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UA Leading Rural Wastewater Treatment Pilot Program with Grant from Columbia World Projects

Headshot of Dr. Mark Elliott
The University of Alabama is spearheading a new approach to wastewater treatment in Alabama’s Black Belt region thanks to a grant from Columbia World Projects.

The initial investment of $710,000 establishes a pilot program that allows researchers to show that rural underserved areas can have healthier and more affordable access to wastewater management systems. With external funding matched by Columbia University, that amount will reach $14 million.

U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell, who represents Alabama’s 7th District, participated in a CWP forum on unequal opportunity about the need for better wastewater management. Her presentation helped the initiative’s decision to invest in the Black Belt project. U.S. Sens. Richard Shelby and Doug Jones have also been supportive of this project. Representatives from both senators’ offices have been present at the meetings helping to launch this initiative.

Leading UA’s efforts on the project is Dr. Mark Elliott from the College of Engineering. Elliott has spent the past few years researching ways to improve access to better sewage systems in lower-income rural areas of the state. The solution Elliott and his colleagues are testing for this project is a decentralized clustered system, which is between a large centralized sewer and expensive individual treatment systems.

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Listen to Dr. Mark Elliott's discussion about the project on the AWI Podcast
A brief video depiction of the decentralized clustered systems is available on AWI's YouTube channel
Headshots of Xiaoyan Hong and Aijun Song

UA Professors Awarded NSF Grant For Underwater Robotics Wireless Communications

Two University of Alabama professors have been selected by the National Science Foundation to lead a $1.5 million effort from its CISE Community Research Infrastructure program.

Dr. Aijun Song, assistant professor in UA’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, and Dr. Xiaoyan Hong, associate professor in the Department of Computer Science, have been awarded $880,000 by the NSF for their project, “CCRI: mu-Net: Infrastructure to Advance Mobile Underwater Wireless Networking Research.” Working with their colleagues from several other universities, they plan to develop a community-shared infrastructure that will enable underwater research robots to exchange information more easily.

Read more about UA’s NSF grant
Headshot of Dr. Kenneth Hoadley

UA Professor Awarded NSF Grant for Symbiotic Algae and Coral Research

The National Science Foundation has awarded Dr. Kenneth Hoadley a $290,214 grant for his research addressing the health of symbiotic algae living among reef corals.

Hoadley, an assistant professor in The University of Alabama’s Department of Biological Sciences and senior marine scientist at the Dauphin Island Sea Lab, will use the money for the testing and optimization of a low-cost prototype instrument that will allow researchers and conservation agencies to quickly assess the well-being of the algae, also known as Symbiodiniaceae.

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Photo of Glenn Tootle with research students in the snow of Austria

AWI Faculty Spotlight:
Dr. Glenn Tootle

Earth is made up of approximately 71 percent water, and the majority of people might be lucky enough to see a fraction of that with their own eyes. For Dr. Glenn Tootle, he’s seen more than the average person. His passion for one of life’s most precious resources takes him around the globe to study how it flows and impacts the world around us. It’s also recently earned him a Fulbright Scholar Grant to continue his research abroad.

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AWI-Affiliated Faculty News

Four Professors Receive Early Career Research Awards
Over the summer, four professors at The University of Alabama received national recognition early in their careers for innovative research that will increase understanding of our world while boosting UA’s educational mission.
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UA Research Continues to Surge
For the seventh consecutive year, The University of Alabama earned record external funding for research and other sponsored activities, further securing its stature as a major comprehensive research-intensive university and one of the fastest growing research enterprises in the nation.
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UA Researchers Part of National Project to Study Intermittent Streams
Biologists at The University of Alabama are part of a national research project that addresses water quality at the critical connection between streams that flow continuously and those with intermittent flow.
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UA, Auburn, Others Join for Antarctic Biological Research
Twenty scientists recently embarked on a 14-week voyage to study unexplored Antarctic waters to improve understanding of biodiversity undergoing rapid changes because of a changing climate.
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Around Alabama ...

Ala. Congressman Proposes New Marine Sanctuary
An underwater forest in Alabama would be designated as a national marine sanctuary, under legislation recently introduced by one of the state's Republican congressmen.

Rep. Bradley Byrne said his H.R. 8684, the "Alabama Underwater Forest National Marine Sanctuary and Protection Act," would preserve an ancient cypress forest found 60 feet underwater south of Gulf Shores.

The site is in federal waters and was discovered after the cypress trees were uncovered by waves from a hurricane.
Read more about this story on E&E News
Trump Admin Proposes Protections for Freshwater Mussels
The Fish and Wildlife Service recently proposed protecting a freshwater Alabama mussel, the Canoe Creek clubshell, under Endangered Species Act provisions.

Pushed by petition and litigation, the federal agency said the mussel warrants listing as endangered and requires the designation of 36.3 river miles as critical habitat along tributaries of the Coosa River in northeast Alabama.

"In the Big Canoe Creek watershed, water quality impairments have historically impacted the Canoe Creek clubshell and continue to do so," FWS noted. "Historically, point source discharges and pesticide and herbicide applications were not well regulated."

The agency added that the frequency of severe droughts in the Big Canoe Creek watershed has increased in recent decades.
Continue reading this story on E&E News
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AWI Podcasts Highlight
Water Research Faculty and Efforts

The Alabama Water Institute created the AWI Podcast as a way to introduce our affiliated faculty members and students, to help showcase their work and to show how their research is helping to improve every aspect of water across all walks of life.
There are one-on-one interviews with our researchers, but also some of their public talks at workshops and conferences. Topics have included hurricanes and coastal response, wastewater management, helping citizens in rural areas gain access to clean water, chemical effects on fish behavior and telling the history of streamflow before written records.

New interviews are added often and can be accessed by searching for “Alabama Water Institute” on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, Spotify, iHeartRadio and Stitcher. Each episode is also available at
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