotely. Additional engagement of community members will advance scientific literacy and diversity through hands-on engineering experiences for underrepresented groups in STEM. These groups are often among those most impacted by degraded water quality and, as a result, have the greatest potential ability to benefit from these efforts. The twin goals of this CAREER project are to improve understanding of how antibiotics and pesticides impact nitrate removal in wetlands while engaging communities through an innovative citizen science and education platform to advance science literacy and STEM workforce development. The following specific objectives are designed to achieve these goals: i) Identify water quality parameters that impact nutrient removal efficacy through the use of 15N isotopic enrichment studies in land-based and floating treatment wetland systems; ii) Create a toolkit for identifying ideal placement and sizing of wetlands using three-dimensional multiparameter in-situ sensor technologies; iii) Train future practitioners through mentorship and the development of pre-K and high school curricula to deliver hands-on ecological systems education; and iv) Provide citizen science opportunities and water quality training virtually and at field locations to engage affected rural communities. Field and laboratory scale experimental approaches will bridge gaps between observation and kinetic modeling from microcosm and mesocosm experiments with field-scale monitoring and modeling. Successful completion of this research will advance knowledge by elucidating mechanisms controlling nitrogen removal and transformation in two distinct wetland treatment systems. Knowledge will also be advanced through understanding how contaminants of emerging concern impact microbially mediated denitrification in wetlands. Further benefits result from improved protection of downstream water quality and reservoir resilience by evaluating the influence of specific contaminants of emerging concern on wetland ecosystem services. These results have potential to benefit society by accelerating the development of treatment wetland design and management based on science-based observation to enhance treatment options for water in agricultural and other settings. This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.

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