Welcome to the MESOLab 

The Mesocosm Ecological Systems Oberservation (MESO) Laboratory  is a research laboratory led by Dr. Tiffany Messer and her research team to investigate methods to improve Best Management Practices (BMPs) to treat and/or remove contaminants introduced to the environment by humans (Figure 1). Mesocosms, experimental systems that imitate designs implemented in the natural environment under controlled conditions, are a cost efficient method for researchers to determine contaminant removal processes. The MESOLab is located on the University of Nebraska- Lincoln's East Campus. Currently, the Messer Team's mesocosm research is focused on Floating Treatment Wetlands (FTWs).


Figure 1: (Right) Mary Keilhauer (MS SNR student) installing mesocosms for her research project on FTWs and (Left) Recently planted FTW mesocosms.

Floating Treatment Wetlands (FTWs), also referred to as floating wetland islands or artificial reed beds, consist of emergent macrophytes growing on a floating mat on the lake water surface in contrast to being rooted in sediment(Figure 2). Land is not required for FTW systems, which is often the limiting factor for traditional wetland treatment systems2. FTWs have the potential to provide water treatment for total nitrogen, ammonium-N, nitrate-N, total microcystin-LR, E. coli, and total phosphorus (TP)2–5. However, many questions remain about FTW systems, specifically regarding their potential use in the Midwest along with their management and design requirements. Therefore, the Messer Research Team is utilizing FTW mesocosms to study contaminant removal processes and make recommendations for FTWs, specifically to improve Midwestern water quality.

Figure 2: Floating Treatment Wetland contaminant removal processes. (designed by Leo Glass)Figure 2: Floating Treatment Wetland contaminant removal processes. (Designed by Leo Glass, UNL ORED)

Interested in Visiting the MESOLab?

If you are living or traveling through the Lincoln, NE area and have an interest in touring the MESOLab, please contact Dr. Tiffany Messer. Additionally, Dr. Messer provides high school, undergraduate, and graduate research opportunities in the MESOLab. The Messer Research Team intends to provide tours and information sessions on FTWs and their potential to improve water quality beginning Summer 2018.


1. Tanner, C. C. & Headley, T. R. Components of floating emergent macrophyte treatment wetlands influencing removal of stormwater pollutants. Ecol. Eng. 37, 474–486 (2011).

2. Keizer-Vlek, H. E., Verdonschot, P. F. M., Verdonschot, R. C. M. & Dekkers, D. The contribution of plant uptake to nutrient removal by floating treatment wetlands. Ecol. Eng. 73, 684–690 (2014).

3. Jones, T. G., Willis, N., Gough, R. & Freeman, C. An experimental use of floating treatment wetlands (FTWs) to reduce phytoplankton growth in freshwaters. Ecol. Eng. 99, 316–323 (2017).

4. Saeed, T., Paul, B., Afrin, R., Al-Muyeed, A. & Sun, G. Floating constructed wetland for the treatment of polluted river water: A pilot scale study on seasonal variation and shock load. Chem. Eng. J. 287, 62–73 (2016).

5. Winston, R. J., Hunt, W.F., Kennedy, S.G., Merriman, L.S., Chandler, J., & Brown, D. Evaluation of floating treatment wetlands as retrofits to existing stormwater retention ponds. Ecol. Eng. 54, 254–265 (2013).