By Sally Brown, University of Washington
Research has always been a critical component of the work of Northwest Biosolids. That research has provided critical insights into how to best use biosolids including both optimizing benefits and minimizing risks. What is often overlooked however, is the importance of the people who actually do the research. At the University of Washington, graduate students are the ones who do most of the heavy lifting on the research. They are getting their hands in the dirt or ‘cake’ on a daily basis. These students come to Biofest and present their research. They interact with members of the association over microbrews- sometimes overlooking hotel policy etiquette, other times not. Not only does this get them graduate degrees, it gives them critical, practical first- hand knowledge of biosolids. It also gives our community access to a trained pool of professionals who are already members of our community. One of the reasons that biosolids programs are so strong in this region is this network of former students. Here is a look at just a few offshoots from the University of Washington (UW).
Chuck Henry - Chuck started his work on biosolids with Dale Cole after attending a symposium on forest application of biosolids. He went on to work with forest application at Pack Forest - the UW research forest. From there he worked for many decades on forest application, nitrogen cycling, and heavy metal availability as a professor at UW. Chuck was there for the beginning of NBMA and the first ever SludgeFest meeting.
While at UW, Chuck had a long list of graduate students including Mark Cullington (Kennedy Jenks), Daniel Thompson (former head of WA DOE biosolids program) and Sean Smukler (https://www.landfood.ubc.ca/sean-smukler/), now a professor at University of British Columbia.
Cole, D., C. Henry and W. Nutter, eds. 1986. The Forest Alternative for Treatment and Utilization of Municipal and Industrial Wastewater and Sludge. University of Washington Press, Seattle, WA.
Henry, C., and D. Cole. 1994. Biosolids Utilization in Forest Lands. IN Sewage sludge: Land Utilization and the Environment. ASA-CSSA-SSSA, Madison, WI.
Henry, C., D. Sullivan, R. Rynk, K. Dorsey, and C. Cogger. 1999. Managing Nitrogen from Biosolids. WDOE Pub. No. 99-508. Olympia, WA.
Dana Devin-Clarke - Dana came to UW from OSU. Her research focused uptake of nonlyphenol by wheat grown in biosolids amended soil. She came terrified of public speaking. Dan Eberhardt timed her for her first few Biofest presentations and was proud when she slowed down enough so people could understand her. Dana got two MS degrees, one from Forestry and one from Engineering. She went on to work with Steve Wilson at Brown and Caldwell and currently works with Mark Cullington at Kennedy Jenks. She is a regular at Biofest and continues to focus on biosolids in the Northwest.
Brown, S., D. Devin-Clarke, M. Doubrava, and G.A. O’Connor. 2009. Fate of 4-nonylphenol in a biosolids amended soil. Chemosphere 75:549-554.
Rebecca Singer - Rebecca came back to school after raising her son and supporting her husband through his college degree. After graduating from UW Tacoma she started graduate school at UW. Her work focused on reclaimed water. She looked at the impact of filtering the water through soils on estrogenic potential, metals and nutrients in the water. After graduating she started work with the Department of Ecology, becoming a regional biosolids regulator and then lead regulator. From there she went to King County, taking over as the lead of the biosolids program and now lead of Resource Recovery.
Singer, R. and S. Brown. 2018. Impact of soil filtration on metals, nutrients, and estrogenic activity
of reclaimed water. J. Environ. Qual. 47:1504-1512.
Ryan Batjiaka - Ryan came to UW after graduating with a liberal arts degree from Oberlin College. He had worked in the San Francisco Bay area for a local composter after graduating. His first project at UW was looking at compost use by State DOTs. He compared policies in TX, CA and WA. From there his MS thesis focused on developing a marketable soil product from San Francisco biosolids. Part of his work at UW involved interning at Tagro to see how the Professionals get it done. Petunias were his test crop. He is now a critical member of the San Francisco biosolids program. You can see him at Biofest leading the pack at the Fun run. I am still working on the manuscript from his MS thesis.
This is just a small subset of the many people who have come through the graduate program at UW, funded at least in part by NW Biosolids. While not all students end up working with biosolids full-time, they all end up with a clear common sense attitude towards this resource and with a lifetime membership in the community. This is a model worth copying.