Early Stage Researchers and Research Topics
  • Fellow
  • Collins Amoah – Antwi
  • Warsaw University of Technology
  • Plac Politechniki 1
  • Warsaw, 00-661
  • Poland
  • Telephone: +48 22 234 53 93
Collins Amoah - Antwi
Research Topic

Dynamics of SOM transformation to improve soil function and productivity by addition of reusable waste materials

Work package

Restoring marginal land for agriculture using low cost amendments and bioremediation

Biography

Collins Amoah – Antwi holds a Bachelor’s degree in biochemistry from the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Ghana (2009 – 2013). After school, he worked as a laboratory food analyst at the Ghana Standards Authority, as part of a one-year fixed national service programme. He was a Commonwealth Shared Scholarship holder at the Queens University Belfast, UK, where he studied advanced food safety (2015 – 2016). During this period, he conducted his master’s research on measurement of arsenic in rice paddy soils using Diffusive Gradient-in-thin film gradient (DGT) technology at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Nanjing/Xiamen. In December 2016 he graduated from the Advanced Food Safety programme at QUB.

Current Research

Low-technology agricultural management practices have been identified as a key to sustainable agriculture through the use of recyclable waste. Soil organic matter (SOM) is beneficial for improving soil function and fertility, and its content is increased through the application of organic matter. The heterogeneous nature of soils coupled with limited understanding of SOM transformation dynamics hinder reliable modelling to predict the performance of diverse amendments in different soils.

The project aims to develop an amendment programme for marginal and contaminated lands utilizing biochar and brown coal from agro-industrial waste products. The efficiency of these amendments will be tested through analysing data from existing long-term field experiments supported (when necessary) by laboratory studies and field trials. Laboratory analyses will be limited to the determination of carbon and nitrogen contents in soil, extraction of humic acids and their qualitative analysis (NMR, EPR, etc.). A field-scale plot will further test the efficiency of studied SOM sources. An expected research output is a generic (semi-quantitative) model developed based on the parameters derived from on-going laboratory and long-term field data from the Experimental Station in Skierniewice, Poland, and other station(s) defined during the realization of the project. It is also expected that the research will be the basis for a PhD thesis and contribute to the advancement of current scientific knowledge in this area. The research will be conducted in cooperation with the INSPIRATION partners: University of Sheffield, UK, Wageningen University, Netherlands and TEAGASC, Ireland.

Supervisory team
Awards
  • Commonwealth Shared Scholarships (Master’s degree) - fully funded award tenable at the Queen’s University Belfast (from September 2015 to September 2016)
  • Fellow
  • Priyanka Banerjee
  • VITO – Flemish Institute for Technological Research
  • Water Management and Technology Department
  • Environmental Modelling Unit
  • Boeretang 200, Mol
  • 2400
  • Belgium
  • Telephone: +3214335150
Priyanka Banerjee
Research Topic

Quantifying the phosphorus flux leaching from field to groundwater and surface water using innovative techniques

Work package

Developing innovative methodologies for measuring fluxes of agricultural chemicals in the subsurface (WP1)

Biography

  • 2011 - 2013 Master of Science - European joint Masters in Management & Engineering of Energy & Environment (ME3). Joint degree from 3 Universities: Ecole des Mines de Nantes, France; Universidad Politécnica de Madri, Spain & KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Sweden (Erasmus Mundus Masters)
  • 2006 - 2010 Bachelor of Technology - Chemical Engineering, National Institute of Technology, Durgapur, India
  • Academic experience:
  • 2014 - 2016 Researcher, VU University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands
  • 2013 Master Thesis, Energy research Centre of the Netherlands (ECN), the Netherlands
  • 2010 - 2011 Researcher, Department of Materials chemistry, Stockholm University, Sweden
  • 2011 Researcher, Department of theoretical chemistry, Lund University, Sweden
  • Current Research

    Phosphorus (P), a limiting nutrient in the water bodies, often exceeds its (ecological) threshold limits in many European freshwater lakes, reservoirs and small streams thereby resulting in algal blooms causing eutrophication. P losses through agriculture is believed to be the major cause of eutrophication. There is substantial research since the 1980s to improve the understanding of the origin and provenance of P loads in surface water and its transport from agricultural land to surface water. Without exception, almost all the studies classified P loads in surface waters coming either from (1) industrial point sources, (2) agricultural diffuse sources, or (3) agricultural surface runoff and drain flow. Based on these studies, policies were implemented to reduce the P fertilizer inputs in agricultural soil, but the surface water quality on a larger scale still remains to be moderate. Hence it is unclear if the primary action plan from EU’s policies to tackle eutrophication by reducing P fertilization by lowering the fertilizer application standards is really an effective tool or not.

    It is still a common paradigm among practitioners to think of P as immobile in groundwater due to adsorption and chemical bonding with other existing minerals to form complex metal compounds. But this notion is incorrect in regions which are characterised by the presence of sandy soils and have huge historical P accumulation over decades. In such conditions, leaching might be the main contributor to P loading on ground and in surface water. Although there is a vast literature behind P mobility in soil and surface water, surprisingly, there is very limited quantitative understanding of P transport fluxes in the groundwater. The scarcity of data on P-fluxes in groundwater certainly limits considerations in the aspect of solving the eutrophication problem. This proves the urgency in developing an alternative methodology to accurately measure P leaching losses which will effectively estimate the P loads to ground and surface waters. To do this, good understanding and accurate quantification of P-fluxes in the groundwater would be the key requirements.

    Till now, groundwater pollution has been mostly measured in terms of solute concentration, but mass flux and mass discharge calculations are essential to completely understand and estimate the groundwater contamination hence helping in quantifying and monitoring the excess nutrients. This research will focus on the execution and interpretation of flux measurements to estimate P losses from soil leaching in groundwater. Hereby, different conventional and innovative measurement techniques like the “iFLUX sampler” developed in collaboration between VITO and University of Antwerp will be applied and compared. Ultimately, this doctoral study aims at bridging the existing knowledge gap with respect to P transport from agricultural soils through leaching by providing complete understanding and correct quantification of P fluxes in groundwater.

    Supervisory team
    Publications and research outputs
    • Journal articles:
    • M. M. Hatlo, P. Banerjee, J. Forsman, and L. Lue, J. (2012). Density functional theory for Yukawa fluids, Journal of Chemical Physics, 137, 064115

    • Conference proceedings:
    • Kunming, China (2016) - International Phosphorus Summit. Title: Drivers and Barriers in technology adoption of phosphorus recovery technologies

      Berlin, Germany (2015) - European Sustainable Phosphorus Conference ESPC2. Title: Crossing the “Valley of Death” for phosphorus recovery technologies

      Awards
      • 2011 - 2013 Erasmus Mundus Scholar selected by the European Commission to be in the top 3 among 1500+ worldwide applicants for the Erasmus Mundus Masters
      • Teaching experience

        2014 –2016 Group Coach/Tutor, Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam

        • 2 Bachelors Course (6 ECTS) - Enterprising Regions in Faculty of Organizational Sciences

        • 1 Masters Course (6 ECTS) - Project Sustainable Future for Phosphorus in the Faculty of Science

    • Fellow
    • Izabela Bujak
    • Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research – UFZ
    • Department: Catchment Hydrology
    • Theodor-Lieser-Str. 4
    • Halle/Saale, 06120
    • Germany
    • Telephone: +49 345/5585411
    Izabela Bujak
    Research Topic

    Integrative isotopes techniques for quantifying nutrient fate and transport across agricultural landscapes

    Work package

    Predicting catchment-scale nutrient and contaminant fluxes between environmental compartments

    Biography

    Previous Education

    2015-2016 Postgraduate Diploma in Occupational Health, Safety and Environmental Management, Cracow University of Technology, Cracow (Poland)

    2014-2016 MSc in Environmental Protection, Specialization: Protection of Soil-Water Systems, AGH University of Science and Technology, Cracow (Poland), Thesis: "Combined aquifer thermal energy storage and groundwater remediation."

    2010-2014 BSc in Environmental Protection, AGH University of Science and Technology, Cracow (Poland), Thesis: "The use of selected groups of microorganisms in biofuel production."

    Professional experience

    2015 Regional GIS Instructor, SmallGIS Sp. z o.o., Poland: Conducting training on the GIS Software usage for polish municipalities

    2015 Spatial Data Verifier, SmallGIS Sp. z o.o., Poland: Verification of municipality work results in the area of spatial development and GIS usage

    Current Research

    The aim of the research is to quantify C and N transport between compartments and scales in agricultural catchments, considering relevant hydrological and biochemical processes, using hydrogeochemical and stable isotope techniques. The research will use laboratory, field and modelling studies to quantify biogeochemical processes and recognize hot spots, hot moments and functional zones controlling nutrient fate at catchment scale. The results will help to improve state-of-the-art stable isotope methods and to develop multi-isotope based, smart, adaptive monitoring strategies for the assessment of nutrient flux dynamics in catchments affected by intensive agriculture.

    Supervisory team
    Teaching experience

    2015 - Regional GIS Instructor, SmallGIS Sp. z o.o., Poland: Conducting training on the GIS Software usage for polish municipalities

    • Fellow
    • Julia von Chamier
    • Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research – UFZ
    • Department: Catchment Hydrology
    • Theodor-Lieser-Str. 4
    • Halle/Saale, 06120
    • Germany
    • Telephone: +49 345/5585411
    Julia von Chamier
    Research Topic

    Isotope techniques for process and performance assessment of nutrient treatment in bioreactors and land drainage systems

    Work package

    Mitigation of soil and groundwater impacts from agriculture using mixed waste media

    Biography
    • 2003 Apprenticeship and Work Experience as Car Mechatronic Engineer at VW & AUDI, Schwelm – Germany
    • 2010 Bachelor of Science in Landscape Management and Nature Conservation at University for Sustainable Development, Eberswalde – Germany
    • 2011 Practical Semester - Siyafunda Wildlife and Conservation, Hoedspruit – South Africa
    • 2012 Student Assistant at Leibnitz Centre for Agricultural Landscape Research (ZALF), Müncheberg – Germany
    • 2013 Master of Science in Natural Resources Management and Ecological Engineering at University of Natural Resources and Life Science, Vienna – Austria & Lincoln University, Lincoln – New Zealand
    • 2015 Research Assistant at Austrian Institute of Technology GmbH (AIT), Tulln – Austria
    Current Research

    Agriculture is the major anthropogenic constituent of reactive N (Nr) loadings due to the application of organic and synthetic fertilizer, sewage sludge, crop residues and cultivation of N2-fixing crops. Thereby the balance of natural N-sources and N-attenuation has been violated putting ecosystems at risk of eutrophication and thereby accelerating the loss of ecosystem services. The remarkable lack in response and very slow decline of Nr from agroecosystems requires the creation of low-cost and sustainable in-situ treatment technologies. In-field denitrifying bioreactors (or permeable reactive interceptors) can intercept Nr loads from drainage systems and thereby prevent further transport from agricultural land into nearby ecosystems. In order to investigate Nr sources and attenuation pathways from land to water, stable isotopic composition of N species (ammonium, nitrate, nitrite and nitrous oxide) will be used to investigate N-dynamics and transformation processes (uptake, nitrification, denitrification, assimilation). I aim to develop and apply a dual isotopic (N-15 and O-18) monitoring approach which is suitable for different spatial scales (farm-scale catchment to denitrifying bioreactor). In-depth understanding of biological driven N attenuation will enable to better constrain transformation in soil and receiving waters and will be vital for construction and performance assessment of denitrifying bioreactors.

    In close cooperation with Teagasc research centre – the agriculture and food development authority in Ireland I aim to detect, distinguish and quantify microbiological processes in anaerobic conditions in column experiments which mimic small denitrifying bioreactors. This knowledge is then applied to design and assess process and performance of an in-field bioreactor implemented in an open drain of an intensive beef and dairy farm. In the end, guidelines to assess the success and limitation of a nutrient recycling method such as denitrifying bioreactors in drains is to be developed.

    In the end, guidelines to assess the success and limitation of a nutrient recycling method such as denitrifying bioreactors in drains is to be developed.

    Supervisory team
    Publications and research outputs
    • Journal articles:
    • Soja, G.; Wimmer, B.; Rosner, F.; Faber, F.; Dersch, G.; von Chamier, J.; Pardeller, G.; Ameur, D.; Keiblinger, K.; Zehetner, F. (2017): Compost and biochar interactions with copper immobilisation in copper-enriched vineyard soils. Submitted to Applied Geochemistry

    • Conference proceedings:
    • ELLS Scientific Student Conference 2016 – oral presentation: Effects of biochar and compost amendments on the fluxes of copper in contaminated vineyard soils to leachate and plant tissues

    • Fellow
    • Polyxeni Damala
    • Geolys SPRL
    • Telephone: +32 (0) 488 03 30 25
    Polyxeni Damala
    Research Topic
    Development of adequate sensors for monitoring nitrate (or other agrichemicals of interest) in groundwater.

    Work package

    Development of innovative methodologies for measuring fluxes of agricultural chemicals in the subsurface.

    Biography

    I hold a Diploma in Chemical Engineering and a Postgraduate Diploma of Specialization in Water Resources from the National Technical University of Athens (NTUA). My postgraduate thesis is focused on the natural wastewater treatment systems in developing countries. I have worked for over two years as a junior researcher in the Unit of Environmental Science & Technology of NTUA. My main tasks and responsibilities included field work (monitoring the performance of two pilot membrane bioreactors for industrial wastewater treatment), laboratory analysis of waste and wastewater samples, drafting of technical reports and publications as well as drafting of EU funded project proposals. My main fields of interest are the management of water resources, the treatment of waste and wastewater, the application of sustainable development principles and the exploration of ways to address the pressing environmental challenges we face today.

    Current Research

    The main focus of this research project is the development and application of a monitoring device that will detect and monitor continuously agricultural contaminants (nitrate and/or other agrichemicals) in the groundwater. The existing methodologies and tools for monitoring the contaminant fluxes in the subsurface and groundwater allow either “snap‐shot” retrieval or cumulative (passive) sampling of the contaminants. The monitoring device to be developed will enable to recover a time series of groundwater and contaminant fluxes in order to better evaluate their variability with time. This is particularly important in the agricultural context where time variations in recharge processes and piezometry often strongly influence the mass fluxes of agrichemicals to and in the groundwater. The main steps of the research are: (1) Selection of the appropriate technique for the monitoring of the agricultural pollutants of interest and development of the sensor in the laboratory. The sensor will be initially tested at laboratory scale with synthetic and/or groundwater water samples. (2) Development of the monitoring unit to be deployed in the field. In this step, feedback from the previous step will be used and instructions will be given to Citius Engineering Team who will participate in the assembling and development of the unique device. (3) Implementation of multiple field tests with the monitoring device in order to better understand the dynamics of pollutant fluxes in the groundwater. This step will also enable the estimation of contaminant travel times from several locations in the agriculturally impacted catchment under investigation.

    Supervisory team
    Publications and research outputs
    • Journal articles:
    • P. Damala (2015) Natural Wastewater Treatment Systems and Wastewater Reuse in Agriculture, Hellenic Society for the Protection of Nature (Non-Governmental Organization), vol. 151, p. 10 – 13, Available online at: http://eepf.gr/el/fysi-periodiko/t151 (Greek language)

      Valta, K., Damala, P., Panaretou, V. et al. (2016) Review and Assessment of Waste and Wastewater Treatment from Fruits and Vegetables Processing Industries in Greece, Waste Biomass Valor, DOI: 10.1007/s12649-016-9672-4.

      Valta, K., Damala, P., Orli, E., Papadaskalopoulou, C., Moustakas, K., Malamis, D. & Loizidou M. (2015) Valorisation opportunities related to wastewater and animal by-products exploitation by the Greek slaughtering industry: current status and future potentials, Waste Biomass Valor, 6:927–945, DOI: 10.1007/s12649-015-9368-1.

    • Conference proceedings:
    • P. Damala, E. Katsou, J. Novakovic, K. Chatzikonstantinou, G. Karathanasi, A. Patsia and S. Malamis, Application of Membrane Bioreactor (MBR) for the treatment of textile wastewater, Conference Proceedings, International Conference on "Industrial Waste & Wastewater Treatment & Valorisation", 21 – 23 May 2015, Athens.

      P. Damala, K. Valta, K. Moustakas, D. Malamis, K.-J. Haralambous, M. Loizidou, Wastewater treatment in Food and Textile Industries located in Greece, Symbiosis International Conference, 19 – 21 June 2014, Athens.

    • Fellow
    • Golnaz Asghari-Ezzati
    • TEAGASC
    • The Agriculture and Food Development Authority
    • Johnstown Castle Environment Research Centre
    • Wexford
    • Ireland
    • Telephone: +353 (0)87 4219273
    Golnaz Ezzati
    Research Topic
    Sustainable treatment technologies using mixed waste media to mitigate agricultural contaminants in land drainage

    Work package

    Mitigation of soil and groundwater impacts from agriculture using mixed waste media

    Biography

    With my BSc degree in Chemical Engineering obtained from my home country, Iran, I got my first MSc degree in Environmental Engineering from University Putra Malaysia. With my keen interest in developing sustainable water/wastewater treatment processes, I developed a laboratory scale biofilter to compare Ammonia removal efficiency between different natural bedding materials. The following year, I was awarded with an ERASMUMS MUNDUS scholarship to get my second MSc degree in Geo information Science and Earth Observation (with specialization in Natural Resource Management) from University of TWENTE in the Netherlands. I developed extensive knowledge for the use of novel remote sensing techniques as well as various statistical modelling skills to monitor, map, and manage natural resources and processes considering their various spatial and temporal scales.

    Current Research

    At present on intensive agricultural sites across the EU, nutrients are being lost to the environment at distinct delivery points. Recent research has identified engineered structures filled with reactive media can control such losses but pollution swapping can be an issue.

    My PhD project will employ a combination of laboratory and field scale experiments for the development of a novel bioreactor technology to control excess nutrients at distinct delivery points e.g. from artificial drainage systems. Initially, a selection of locally sourced biodegradable waste materials across a spectrum of adsorption capacities will be tested at batch scale followed by a controlled laboratory column study utilizing different operational conditions. Such studies will identify the most efficient media for mitigation of mixed contaminants, whilst minimising pollution swapping. After this phase the best performing media will be tested at field scale. In parallel, a model will be developed that aids the design and sizing of field bioreactors but also incorporating pollution swapping concepts.

    The main research activities and all related laboratory and preliminary filed-scale tests will be carried out at the Johnstown Castle Research Centre in Wexford, Ireland. I am registered as a PhD student in NUI-Galway. My ESR11 is linked with ESR12 (TLB), and ESR13 (UFZ). This ESR is also supported by USFD, WUT and EAWAG.

    Supervisory team
    Publications and research outputs
    • Conference proceedings:
    • Ezzati, G., and Asghari, A. (2016, September). The potential of utilizing domestic scale biological filters to purify water and wastewater in rural areas of Iran. In: The 8th National Conference & Exhibition on Environmental Engineering. Tehran, Iran.

      Ezzati, G. (2016, February). Employing high resolution imagery to effectively monitor Caspian Hyrcanian Forest; an umbrella review. In: The First Comprehensive International Congress on Environment. Tehran, Iran.

      Ezzati, G., and Asghari, A. (2016, February). Ammonia removal efficiency of peat against biochar in biofiltration of domestic wastewater. In: The First Comprehensive International Congress on Environment. Tehran, Iran.

    • Technical reports
    • Ezzati, G. (2015, November 10). Green economy, a solution to overcome environmental limitations of planet Earth [in Persian]. Research Center of Environment and Sustainable Development of Iran. Online.

    Awards
    • ERASMUS-MUNDUS full award Scholarship (18-months MSc degree) - Sep 2013- March 2015
    • Fellow
    • Utpal Ghosh
    • T.E. Laboratories Limited
    • Loughmartin Business Park
    • Tullow, County Carlow
    • Ireland
    • Telephone: 00353 (0)59 9152881
    Utpal Ghosh
    Research Topic

    Evaluation of recycling possibilities and performance of media used for mitigation of contaminants in land drainage

    Work package

    Mitigation of soil and groundwater impacts from agriculture using mixed waste media

    Biography

    After completing a bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering from Bengal Engineering and Science University, Shibpur in 2010, I joined a company in the power plant industry and worked there for three years as a site engineer. But my passion for research compelled me to take admission in the Master of Technology program in Environmental Engineering in the Indian Institute of Technology, Guwahati in the year 2014. In my master’s thesis I worked on a project titled “Chemical speciation, bioavailability of heavy metals and compost maturity assessment during rotary drum composting of paper mill sludge”. The aim of the project was to assess the variation in bioavailable and leachable fraction of heavy metals during rotary drum composting. Maturity assessment of compost using spectroscopic (FTIR and Fluorescence) techniques were also performed. I was awarded with the MHRD (Ministry of Human Resources Development) scholarship during my master’s programme.

    Current Research

    With the increase in demand, farming activities have intensified over time and a rapid increase in the application of fertilizers has become inevitable. A major portion of the nitrogen and a smaller fraction of applied phosphorus fertilizer is lost from agricultural fields. The increase in N and P losses from agricultural fields are concomitant with the increased fertilizer application over the time. Recent research has identified that some natural and industrial by-products filled in reactors as filter media, is efficient in reducing nutrient pollution from agricultural runoff.

    The main aim of the current research is to identify locally sourced waste materials with potential nutrient adsorption capacity through laboratory scale batch studies followed by laboratory scale column studies. These recognized adsorbents will then be tested in field scale studies. This project is also aimed at assessing the recycling possibilities of saturated filter media used in nutrient removal. Application of saturated filter media in agricultural fields as fertilizer is an emerging and efficient technique of nutrient recycling. The plant availability of the nutrients will be determined by chemical extraction and pot experiment in the laboratory and then the prospective media will be applied in agricultural land for testing suitability. Further, leaching potential of the retained nutrients will also be measured using a rainfall simulator.

    Supervisory team
    Publications and research outputs
    • Journal articles:
    • Hazarika, J., Ghosh, U., Kalamdhad, A. S., Khwairakpam, M., & Singh, J. (2017). Transformation of elemental toxic metals into immobile fractions in paper mill sludge through rotary drum composting. Ecological Engineering, 101, 185-192.
    • Fellow
    • Alexandra Giber
    • IWW Water Centre
    • Justus-von-Liebig-Straße 10
    • Biebesheim am Rhein, 64584
    • Germany
    • Telephone: +49 208 40303 616
    Alexandra Giber
    Research Topic
    Quantitative delineation of sediment-based nitrate reduction potential at catchment-scale and integration within reactive transport models

    Work package

    Predicting catchment-scale nutrient and contaminant fluxes between environmental compartments

    Biography

    My educational background includes M.Sc. Engineering Hydrogeologist from University of Miskolc, Hungary and B.Sc. in Earth Sciences (Geology) from Eötvös Loránd University in Budapest, Hungary. The topic of my master thesis was the determination of transport parameters of waste dumps of Rudabánya, Hungary using columns tests. Before the Marie Curie ITN Project, I participated in remediation projects at an environmental company in Hungary.

    Current Research

    The research is focused on the quantitative determination of NO3 reduction potential and kinetics in sediments at catchment scale using hydrochemical, isotopic and in-situ monitoring concepts (links to ESR3, ESR4, https://www.ufz.de, http://www.eawag.ch). Another interest in the research is the development of validated process-based models to predict of NO3 trends and to optimize the spatial distribution of monitoring, required by the WFD (links to ESR5, ESR13, http://www.eawag.ch, https://www.ufz.de).

    The main objectives of this work:

    • - to build a database about NO3 reduction rates and stable isotope fractionation factors for catchment sediments
    • - to build a monitoring network for the automated recording of redox front propagation in the field, using isotopes in water/soil
    • - to build a 3D catchment model with spatial distribution of conductivities and reactive phases
    • - to investigate the effect of agricultural practices and mitigation measures on NO3 impacts at various scales
    Supervisory team
    Publications and research outputs
    • Conference proceedings:
    • Toth, M., Giber, A., Czinkota, Zs., 2014: Determination of transport parameters of waste dumps of Rudabanya in column tests In: Zsigmond A., Szigyarto I., Szikszai A. (2014): X. Carpathian Basin Conference on Environmental Science, 232-236.

      Bors, V., Giber, A., Józsa, S., Lévai, E., Micsinai, D., Molnár, M., Szabó, Zs., Varga, M., Vígh, Cs., 2009: Geological studies on Pleistocene rubble of Palaeo Danube in Carpathian Basin. Acta Minerologica-Petrographica-Abstract Series, 515.

    • Fellow
    • Olha Nikolenko
    • University of Liège
    • Urban & Environmental Engineering Research Unit
    • Hydrogeology and Environmental Geology
    • Quartier Polytech 1
    • Allée de la Découverte 9
    • Sart-Tilmann, B-4000
    • Belgium
    • Telephone: +32(0)43662308
    Olha Nikolenko
    Research Topic

    Transfer of GHG in the soil – vadose zone -groundwater-river-atmosphere system

    Work package

    Predicting catchment-scale nutrient and contaminant fluxes between environmental compartments

    Biography

    Olha Nikolenko owns two master degrees: one in Ecology, awarded by the Geological Department of the Ivan Franko Lviv National University (Ukraine, 2009), and another in Ecohydrology, awarded by the Department of Hydrology and Water Resources Research of the University of Kiel (Germany, in 2015). After completing her first master degree she worked as a lecturer at the Natural Sciences College of the Ivan Franko Lviv National University. In 2016 she started to work in the geological group at the LLC “Institute “HIRHIMPROM”. In her master research theses, she was focused on the analysis of the processes of transfer and transformation of nutrients in surface water and groundwater and applied numerical modelling for their quantification.

    Current Research

    In the face of global climate change the problem of inland waters’ contribution to GHGs emission becomes increasingly important, especially in the quantitative aspect. Recent studies suggested that the groundwater system might be a significant source of the GHGs emission occurring on the surface water-atmosphere interface. However, currently the transfer processes of CO2, CH4 and N2O in the subsurface are poorly understood due to the limitations of methodologies for quantifying fluxes and insufficient insight into the kinetics and controls of processes regulating their production, transport and consumption. That is why this project focuses on the study of the groundwater contribution to GHGs emissions from inland waters, with the particular attention to groundwater systems located in agricultural areas that are often considered as a “hotspots” of GHGs evasion. It is expected that spatially distributed regular sampling of groundwater across the areas of interest at different depths along the vertical profile (i.e. unsaturated and saturated zones) and along the groundwater flow path (including the groundwater-surface water interface) will be conducted in the framework of this research. Furthermore, stable isotope techniques will be applied in order to analyze the dynamics of greenhouse gases production and consumption. Groundwater modelling techniques will be used in order to estimate temporal variations of groundwater GHGs fluxes. As a result, this project could help to develop methodologies for the quantification greenhouse gases budgets and obtain valuable information regarding the dynamics of GHGs transfer in the groundwater systems and its controls.

    Supervisory team
    • Fellow
    • Gisela Quaglia
    • VITO – Flemish Institute for Technological Research
    • Environmental Modelling Unit
    • Boeretang 200 Mol
    • 2400
    • Belgium
    • Telephone: +3214335139
    Gisela Quaglia
    Research Topic
    Developing a framework to establish cost-effective measures to reduce pesticide impacts on a catchment-scale

    Work package

    Sustainability of agricultural management strategies at the catchment-scale

    Biography
    Previous Education

    2013 – 2016 M. Sc. Environmental Protection and Agricultural Food Production University of Hohenheim, Stuttgart, Germany

    1997 – 2002 Chemical Engineer Buenos Aires Institute of Technology (ITBA), Buenos Aires, Argentina

    Professional Experience

    2014-2016 Teaching and research assistant, University of Hohenheim, Germany

    2002-2013 Various positions in Marketing, Technical Support and Supply Chain in the Agrochemical Division in YPF S.A., Argentina

    Current Research

    Under the Water Framework Directive, EU Member States should organise cost-effective measures to ensure sufficient quantity of good-quality water available for people’s needs and the environment. Pollution from agricultural activities is diffused in the environment often without treatment or targeted mitigation. Mitigation measures, like vegetated buffer strips, constructed wetland, riparian buffer strips, can minimise the risk of off-site water pollution caused by spray drift, drain flow and runoff. The effectiveness of measures was tested mostly at field level. There is need to scale up knowledge from farm level to catchment level and contribute to a better management of natural resources.

    This research will evaluate the effect of different measures in multiple locations in a catchment setting. How to target actions and to identify priority areas will be analyzed through the development of a GIS-based methodology providing valuable information prior to the setup of a program. The effectiveness of several mitigation measures implemented in a catchment will be assessed from long-term monitoring datasets from a study site in Belgium.

    The overall main goal of this study is to build a decision-support framework coupling an environmental model with an economic model to select the most cost-effective measures to reach a certain pesticide reduction goal at the outlet of a catchment. This tool will be used to compare and spatially optimise scenarios balancing environmental and agro-economic impacts at the catchment scale.

    Supervisory team
    Awards

    2015 Dr Hermann Eiselen-Foundation grant for a research stay in Thailand for the master thesis.

    Teaching Experience

    2014 –2016 Teaching Assistant, University of Hohenheim, Germany

  • - for the computer exercises of modules: ‘Environmental Modelling’ and ‘Spatial Data Analysis with GIS.'
  • - for the practical part of the module ‘Ecotoxicology and Environmental Analytics.'
    • Fellow
    • Max Ramgraber
    • Eawag
    • Dep. Water Resources & Drinking Water Department
    • Hydrogeology Research Group
    • Switzerland
    • Telephone: +41 587655620
    Max Ramgraber
    Research Topic
    Smart monitoring of anthropogenic groundwater contamination – Numerical Modelling

    Work package

    Predicting catchment-scale nutrient and contaminant fluxes between environmental compartments

    Biography

    I studied Geoscience during my Bachelor at the University of Kiel, Germany, with a focus on numerical modelling and hydrogeology. My Bachelor studies further encompassed a ten-week research internship at Anna University, Chennai, India, on the modelling of solute transport beneath a mining tailings pond. Aspiring to specialize in this field, I continued my studies in the program Applied & Environmental Geoscience at the University of Tübingen, Germany. My master thesis investigated the potential use of trees in the coastal region of Israel for the reconstruction of historical groundwater salinization. I joined this ITN as an Early Stage Researcher at Eawag, Dübendorf, in December 2016, and am officially enrolled at the University of Neuchâtel as a PhD student.

    Current Research

    Within this project I will create a numerical groundwater flow and transport model for a catchment in Switzerland. This model will tie into the work done by Robin Weatherl (ESR 4) in a joint effort to create an adaptive site monitoring scheme for urban and agricultural contaminants, creating the basis for better sensor placement and the identification of potential contamination source zones. At later stages, the nitrogen flux dynamics identified by Izabela Bujak (ESR 3) might be included into the reactive transport section of the model. During this project I intend to create a finite element model of the catchment using Feflow, which will later be replaced by (and serve as a benchmark for) an analytic element model. The final model should be capable of reverse reactive transport and particle tracking without a-priori knowledge of zones of special interest. My current work focuses on the delineation of reasonable Neumann boundary conditions for the study catchment. In the near future I plan to explore the potential of microbial fuel cells as biosensors under field conditions.

    Supervisory team
    Awards

    Aug. 2014 – Oct. 2014.: DAAD RISE (Research Internship in Science and Engineering) scholarship

    Teaching Experience

    WS 2015/2016: Tutor for M.Sc. module Hydrogeology (University of Tübingen, Prof. Olaf Cirpka)

    • Fellow
    • Bastian Saputra
    • Groundwater Protection and Restoration Group, Kroto Research Institute
    • North Campus, University of Sheffield
    • Broad Lane
    • Sheffield , S3 7HQ
    • United Kingdom
    • Telephone: +44 (0) 114 22 25786
    Bastian Saputra
    Research Topic
    Developing Biosensors as smart monitoring tools to assess the restoration performance of biochar amended soil

    Work package

    Restoring marginal land for agriculture using low cost amendments and bioremediation (work package 3)

    Biography

    Bastian graduated from Institute Technology of Bandung (ITB) with BSc in Microbiology in 2011 focusing on the coal bio-solubilisation by white-rot fungus, Phanerochaete chrysosporium. After completing his undergraduate, he worked as Bioremediation Engineer with main responsibility to manage and engineer the bioremediation program for drilling cutting waste generated from onshore oil and gas rigs. He also has experience as Waste Water Treatment Engineer focusing on microbiological treatment of waste water generated from industries in Indonesia. He gained his MSc in Environmental and Energy Engineering at the University of Sheffield in 2016 under the supervision of Professor William Zimmerman focusing on the application of Microbubble Technology to enhance the production of Acetaldehyde and Ethanol from Zymomonas mobilis fermentation.

    Current Research

    Biosensor is an emerging field in sensing technology which is very useful to measure the bioavailability of pollutants compared to conventional methods. It also offers rapid, simple, flexible, and sensitive analysis of pollutant. Biochar is porous carbon material produced from biomass pyrolysis resulting in large surface area and high porosity to retain organic or inorganic pollutants. It is very potential to be applied as simple and low cost remediation technology to restore the contaminated soil.

    The objective of this research is to develop biosensor-based methodology to measure the bioavailability of heavy metals (HMs) and Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) in contaminated soil treated by biochar. This research will be conducted at lab and field scale. The lab experiment will involve molecular biology approach (e.g DNA extraction, amplification and cloning) to develop the whole cell-based biosensor using strains of microorganisms exposed to HMs and PAHs noting their metabolic responses. The genes which regulate these responses in the identified microorganisms will be characterised and fused with selected luminescence genes to create the biosensor. Another approach by using Fluorescent Resonance Energy Transfer (FRET) sensor also will be conducted. Then the developed biosensor will be tested in field trials to measure its robustness and sensitivity level. The field trial will use plant growth in contaminated soils treated with different biochar types. Sampling and monitoring of bioavailable pollutants by the biosensor, the associated microbial activity, and plant growth will be undertaken during the treatment progress to validate the methodology. This biosensor methodology can then be used to assess the restoration performance of biochar applications in contaminated soil remediation.

    Supervisory team
    Awards

    Scholarship Award from Indonesia Education Endowment Fund, Ministry of Finance, Indonesia (2015)

    Best Dissertation Poster Competition (3rd place), Dept.of Chemical & Biological Engineering, University of Sheffield and Energy Institute (2016)

    • Fellow
    • Rosa Isabel Soria Penafiel
    • The University of Sheffield
    • Department of Civil and Structural Engineering
    • Groundwater Protection and Restoration Group
    • Kroto Research Institute
    • Telephone: +44(0)114222 5786
    Rosa Soria
    Research Topic

    Biorestoration of contaminated soil using biochar to enhance the productivity of degraded land

    Work package

    Restoring marginal land for agriculture using low cost amendments and bioremediation (WP3)

    Biography

    My concern about the deterioration of the environment and the need to find solutions motivated me to study Biotechnology Engineering at the University of the Army Forces (ESPE) in my home country, Ecuador. My Bachelor thesis focused on bioremediation of crude oil polluted soils from the Ecuadorian amazon using wild bacterial strains. After graduation, I worked for 2 years in private companies as a consultant for biological waste water treatment as well as bioremediation processes. In 2012, I got a scholarship offered by SENESCYT (Ecuador) to study a Masters degree in Environmental Sanitation at the University of Ghent in Belgium, where I specialised towards water technologies. My Masters thesis explored carbon stock estimation in aboveground biomass of reforested areas in Ecuador. After finishing my Masters degree on 2014, I went back to Ecuador, where I worked as lecturer at Universidad Tecnica del Norte, until becoming an early stage researcher in the Inspiration network.

    Current Research

    Current population growth, as well as the industrialization is causing more pressure over agricultural land production. The intensification of agriculture is needed, however it is impossible to deny the negative effects it may cause: changes in soil structure and chemistry as well as a major shift in biological activity. It is necessary to identify low cost solutions that can improve soil productivity and bio-restore contaminated land. Under the framework of work package 3, this project aims to assess the effect of biochar as soil amendment, as well as a to evaluate the potential for it to be used in remediation of heavy metal polluted soils. The project has 4 stages, 1) literature analysis, 2) sorption experiments to determine sorption capacities and kinetics with different heavy metals and desorption patterns, 3) laboratory incubations to determine the effectiveness of biochar to improve soil quality under lab conditions. In this stage, the biosensor developed by ESR 9 will be used as well as SOM amended soil samples provided by ESR 10 from the University of Warsaw in Poland; 4) field trials will be developed for 4 months to evaluate the success of biochar under environmental conditions (collaboration of ESR 9 is expected).

    The expected outcomes of this project are:

  • • To develop a performance criterion for the selection and use of biochars considering effects on soil biota, bioavailabilty of contaminants and end point/objectives
  • • Field scale verifications, settings and soil conditions
  • • Methodology to improve productivity of contaminated, SOM-poor marginal soil using biochar.
  • Supervisory team
    Publications and research outputs
    • Journal articles:
    • Armijos V., Santander D., Soria R., Pazmiño M., Echeverría M. (2016)A whole genome analysis reveals the presence of a plant PR1 sequence in the potato pathogen Streptomyces scabies and other Streptomyces species, Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution, in press, Accepted Manuscript, Available online 12 August 2016 at:

      http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1055790316301993

    Awards
  • 2005-2008 Academic scholarship offered by the University of the Army Forces to develop undergraduate studies, Quito-Ecuador
  • 2012-2014 Scholarship offered by the SENESCYT (Ecuadorianl Secretary of Higher Education, Science and Technology) to develop a Master degree in Environmental Sanitation at Ghent University (Belgium)
  • Teaching experience

    Full time Lecturer at Universidad Tecnica del Norte (Ecuador), given courses: Environmental Biotechnology, Microbiology, Environmental Impact Assessment, Environmental Audit. Academic Coordinator of the Biotechnology Program

    • Fellow
    • Robin Weatherl
    • EAWAG
    • Water Resources and Drinking Water
    • Hydrogeology Research Group
    • Telephone: +41 58 765 5753
    Robin Weatherl
    Research Topic

    Smart monitoring of anthropogenic groundwater contamination – site investigation concepts

    Work package

    Predicting catchment-scale nutrient and contaminant fluxes between environmental compartments

    Biography

    I grew up in Houston, Texas and hold a Bachelor degree in Physics from the University of Texas at Austin. After several internships with Total in Pau, France, I enrolled at the University of Liège in Belgium and obtained a Master in Geological Engineering in 2016. During my studies in Liège I focused on projects in Hydrogeology and took the time to learn about commonly used field measurement and monitoring techniques. My master thesis focused on groundwater salinization and SW-GW interactions in the Senegal River delta.

    I joined Eawag in Dübendorf, Switzerland as an Early-Stage Researcher in December 2016. I am jointly enrolled as a PhD student at the University of Neuchâtel, although all of my research will be carried out in Dübendorf. I am looking forward to the research project with Eawag, which focuses on groundwater flow and contamination issues.

    Current Research

    My research focuses on groundwater contamination and transport within a catchment in Switzerland. This area is dominated by urban activity, industrial activity, and vast agricultural fields (crops, orchards, and pastures). A significant portion of the municipal water supply is extracted directly from the aquifer below the city, with multiple extraction wells located in the city limits.

    My objective is to characterize the study area by collecting data using various hydrogeological field techniques. A number of new piezometers must be installed for measurement points. One of the most important aspects of this work will be to design and implement an adaptive sensor network that will have the capability to collect temporally pseudo-continual parameters of interest and include an automatic sampler. This will ideally be a wireless network that can communicate between nodes and transmit data automatically to a given server. This sensor network will have the potential to collect data on hydrodynamics, hydrochemistry, geophysics, and microbial activity, among other parameters. Traditional field methods (slug tests, hydrogeophysics, sampling campaigns, core analysis, etc.) and lab measurements (ionic analyses) will supplement this sensor network. The field aspect of this project will be carried out in partnership with a numerical modeling aspect led by Maximilian Ramgraber.

    The expectation is that this aquifer will be properly characterized with flow paths, sources of various contamination, and subsequent behaviour of contaminants. This information can then be used in a move towards more sustainable urban development and agricultural practices.

    Supervisory team
    • Fellow
    • Madaline Young
    • Wageningen University (WU)
    • Environmental Systems Analysis Group
    Madaline Young
    Research Topic

    Development of a decision-making framework for sustainable intensification of agriculture

    Work package

    Sustainability of agricultural management strategies at the catchment-scale

    Biography

    Madaline is originally from a rural community on the east coast of the United States, which helped spark her interest in agriculture and the environment. During her B.Sc. degree at the University of North Carolina, she studied environmental sciences and did a year-long exchange in ecology at Paul Sabatier University in Toulouse, France. With a passion for landscape planning and agriculture, she was led to pursue an M.Sc. degree in Geography and later a second M.Sc. in Agro- and Ecosystems Engineering at the University of Leuven in Belgium. Her research has focused on GIS, agricultural land use, livestock mapping, and soil and crop science, including periods of field work in East Africa. Outside the academic sphere, Madaline has had professional experiences as a biology technician, in farm and community outreach, working for a start-up company in green building and energy research, as a GIS intern, and as an English-language proof-reader.

    Current Research

    Many issues emphasize the need for integrated management strategies to allow agriculture to intensify sustainably. These include, among others, a growing population, increasing fertilizer use, and environmental degradation. The objective of this project is to develop a spatially-explicit decision making framework, integrating technical options and actors at relevant scales for the selection of management approaches that minimize agricultural impacts on soil and groundwater. As part of WP5, collaboration will take place with ESR15 and VITO.

    The first objective is to derive sustainability indicators and critical values from literature with the purpose of evaluating management strategies in terms of organic matter, nutrients, and metals, based on local agro-ecosystem properties and as a function of time. Sustainability indicators will address environmental quality, with a focus is on carbon, phosphorus, and nitrogen cycles, as well as compaction. To quantify impacts, a meta-analysis or model approach will be used to develop simple algorithms coupling management strategies (fertilization, crop rotation, and leaching or runoff) to impacts (soil carbon, phosphate, nitrogen, and compaction). The second objective is a flexible model framework integrating the indicators using multi-criteria analysis to evaluate soil and nutrient management, with the goal of maximizing agricultural intensification (fertilizer use efficiency, crop yields, land use) and minimizing negative environmental externalities. The final task is the creation of a user-adaptable optimization technique spanning spatial and temporal scales to select management options. It will be tested in a specific spatial context, for the end result of a dynamic on-line decision support system for stakeholders and policymakers.

    Supervisory team

    Beneficiaries

    Partner Organisations