UNL faculty head team that wins AAEES Grand Prize

Calendar Icon May 01, 2015      Person Bust Icon By Karl Vogel     RSS Feed  RSS Submit a Story

Xu Li (left) and Shannon Bartelt-Hunt, associate professors of civil engineering
Xu Li (left) and Shannon Bartelt-Hunt, associate professors of civil engineering

A team of researchers, headed by UNL civil engineering associate professors Xu Li and Shannon Bartelt-Hunt, has been awarded the 2015 Grand Prize for University Research by the American Academy of Environmental Engineers & Scientists.

The research done by this team studied the environmental impact of antibiotics and antibiotic resistance genes (ARG) from swine manure that is used as a soil fertilizer or conditioner. The manure was applied to test plots through various methods and narrow grass hedges were planted downslope from those plots to measure how effective those grasses could be in reducing the transport of antibiotics and ARGs in runoff.

There was little known about how commonly used agricultural practices influence the fate and transport of antibiotics and ARGs in the field, but that the team’s research showed that the injection and incorporation methods of manure application led to lower levels in the runoff.

Li said the award is good recognition for the team and the work that has been done, but he hopes it will lead to an increased focus of university research into environmental issues related to agriculture.

“I looked at the past names of the awardees, and it was such an honor to be given this award,” Li said. “Different from the research of previous awardees, our project focuses on the agricultural environment.

“In the environmental engineering profession, people have heavily focused on municipal environmental issues, which makes sense because there is a large population in those settings. Environmental engineers increasingly recognize that agricultural settings could also be a potential source of contaminants in the environment. Hopefully, through our work people will recognize that a lot of work needs to be done and can be done for the agricultural sector, too.”

The award, for a project titled “Influence of Selected Land Application Strategies on the Fate and Transport of Antimicrobials and Antimicrobial Resistance Genes in the Agricultural Environment,” was given to the UNL Department of Civil Engineering, School of Natural Resources (Daniel Snow) and the USDA Agricultural Research Service (John Gilley and Bryan Woodbury).

Bartelt-Hunt attended the awards ceremony on April 24 at the National Press Club in Washington. She said the scope of the research done and the diverse group of people working on the project made receiving the award “even more gratifying.”

“The recognition of the project as being beneficial to our field is important,” said Bartelt-Hunt. “This award acknowledges the way we were able to cooperate as an interdisciplinary team across the two institutions –the College of Engineering, and USDA-ARS in both Lincoln and Clay Center.”

Dan Linzell, chair of the department of civil engineering, said the AAEES Grand Prize recognizes the work that Li and Bartelt-Hunt are doing to advance the fields of environmental engineering and science.

“Having Drs. Li and Bartelt-Hunt receive this prestigious award is certainly something I’m proud of,” Linzell said. “The work they’ve done in relation to addressing fate and transport of antimicrobials and antimicrobial resistant genes in agriculture is certainly relevant to the state of Nebraska, the nation and the world, given the increased demand for food and food that is healthy.

“This organization (AAEES) is the singular organization in the U.S. and the world focused on bringing together everybody involved in the process of engineering our environment and studying our environment to make sure it’s safer and more sustainable for those people that use it. To have two of our faculty recognized with the grand prize for this year is amazing and well-deserved.” 

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