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USF graduate student receives research fellowship

TAMPA, Fla. – Drinkable water in Tampa Bay and surrounding areas has become scarce. Recently, conservation efforts led to using reclaimed water for irrigation purposes and a University of South Florida graduate student received a McKnight Doctoral Fellowship to research its effects.

Viviana Peneula, M.A. is researching how reclaimed water impacts soil in urban areas. Peneula is pursuing a master’s degree in the Department of Integrative Biology.

“When you think about Tampa, you think about water everywhere, but there’s always been a problem getting enough water for the people,” Penuela said. “In the 1970s, St. Petersburg and Clearwater were over pumping drinking water, so local government decided to put a lot of money into water conversation and recycled water.”

Reclaimed water utilizes three treatments in an attempt to remove chemicals, but it is impossible to remove everything. Penuela’s research observes the water implementation for any indication of negative effects on microbes in soil, such as nutritional retention.

She explained that over-enriched soil loses its storage capacity, causing chemicals and nutrients to leak out into the bay, resulting in health hazards for both human and marine life.

The Mcknight Fellowship provides up to 50 fellowships for nine participating universities. Each award covers tuition for participants and provides stipends to support their research. The fellowship will allow Penuela to begin entering the field to collect data from Tampa communities.

Penuela also is looking to see if using the reclaimed water will be beneficial. She explained that this water has the potential to create soil aggregates, which are clumps of soil that hold on to carbon dioxide and decrease emissions as well as prevent the leeching of nutrients.

“I just want to make sure that we’re not doing something awful in an effort to conserve,” Penuela said. “With this research I can inform policy and double check that we aren’t depleting our soil resources.


Filed under:Arts and Sciences Integrative Biology Research   
Author: Victoria Babcock