Loyola University Chicago

Undergraduate Research

Center for Engaged Learning, Teaching, and Scholarship (CELTS)

IES Undergraduate Research Fellows, 2013-14


Michael Floyd

Year: Senior

Major(s): Environmental Science

Mentor: Schmeling, Martina

Department: Chemistry

Project Title: Simulation Modeling of the Development of Air Pollutants in Chicago

Project Abstract: With Lake Michigan bordering Chicago, the city experiences a lake breeze throughout the year, especially during the summer months. It has been hypothesized that a lake breeze has the potential to send an influx of pollutants over the Chicago region.3 Air samples have been collected throughout the summers of 2010-2012 and analyzed using an ion chromatograph. The next step of the investigation is to use a pollution transport model in order to simulate pollutant signatures on a lake breeze day versus a non-lake breeze day. The software that we will be using to model the collected data is called Weather Research and Forecasting ¿ Chemistry Model (WRF-Chem) that brings together meteorology and information including emission, transport, and mixing ratios of aerosols and trace gases.5 The process involves compiling emissions, meteorological, and land use data from organizations including EPA and USGS, setting up a computer code to input this data, and perform post-processing of the outputs of the model to compare the results against our own data. Research done on the lake breeze in Chicago is limited and we hope to further explore the potential relationship between meteorological phenomena and concentrations of local pollutants.


Sean Kelly

Year: Junior

Major(s): Environmental Science

Mentor: Chaudhary, Veer

Department: Environmental Science

Project Title: Mycorrhizal Fungi in Green Roof Soils

Project Abstract: Green roofs provide important ecosystem services to urban areas such as better storm-water management, temperature regulation of buildings, and summer cooling of urban heat islands. However, challenges exist in keeping green roof plants alive and preventing the loss of growing media through runoff. Our research examines the role of arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) fungi, important plant root symbionts, in green roof success. AM fungi have been proven to improve soil stability and provide increased plant cover, but their role in green roofs is unknown. Do green roofs at LUC contain AM fungi? If AM fungi are present, what beneficial ecosystem functions are they are providing? We will measure the abundance of AM fungi and determine what services they provide, if any, in green roof systems. This study is the first of its kind and is essential for improving the efficacy of green roofs. Research that addresses the challenges to green roofs at LUC could potentially improve the success of green roofs throughout Chicago and the United States.


Jennifer Kelso

Year: Junior

Major(s): Biology Environmental Studies

Mentor: Vail, Lane

Department: CUERP/Institute of Env Sustainability

Project Title: Using Halophyte Salicornia bigelovii to Purify Biodiesel Washwater

Project Abstract: Loyola's biodiesel lab creates contaminated washwater as a byproduct of biodiesel fuel production. This washwater contains contaminants such as methanol, fatty acids, potassium, calcium, chlorine, and other chemicals. Though this water can be handled by municipal treatment systems in small amounts, placing the burden of our toxic wastewater on the city¿s water treatment system is not ideal. Additionally, as biodiesel production is expected to increase with the launch of the Institute of Environmental Sustainability in fall 2013, the larger amount of washwater created will pose a greater threat. In an effort to purify this washwater, I will test the ability of Salicornia bigelovii, a succulent halophyte plant known to thrive in salty conditions, to decrease the concentration of salts in the washwater, particularly potassium.


Tapas Patel

Year: Senior

Major(s): Biology

Mentors: Lishawa, Shane and Tuchman, Nancy

Department: CUERP/Institute of Env Sustainability

Project Title: From Invasives to Energy: Methane Production Potential of Invasive Plant Species and Food Waste

Project Abstract: Great Lakes coastal wetlands have become dominated by invasive plant species resulting in declining biodiversity and decreased ecosystem stability. Common techniques for managing invasions include burning and spraying herbicide. Controlled burns release CO2 into the air while herbicide treatments recycle nutrients into already overloaded systems and leave behind dead litter, which hinders growth of native plants. Harvesting non-natives is an alternative manage technique. The goal of this study is to determine the suitability of using harvested invasive plant biomass alone and when mixed with food-waste, for biogas production. The specific objectives are to 1) harvest invasive plant biomass and test each species¿ methane production potential in an anaerobic digester and 2) conduct a codigestion experiment where invasive plant material is mixed with food waste. Methane produced from anaerobic digestion can be used as a source of renewable energy. Plant material will be ground up and placed in anaerobic Erlenmeyer flasks containing sludge from a wastewater treatment facility. Plant material will be digested for 28 days, during which time gas production levels will be recorded and samples collected for analysis using a Gas Chromatograph. Codigestion, the digestion of plant material with another waste product, offers an opportunity to turn waste into energy. Overall, this research gives insight into the prospects of producing clean energy while helping to restore invaded wetlands.