UMass Amherst Researchers Studying Microbes in Anaerobic Digesters

At the University of Massachusetts Amherst, Professors Caitlyn Butler and Nick Tooker along with PhD student Sally Cordero have been busy traveling around New England collecting samples, data, and information from anaerobic digesters. They are working with a team of researchers from throughout the world to collect as many samples as possible and ship them to Aalborg University in Denmark. There, researchers will use advanced DNA sequencing techniques to determine which bugs are in the sludge.

Operational data and design information is also being collected to try and correlate specific microbes with specific operating characteristics. This information will ultimately help operators better troubleshoot their systems, and will help engineers design more efficient reactors. Through this study, the researchers will build an improved database of the microbial population in anaerobic digestion and wastewater. The long-term-goal of this type of fundamental research is to improve design and operation of our treatment and resource recovery systems.

A survey of microbes in wastewater treatment systems was recently completed by the same group of researchers, and over one-third of the microbes observed in the samples from that study had previously not been identified! If you are interested in providing anaerobic digester samples and participating in this survey, please contact Nick Tooker (nbtooker@umass.edu).

For the latest on exciting work being done at UMass Amherst, follow Caitlyn (@CButlerLab) and Nick (@nbtooker) on Twitter. For more details about the microbe database project or to learn about specific microbes visit http://www.midasfieldguide.org/