IWA’s Tenth Symposium on Off-Flavours in the Aquatic Environment

With support from the WaterInterface IGEP, I recently had the opportunity to give a talk at the International Water Association (IWA) Tenth Symposium on Off-Flavours in the Aquatic Environment, which was held at the National Cheng Kung University in Tainan, Taiwan.

National Cheng Kung University student dancers

National Cheng Kung University student dancers

The conference included speakers from all over the world including: Australia, Canada, China, Denmark, France, Japan, Korea, Singapore, Spain, Taiwan, the UK, and the USA. It is clear to me after attending the conference that taste and odor issues in drinking water are very important to utilities and consumers. Although much progress been made in the past decades to identify and treat causes of tastes and odors, the pressures on freshwater resources from climate change, nutrient/industrial inputs, and increased demand for potable and palatable water all demand a continued emphasis on taste and odor research and corresponding solutions. The final program from the conference with a full list of the topics presented can be viewed here, and the slides from the keynote speakers can be accessed from this link.

Dr. Andrea Dietrich of the Via Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering here at Virginia Tech was invited to give a keynote speech titled “The Chemistry and Qualities of Good Tasting Drinking Water” which was an overview of the way people perceive taste of drinking water globally, how specific minerals impact the taste of a drinking water, how we can measure human perception of the taste of water, and different treatment strategies for utilities.

Dr. Andrea M. Dietrich of Virginia Tech and  Dr. Tsair-Fuh Lin of National Cheng Kung University

Dr. Andrea M. Dietrich of Virginia Tech and Dr. Tsair-Fuh Lin of National Cheng Kung University


My talk was focused on the taste and visual perception of manganese and iron in drinking water and an evaluation of the current global regulations for both of these metals in drinking water. My findings indicated that utilities should aim to remove both manganese and iron to the best of their ability, and below what current guidelines recommend in order to prevent off-colors caused by manganese and off-flavors caused by iron. The research discussed in this talk has been submitted to the International Water Association for publication in the International Water Association’s  Journal of Water Supply: Research and Technology – AQUA.

Dr. Mel Suffet of UCLA and Amanda Sain of Virginia Tech

Dr. Mel Suffet of UCLA and Amanda Sain of Virginia Tech

IGC IGEP Faculty and Students Work in Coal Field Restoration

Dr. Jacob Barney and Dr. Stephen Schoenholtz were recently featured in a VT News article about the Powell River Project. This long-term environmental restoration project in Southwest Virginia is over 30 years old. Dr. Schoenholtz conducted his Ph.D. research there in the late 1980′s, and now his graduate student and current IGC Fellow, Tony Timpano, is continuing to work on the project. Tony is investigating the impacts of salinization on benthic macroinvertebrate communities in Appalachian streams influenced by coal mining. Tony is advised by Dr. Carl Zipper and Dr. Stephen Schoenholtz.

Read the full article about the Powell River Project at VT News:


In the early 1990s a colleague used the word “futurisktic” or at least that’s what I thought I heard. (Note: I tried to give him credit years ago but he claims not to have coined the word).  Anyway, I was intrigued by the word that cleverly combined future and risk and I quickly adopted it for use in my musings about the future and in some of my presentations and publications.

Seth Godin wrote a recent blog in which he argued that “every presentation worth doing has just one purpose” and that is to make change happen.  According to Godin, “change, of course, opens doors, it creates possibilities and it’s fraught with danger and apparent risk.

 Much easier to deny this than it is to embrace it.”  Godin’s advice seems to fit with what I identify as futurisktic.

As a concept, “futurisktic” implies keeping an eye to and a vision for the future with attention to the opportunities and challenges (risks) associated with progress.  Being futurisktic is about change.  It is about embracing risk as an integral aspect of change.  Risk should not be viewed as a negative but risk taking will likely force us out of our comfort zones.  By doing so, it allows us to acknowledge and embrace the meaningfulness and value of change.  I’m not arguing for change simply for change sake or simply taking risks without thought.  Being futurisktic is about pushing ourselves and pushing the limits as is so wonderfully exemplified in the video entitled the future is ours.

Another example among many is the TED talk by Sir Ken Robinson about the learning revolution in which he describes the need for revolution not evolution. To actively engage in transformation and to acknowledge that often what stops us from making progress is the “tyranny of common sense.”  Robinson argues for and encourages us to become active participants in the learning revolution.

These examples are but a few of those that illustrate futurisktic endeavors.  They provide examples of intentional, purposeful and meaningful change – growth, progress and advancement.  We live in a time of rapid change.  As we engage change, I encourage us to be futuristic in our thinking with a willingness to take risks – that is, futurisktic!


New interdisciplinary graduate education program examines the effects of global change

Cathy Jachowski (second from left) is a student in fish and wildlife conservation and a fellow in the Interfaces of Global Change Interdisciplinary Graduate Education Program. Here, she and laboratory technicians collect blood samples from eastern hellbenders. Jachowski monitors stress hormone levels in the giant salamanders, which are considered good indicators of river system health.

Interfaces of Global Change was recently featured in Virginia Tech News

New interdisciplinary graduate education program examines the effects of global change | Virginia Tech News | Virginia Tech.

From the article:

Earth’s biodiversity is like a kaleidoscope made up of distinct plants and animals; however, with each year’s turn, unique and irreplaceable species disappear.

Habitat loss, invasive species, pollution, disease, and climate change are all to blame for the current rate of extinction, which is 1,000 times higher now than before human dominance, according to Bill Hopkins, associate professor of fish and wildlife conservation in the College of Natural Resources and Environment and Fralin Life Science Institute affiliate.

Interfaces of Global Change, a new interdisciplinary graduate education program funded by the Virginia Tech Graduate School, directed by Hopkins, and partially supported by the Fralin Life Science Institute, confronts the problem of Earth’s dwindling biodiversity with a dynamic team of faculty members and doctoral students with diverse perspectives and areas of expertise.

Incoming Ph.D. students from any department who are beginning their doctoral studies are invited to apply to the program; currently, faculty members hail from biological sciences, fish and wildlife conservation, history, biological systems engineering, civil and environmental engineering, urban affairs and planning, entomology, forest resources and environmental conservation, geosciences, and plant pathology, physiology and weed science. Students still receive their Ph.D. degree from their home department, but will focus on global change and the science-policy interface.

“The over-arching goal is to bring a diverse group of people together to discuss how global changes such as pollution, disease, and climate interact to affect the natural world that we depend on, and how we might tackle some of the most complex environmental and societal issues today,” Hopkins said. “Problem-solving depends on a diverse set of skills and perspectives, and I think the students have a chance to grow much more here than in a traditional program.”

Graduate student fellows receive research assistantship funding and participate in required interdisciplinary research courses, in which they share perspectives on major environmental problems facing the world and wrestle with complex issues such as research ethics, scientific advocacy, and how science should inform society and public policy.

Fellow Daniel Medina of Panama City, Panama, a doctoral student in biological sciences in the College of Science, said that the program has helped him better understand and articulate his role as a scientist in society.  Medina works with Lisa Belden, associate professor of biological sciences in the College of Science, and studies the symbiotic skin bacteria of amphibians, and how they might be used to combat a deadly fungal disease that has caused numerous amphibian population declines and extinctions.

“The interaction with peers in other fields has given me a broader perspective,” Medina said. “The program has also helped me to realize how complex interactions with policymakers can be, even when we share common goals.”

In 2010, the Virginia Tech Graduate School launched the Interdisciplinary Graduate Education Program initiative to promote interdisciplinary graduate education and research and offered the first four programs in fall 2011. Each of these education programs addresses a major fundamental problem or complex societal issue requiring an interdisciplinary team of scholars, according to Maura Borrego, associate dean and director of interdisciplinary programs in the Graduate School at Virginia Tech.

“The [Interdisciplinary Graduate Education Program] approach helps a university take on bigger, more complex problems,” said Borrego, who has spent significant time researching the topic as part of a National Science Foundation Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Program. “It appeals to these newer generations of students we’re getting who really want to do meaningful, important work.  They’re not just going to college to get a job and to get a pension and money to live on, but they really want to make a mark.”

With support from the Office of the Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost and research institutes, the Graduate School currently provides funding for 14 interdisciplinary graduate education programs, which revolve around issues as diverse as water for human health and sustainable nanotechnology.  Debuting this year are Interfaces of Global ChangeHuman Centered Design, and Bio-Inspired Buildings.


SNO 2013

I am excited to recap our amazing adventure to the SNO 2013 conference in Santa Barbara but the team and I are beat! For a twitter recap follow this link: #SNO2013   ~Originally posted here.

SNO 2013

I am excited to recap our amazing adventure to the SNO 2013 conference in Santa Barbara but the team and I are beat! For a twitter recap follow this link: #SNO2013   ~Originally posted here.