Project Info

Engineered wetlands: next generation applications for sustainable water treatment

Jonathan Sharp

Project Goals and Description:

Engineered wetlands have the potential to address NAE grant challenges related to clean water, carbon sequestration, urban infrastructure and the nitrogen cycle. However, their adoption and implementation as a component of our nation’s water infrastructure is limited by concerns about system resilience and reliability. Furthermore, scientific understanding of pollutant attenuation mechanisms are still “black box” in nature. Our laboratory is addressing these barriers through research into a novel, shallow open water wetland that is colonized by diatoms and other microorganisms. To achieve this, we integrate field scale measurements and processes at an operational engineered wetland in southern CA with flow-through laboratory scale systems in our laboratory here at Mines. In addition to applications in the US, we are exploring how these systems to can be integrated into nature-based water treatment in Peru and other nations in Latin America. Current research focuses on themes such as metal and nutrient attenuation mechanisms and capacity, seasonal applications for agricultural runoff, and the integration of nature-based treatment systems such as wetlands with managed engineered treatment systems such as membranes. A priority for the MURF student will be to aid in the upkeep and operation of laboratory-scale systems and to implement experiments using these systems.

More Information:

Grand Challenge: Provide access to clean water.

Primary Contacts:

Jonathan (Josh) Sharp, | Gary Vanzin,

Student Preparation


Ability to juggle demands of research with schoolwork as evidenced by maintaining a strong GPA in conjunction with other activities. Interest in independent research into the application of microbiology with the field of environmental engineering Familiarity with Spanish, while not required, is viewed as an attribute in association with our work in Peru




Experimental design and implementation Laboratory system upkeep and analysis Critical analysis and presentation of generated data Scientific collaboration


The student will be paired with a to-be-determined mentor who may be a graduate student or post-doctoral researcher. The student will be expected to identify multiple time blocks of 2-4 hours during typical working hours that align with the mentor’s schedule for regular face to face interaction and project development in the laboratory. The student will also attend biweekly lab group meetings (schedule permitting) and biweekly check-in meetings with Professor Sharp.


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