The AU Water Resources Center is housed in the Center for Advanced Science, Innovation and Commerce (CASIC) in the Auburn Research Park. The 68,000 square foot building houses 21 research laboratories and five multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary programs in the research areas including ecosystem health forecasting and marine aquaculture; biodiversity ecosystem maintenance; enhancement of commercially important marine species; sensors for detecting biological and chemical contaminants in water; biofuels that support large-scale commercialization; and advanced food safety sensors, including those that monitor and forecast plant and animal health.
The Water Resources Center is on the second floor of the CASIC Building, and includes offices for the center’s staff as well as two modern laboratories: the Watershed Stewardship Lab and the 3-D Printing Biosurfaces Lab.
The Watershed Stewardship Lab conducts microbial/bacterial contamination studies of Alabama’s waters, lake/reservoir eutrophication studies, and stream nutrient and sediment loading studies, stream health assessments. The laboratory is also facilitating the development and evaluation of improved methods for citizen volunteer monitoring in Alabama (through Alabama Water Watch) and globally (through Global Water Watch), and provides technical backstopping/troubleshooting for both the statewide and the international volunteer water quality monitoring programs.
The 3-D Printing Biosurfaces Lab is using cutting-edge processes and technologies to determine the optimal conditions for growing algae. David Blersch, ecological engineer and faculty member in the Biosystems Engineering Department, and his team of researchers are using 3-D printing technology to produce intricate surfaces and testing them as substrates for algal growth. The team is studying how surface materials and textures influence the growth of algal communities. Potential uses include production of fuel, animal feed, human food and as efficient water purifiers since they are voracious consumers of CO2 and nutrients. This last use is the one Blersch and his team are studying in the Biosurfaces Lab.
The Biosurfaces Lab also houses a cutting-edge mass spectrometer, the Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometer (ICP-MS). The ICP-MS is widely used in earth, environmental, engineering, and life fields for quick and accurate multi-elemental analysis and isotope ratio measurements on water, geological (rocks, minerals, sediments, soil) and biological (tissues, plants, bone) samples. For an overview of recent developments and capabilities of ICP-MS coupled with different separation techniques for applications in the fields of quantitative environmental and bio-analysis, click here: ICP-MS review.