Civil environmental researchers look at wetland DNA as possible tool to evaluate storm water treatment

Tuesday, May 3, 2016 | By Lindsay Cashin

Jessica LeNoble retrieving sampling equipment in Lost Lagoon. Photo by Shona Robinson.

Civil MASc student Jessica LeNoble and supervisor Professor Jim Atwater are looking at wetland DNA as a possible tool to evaluate storm water treatment.

Engineered wetlands, like the one next to Vancouver’s Lost Lagoon in Stanley Park, are designed to remove pollutants from storm water runoff before they enter sensitive ecosystems. It’s difficult to tell how well engineered wetlands perform this task, because methods currently used to monitor them are expensive and challenging to optimize thanks to varying rainfall conditions. Civil professor Jim Atwater and graduate student Jessica LeNoble have joined forces with Kerr Wood Leidal Associates, the Stanley Park Ecological Society, and Genome BC to find a better way to monitor the performance of the Lost Lagoon wetland as an engineered water treatment system. By looking at the wetland on a microbial level, they aim to develop a DNA-based tool for monitoring the treatment of storm water, which could help improve management and design practices for engineered wetlands in BC and elsewhere. “This is proof of concept research, student driven and exceedingly exciting,” notes Professor Atwater.

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