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Lab-Scale Treatment Wetlands: A Model for Undergraduate Learning

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2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Tampa, Florida

Publication Date

June 15, 2019

Start Date

June 15, 2019

End Date

October 19, 2019

Conference Session

Environmental Engineering Division Technical Session 3

Tagged Division

Environmental Engineering

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Paper Authors


Michelle K. Marincel Payne Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology

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Michelle Marincel Payne is an assistant professor in the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology. She completed her Ph.D. in environmental engineering from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, her M.S. in environmental engineering from Missouri University of Science and Technology, and her B.S. in nuclear engineering from the University of Missouri-Rolla. During her graduate studies, Dr. Marincel Payne worked to evaluate the fate of pesticides in drinking water treatment plants, and to develop biomimetic membranes for desalination. Her current interests include undergraduate engineering research and education. Dr. Marincel Payne is co-leading an Undergraduate Research Community to support students learning through research, undergraduate research to remove stormwater pollutants via engineered treatment wetlands, development of courses and research related to appropriate technology with strong emphasis on social sustainability, and frameworks for integrating open-ended problems through students' curricula.

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Because of the efficient treatment processes of wetlands, engineered treatment wetlands are increasingly being used to treat stormwater and wastewater, and especially combined sewer overflows. Constructed treatment wetlands are low-cost, require minimal maintenance, can be implemented in a decentralized fashion, and contribute to ecosystem preservation. All of these reasons have brought treatment wetlands to the forefront for consideration by communities working to reduce combined sewer overflows and improve water quality, especially in small cities and towns with limited resources.

Many of these same reasons motivated us to bring constructed, treatment wetlands into the undergraduate civil and environmental engineering curriculum. Serving as a model for water quality and quantity management, students engaged in hands-on experiences using a small-scale wetlands setup in the <greenhouse name> at <university name>. In independent research projects, undergraduate research students measured water quality parameters including TSS, BOD and nutrients (nitrogen and phosphorus) and optimized removal of various contaminants. In the classroom in Environmental Engineering Laboratory, students measured water quality parameters of various water bodies in the same watershed and researched the impacts of excess nutrients on water quality and economies. Students toured the constructed treatment wetlands and were able to learn directly from a peer who had previously participated in research using the wetlands.

Pre- and post-surveys were conducted to determine the classroom students’ learning about the function of wetlands in improving water quality and stakeholders’ quality of life. Focus groups were conducted for the undergraduate researchers to assess improvements in their abilities to perform the scientific method and their confidence in doing so. Results confirmed that the constructed wetlands served as a model for students to understand the function of low impact design in the environmental engineering field.

The author qualifies for the Early Career Award and would like this paper considered for the award.

Marincel Payne, M. K. (2019, June), Lab-Scale Treatment Wetlands: A Model for Undergraduate Learning Paper presented at 2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Tampa, Florida. 10.18260/1-2--33040

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