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Waterborne and the Case of The Determined Rodent

Posted on January 15, 2021

In the summer of 2018, we on the Waterborne’s field team found ourselves facing an unprecedented hurdle: someone had built a home, made of mud and sticks smack in the middle of our testing zone. Unbeknownst to us, one of our creek monitoring sites had gained a new resident in the form of one large (and very determined) beaver. Over the weeks we became well-acquainted with our furry friend’s work as he made a point of blocking off the stream just a little before our monitoring equipment, making it impossible for the intake lines to get enough water for proper sampling. The field team that first found the issue promptly documented and then broke apart the dam; a brief but intense labor given the size of the logs. Their efforts were in vain as the dam was back the following week.

As scientists we know that beavers build dams for shelter and to stop the sound of rushing water, which is apparently one of the biggest triggers urging them to build. But, after removing the same complex structure multiple times, it was hard for us not to take the whole dam thing personally. We did everything we could to discourage the behavior—breaking the dam upon every visit—but there it was, in its full mud and stick glory, with each subsequent visit. After some weeks of this back and forth, we finally conceded defeat and called in a trapper to contain the culprit.

In a matter of days the beaver had been successfully trapped. Our nemesis turned out to be an especially large male who we think was a bachelor building up his own bachelor pad. Fortunately he seemed to have worked alone as no other beavers were ever spotted at the site, and the rest of the summer’s sampling went by without other animal constructions. As time passed and the sting of being beaten by a rodent lessened, it became a humorous quip passed on to new team members when exchanging field work stories. A story that we thought was in our past…

That’s right, at the last off-season visit to the same site, a new beaver dam was found. If we’re lucky it’s a late summer phenomenon that will be long abandoned before sampling season next year. Or it could very well be the start of round two between the Waterborne sampling team and an overly determined animal. For our egos’ sake, let’s hope for the former!

While this has become a funny story among our field team, it also exemplifies the unpredictability of the challenges we face in the field. In this case, we could even see the effect of the beaver dam in our stream depth data. We have no shortage of stories! With each unique challenge our team adds to our collective scientific knowledge: capturing photos for records, assessing the impact on our study, and flexing our creative muscle to overcome the challenge at hand. And saving the best for when we need a good chuckle.

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Waterborne Environmental Adds Field Volatility Monitoring to Our Service Lineup

Posted on January 13, 2021

Providing high-quality services that solve our clients’ regulatory needs is always at the top of our minds here at Waterborne Environmental, which is why we’re so pleased to announce the addition of Field Volatility Monitoring to our service line.

This new Waterborne service stems from our acquisition of Paragon Research Services’s volatility monitoring equipment and SOPs. Aaron Rotondaro, Paragon’s founder, has joined Waterborne’s team as a Senior Advisor. 

Since 2006, Paragon has been the premier company conducting volatility monitoring, and bringing its services in-house will allow Waterborne to further diversify our service offerings for field studies. 

Waterborne has had a long-standing and successful working relationship with Aaron and we hope you’ll join us in welcoming him to our family. We look forward to including the Field Volatility Monitoring Services alongside our established list of Field Study Services, thereby expanding our in-house expertise within this field. 

We will also use this expertise to advance modeling of volatile chemicals from soil and water and near-field and long-distance air dispersion for human, endangered species, and pollinator risk assessments. Any questions about our Field Volatility Monitoring Services may be directed to Greg Goodwin, our Senior Agricultural Engineer at goodwing@waterborne-env.com. As always, our clients can rely on our team to deliver expert guideline and customized studies in field measurement for residues in soil, water, air, foliage, and pollen & nectar. 

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An Engineer Learns to Work Within a COVID-19 World

Posted on December 15, 2020

Up until March 2020, most of us were working in an office building with our own office or cubicle. A collaborative team environment with space to focus when needed. It now feels like a dream to think back on times gathered around the water cooler with my colleagues and discuss sports like the “Masters” or the NCAA March Madness. All of that came to an understandable but still screeching halt once the pandemic started. As I’m writing this, the Masters is being played (in November, not April. November!! Forgive me, but is it really the Masters without the azaleas and roaring crowds? I think not) and I’m working from home. 

Working from home isn’t that unusual for some of us in the consulting world. In the past, the occasional work-from-home day typically meant peace, quiet, and productivity. Concentrating on client projects was a cinch in those heady, pre-COVID-19 days. Today, however, the home-front looks bit different for all of us. Many are sharing that same space with kids and spouses—and all the noise and constraints they bring. Parents are balancing the changing needs of remote or hybrid school schedules. Lunch, previously a casual (and somewhat indulgent) work from home experience, has now become fixed and PB&J-centered. 

I’ve chosen to look at 2020 as an opportunity for us all to develop our professional skills in a direction previously untapped: focus amongst extreme chaos and finding humor within the unexpected and frustrating. Without these skills could we survive hourly rollercoaster of internet connectivity? Instead, we smile when we get too see kids and pets popping up in our virtual meetings, grateful for the closer glimpse into each other’s lives.

Despite the struggles, this has overall been a personally productive year. I am now completely proficient in pressing the mute and no video buttons on several software platforms (Zoom, Microsoft Teams, GotoMeeting, etc.). The phrase of the year has been “You’re still on mute”. I am much more familiar with my colleagues and clients’ casual looks and have enjoyed seeing them in their home environments. I’ve learned not to take the supply of toilet paper in the office restrooms for granted. And with less laundry and no professional dress requirements, I’m free to apply that extra personal grooming time to work. Sweatpants for me, more time for my projects; it’s a win-win!

2020 has certainly been an unusual year and I dearly miss seeing my clients and spending time with my colleagues in-person. I even long for the days when we’d complain about the last person not refilling the office coffee pot or replacing the water jug. But while it’s taken an adjustment, I can take comfort in the fact that the reason I didn’t win the 2020 March Madness pool was because the tournament was cancelled, and not because of my optimism in Purdue going to the finals!

Have I mentioned that I’m looking forward to the New Year?

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Our Co-Founder Looks Back on 2020; and a Sneak Peek of Waterborne 2021

Posted on December 15, 2020

2020 was a tough year for us all— individuals, families, and businesses—and impacted lives around the globe. Waterborne, with our team of scientists prepped and ready to travel to client sites both near and far at the beginning of the year, found itself in unprecedented territory once COVID-19 showed up. 

As expected, our field studies were mostly suspended because of the pandemic. We didn’t sit idle and avoided furloughs and layoffs plaguing other companies. Our staff made good use of the time to catch up on study reports, inventorying and organizing our field equipment, skill development, and improving our internal operating model. 

We also enjoyed the opportunity to dream about the future, design it, and start building it. Today, Waterborne offers technologies and  services both within and far beyond our traditional focus. We can’t wait to share with you what we’re doing.  You’ll begin seeing:

There is a saying, “when life serves you lemons, make lemonade.”  In our case, we’re starting 2021 stronger than we would have been otherwise.

I would like to pause and acknowledge those in the company today, and those no longer with us, for their contributions in our evolution to where we are today.  It is an exciting time to be at Waterborne, and a good time for me to post that we’re always looking to hire, or partner with others who share our passion and values.  

Sincerely,

Marty Williams

Co-founder, Waterborne Environmental

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Waterborne Welcomes Brenna Kent to Our Data Solutions Team

Posted on December 15, 2020

Waterborne Environmental’s data solutions team is stronger than ever thanks to an impressive new addition: data analyst, Brenna Kent, who boasts a diverse expertise in data collection and analysis with an emphasis on R scripting and programming with SQL, Python and Java. 

Brenna’s pre-Waterborne experience could be described as out of this world. She holds a Master’s degree in Bioinformatics at Virginia Commonwealth University and was a part of the NASA Pandora Project, where she collaborated with NASA team members to compile and analyze atmospheric data and developed R functions for result visualizations. Her data analysis experience also extends to genetic and pharmaceutical fields, through sequence analysis with BioNumerics software and an internship at Pharmaceutical Product Development. 

At Waterborne, Brenna has been busily applying her experience to our down-the-drain modeling work through iStreem with Raghu Vamshi as well as ecological modeling projects with Amelie Schmolke. She has additional applied her knowledge to our internal development and delivery of advanced, customized web-based tools for data interpretation and artificial intelligence as it applies to data collection and processing. Brenna will continue to play a key role in these exciting advances within our data solution capabilities.  

Known for her love of hiking and the great outdoors, Brenna can often be found hiking along Virginia’s scenic trails. That is, when she’s not reading science fiction or baking sweet treats. While COVID-19 restrictions prevent us from sharing desserts, we have all enjoyed working with Brenna and look forward to future collaborations!

If you’re interested in Waterborne’s data solutions work, please contact Gerco Hoogeweg at hoogewegg@waterborne-env.com.

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Population Modeling as a Critical Instrument in Ecological Risk Assessment

Posted on December 15, 2020

Chances are, if you’re working with ecological risk assessment issues, then you have noticed the process has been undergoing a shift from an individual organism-level focus to a population- or ecosystem-level focus. While not an overnight change, it is a welcome one as regulatory bodies and technical experts from across industries have long recognized the need for direct evaluation of risk to populations, rather than just extrapolated risk estimates from individual organisms. 

This shift has created an ever-increasing need for more complex modeling tools, such as population modeling, in the context of higher-tier risk assessment. Unsurprisingly, we’re also seeing a rise in the need for modeling approaches at the individual-level of assessment, including dynamic energy budget (DEB) models. DEB models are capable of bringing various physiological processes of individual organisms across the life cycle into a single modeling framework, and can represent combined effects of multiple stressors on organisms. DEB models can also be included in population models. Population and other ecological modeling approaches use data of species biological characteristics, and can examine exposure and effects relationships on higher levels of biological organization.

Waterborne has been swift to respond to this growing need. We are delighted to announce our partnership with the University of Minnesota, College of Biological Sciences, Department of Ecology, Evolution and Behavior.  Through this collaboration, postdoctoral associate Chiara Accolla, Ph.D., will be working with Waterborne’s Amelie Schmolke, Ph.D., to help address our clients’ population-level issues through population and ecological modeling approaches. 

Chiara has an impressive background in modeling ecological systems. Her work has focused on model development to extrapolate effects of stressors, inter- and intra-species interactions at population, and higher levels of biological organization. Chiara’s specific experience in the examination of predator-prey interactions and the analysis of chemical effects on producer and consumer dynamics as well as her unique experience in DEB modeling make this partnership especially beneficial.

Chiara and Amelie have recently collaborated on a population model publication for Integrated Environmental Assessment and Management with co-authors from the University of Minnesota and the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research-UFZ, Leipzig, Germany. This article, featured by Prof. Valery Forbes at last month’s SETAC SciCon2, highlights the implementation of population models for ecological risk assessment. 

We at Waterborne are excited about this collaboration and have already seen the impact of Chiara’s expertise on our population modeling projects!

If you have any questions or comments about our population modeling services, please contact contact Amelie Schmolke, our Senior Ecological Modeler at schmolkea@waterborne-env.com.

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To see our research archive on Zotero, click here

Posted on May 9, 2019

Waterborne’s published research is now available online.

 

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Waterborne, Nutrients and Soil Health

Posted on May 9, 2019

Waterborne is leading the development of integrated investigations advancing grower and commodity groups’ knowledge of crop inputs and their movement through the environment following application. Now, these groups and their grower members can more effectively adapt their nutrient management practices for improved soil health, increased yield and better environmental outcomes.

Our services in nutrient management and soil health include, but are not limited to:

OUR EXPERTS IN NUTRIENTS OFFER YOU:
Access to diverse expertise/Specialized methods in sampling and application/Web-based data & modeling/Quality technical writing/Geospatial solutions/Regulatory support services/Crop protection research & solutions/Stewardship & sustainability metrics

For more conversations with our experts in nutrients and soil health, please contact Greg Goodwin

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Going Mobile

Posted on January 25, 2018

Halfway around the world from me scientists use smartphones to take photos and collect specific information on crops, management practices and land use. I, on the other hand, am comfortable in my office watching their progress on a web-based map, drinking a warm cup of coffee and writing this article.

With the arrival of the smartphone, technology became increasingly more accessible and commonplace in our everyday lives. The sheer fact we can collect information remotely using smartphones is an amazing advancement in technology. The number of mobile applications has skyrocketed and now reaches upwards of 100,000 within a few years of the release of the first-generation Apple® iPhone in 2007. Waterborne utilizes mobile applications and now creates them with very little effort and custom programming on our end.

Several years ago, ESRI released a new mobile platform, Survey123. This application allows users to setup a survey, associated maps, and use mobile platforms (e.g., iOS®, Android®, Windows®) to collect information in the field. There are several advantages to this technology. Surveys can be created using a spreadsheet for data collection. The application also contains standardized menus, support for various media (e.g., photos or drone videos), and support for multiple languages. All information can then be streamed to a central location. Others can then view the information, live, on a web-map or dashboard and follow the progress in the field.

The use of smartphones and other commonly used mobile devices has the advantage of a small learning curve for software and usability. Furthermore, since smartphones are used ubiquitously, you can tap into the local users base to collect the information you need. This provides significant cost savings on any project and reduces the amount of time spent collecting information.

Gerco Hoogeweg, PhD.
Chief Operations Officer, Geospatial Scientist

hoogewegc@waterborne-env.com

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How Much Degradation Occurs in Sewer Systems?

Posted on January 25, 2018

Exposure modeling plays an important role in national-scale risk assessment of chemicals that are disposed of down-the-drain (for example, home and personal care product ingredients). Exposure models commonly account for chemical removal that occurs during wastewater treatment processes at treatment facilities. However, for many chemicals, a significant amount of removal (biodegradation) can also occur in the sewer system. Combining chemical-specific biodegradation data from laboratory studies with estimates of typical “sewer residence times” provides a way for exposure modeling to represent this aspect of environmental fate and transport. However, given the thousands of municipal sewer systems across the U.S., how can we estimate the typical range for sewer residence time?

Waterborne scientists collaborated with scientists from Procter & Gamble to address this question in a recent study by developing a geographic information systems (GIS) approach to estimate the distribution of sewer residence times for the U.S. using road networks as a spatial proxy for sewer networks. While available data for sewer networks is limited, we evaluated the similar spatial distributions of case study sewer networks and road networks. Building upon that analysis, our experts analyzed the spatial distribution of population density and over 3,400 facility locations across the U.S. to estimate sewer residence times using existing national datasets and sewer system design standards.

Our analysis estimated a median sewer residence time of 3.3 hours for the U.S, which is comparable to values reported in literature. The distribution of residence time values generated from our analysis enables this parameter to be represented probabilistically (instead of just as a single point value) which adds robustness to risk assessments. Using our analysis results, we estimated in-sewer removal across a range of hypothetical, but realistic, chemical biodegradation rates to illustrate that a significant amount of removal is likely to occur in the sewer for many chemicals. We also specifically evaluated a group of readily biodegradable surfactants used in home and personal care products for which biodegradation data was available, and estimated removals of 62% to 99% during sewer transit (based on a median residence time of 3.3 hours). Significant in-sewer removal estimated for many down-the-drain chemicals has implications for estimation of influent concentrations at wastewater treatment facilities, and ultimately for predicted environmental concentrations in receiving waters.

This study is an example of how best-available data resources can be paired with advanced GIS capabilities to address important data gaps in exposure modeling and add value to the environmental risk assessment process. The work was recently published in Science of the Total Environment.

Kapo, KE, Paschka, M, Vamshi, R, Sebasky, M, McDonough, K. 2017. Estimation of U.S. sewer residence time distributions for national-scale risk assessment of down-the-drain chemicals. Science of the Total Environment 603-604:445-452. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2017.06.075

Contact Raghu Vamshi at vamshir@waterborne-env.com with questions about our down-the-drain expertise.

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