Sunflowers for Change

new cross sunflowers

Phytoremediation is the use of plants to save the environment, a method which Bridget Llanes and Bernadette Hardy from the University of New Mexico are highly involved in.  Not far from their hometowns lies a major source of contamination to the surrounding neighborhood known as the Kirtland Air Force Base (KAFB) Jet Fuel Spill. Twenty four million gallons of volatile, carcinogenic chemicals sit five hundred feet below the surface in Albuquerque New Mexico. Continue reading “Sunflowers for Change”



EmSWaT is a term my professor coined that stands for Empowered Sustainable Water Treatment. It sums up methods of purifying water that allow people to be empowered by disinfecting it at home. EmSWaT methods are affordable, safe, and efficient. One of the most efficient EmSWaT methods is something I have worked on this past summer- solar cooking. Solar cooking disinfects small water samples using the sun’s rays. In the lab, two different types of solar cookers were evaluated to find the best shapes and results for disinfecting water. What we found was that the small parabolic cooker had the highest efficiency, utilizing about 6% of the sun’s energy on its best day which allowed it to disinfect water in just 37 minutes. In an average day with sun and partial clouds, this cooker could produce over 16 liters of safe water, which is nearly the water requirement for one person per day (20 L/person/day). Hopefully with further research we can develop a model that produces more than enough water for one person in one day.


According to the World Health Organization, “Globally, there are nearly 1.7 billion cases of diarrhoeal disease every year”. Diarrhea is the number one cause of malnutrition in children under 5. It kills 760,000 children under five years old each year. Diarrheal illness can be caused by contaminated food or water, or lack of sanitation practices. Children come into contact with feces through many routes, like unwashed hands, open sewage, groundwater, or insects. The major route that SODIS closes off is contamination through water. SODIS stands for solar disinfection, and the type of disinfection referred to here is using Polyethelene Terephthalate bottles and UV radiation to kill off bacteria. PET bottles allow sun rays to reach the water without releasing chemicals from the bottle. Several bottles at a time are filled with contaminated water and placed on roofs or tables. After six hours water is safe to drink.  My only concerns are the cost (it appears as though the people who use SODIS were given a donation of PET bottles) and the quantity of clean water that is typically produced with this method. Nevertheless, this is a simple solution that can be easily implemented.

Here is more information: SODIS document.

The image of the SODIS bottle has changed a lot since 1991. Here is a more modern website: Solar Bottle.

Shoutout to Sarah Pieklik

My middle school math teacher went somewhere amazing for her summer break last month. She was selected for a Space Academy Program in Alabama sponsored by Honeywell Educators! While learning some peculiar things about surviving in space flight, Ms. Pieklik also got tips from the experts on how to create captivating curriculum. Here’s the article if you wish to read more: Pieklik goes to Space Academy

Green Lakes and Pratts Falls

At my school, geology is a vastly different subject than environmental engineering. It is a subject that I still have a lot to learn about. Aside from a small fossil collection that has mostly transferred into my algae covered fish tank, I couldn’t tell you much about geology. What I can tell you is that I went to visit the scenic Green Lakes and Pratts Falls on Independence Day weekend. The trail involved a .5 mile hike to Pratts falls. Once there, you can stand across from the falls or stand on a bridge that goes over the top. Like many others, Pratts Falls has been reinforced to prevent any more rock from falling away or receding and to preserve its state.

Green Lakes, on the other hand, involves a lot more history than it lets on. It is even the center of a few scientific studies. The lake is meromictic. This means that after it was created by a melting glacier the water on the top and bottom of the lake did not mix like a normal lake. Instead, the material on the bottom became denser and void of oxygen, which is a prime condition for calcium but not for plants or animals. Fossils survive best in those conditions. The water is very cold and crystal clear-the cerulean blue of the surface is because it is so deep and certain frequencies of light require certain depths. It’s also amazing to swim here when there isn’t a large crowd.



Walk in the Park

So I found out about this blog by an environmental educator in New York State called walkinpark. He had the most modern and clever idea to create minute long clips of each park that he’s been to in New York State. I thought, for the people who can’t get to see all of the falls that are hidden in parts of New York State, this is a great way to explore without actually having to go out and explore. Plus it’s only a minute long, and with my attention span that’s on the dot! If you’re ever wanting to adventure around the various water falls in New York, check out the link.buttermilk falls