March 14, 2018 – Microbe Detectives’ announced today that it is continuing on with its anaerobic digester microbiome study that it initiated over a year ago, with plans to publish the “2018 Performance Comparison of Biogas Anaerobic Digesters.” Dr. Alison Ling of Barr Engineering will return as the Principal Author and present key findings at the Microbiome Water Summit during WEFTEC week in New Orleans.

Anaerobic digesters are employed in municipal and industrial wastewater treatment plants and in agricultural and biomass systems worldwide to create renewable biogas energy. Biogas is produced by a complex ecology of microbes that decompose waste and produce methane. According to the American Biogas Council, nearly 11,000 sites are ripe for development today, which could produce enough energy to power 3.5 million American homes and reduce emissions equivalent to removing 800,000 to 11 million passenger vehicles from the road.

“Anaerobic digestion is a complex process that requires many different types of microbes in subsequent steps to get the job done,” said Dr. Ling. “Thus, understanding the microbial community present in a digester is a valuable tool to inform digester health and operation. This study lays the framework for using microbial ecology tools to help engineers and operators improve the performance of their AD systems.”

“The ecology of AD systems is not measured in industry due to limitations with standard test methods, and is referred to as microbial dark matter,” said John Tillotson, CEO of Microbe Detectives. “This study will digitize this dark matter in municipal, industrial, agricultural and biomass AD systems linking microbiome digital signature to methane production, odor and operational risks.”

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2018 Study Objectives:

  • Build on the success of the 2017 study to further increase methane production as a source of clean renewable energy
  • Evaluate correlations between microbial community and operational data to link microbiome digital signature to AD performance
  • Digitize the microbiome of many different AD systems across different facilities, climates, and times of year
  • Educate the AD industry on insights and possibilities
  • Provide educational opportunities for participants to “tell their story”

2018 Study Deliverables:

Microbe Detectives will provide specialized DNA sequencing, analyses, and reports on a regular basis to participating facilities as specified by the selected monitoring package. Operational data will also be collected, analyzed and incorporated into the study where possible.

A summary of DNA sequencing and operational data across all participating facilities will be aggregated, analyzed and incorporated into The 2018 Performance Comparison of Biogas Anaerobic Digesters report. Participants of the study will receive a complimentary copy of this report.

Dr. Alison Ling will present key findings at the 2018 Microbiome Water Summit. This session will be video recorded and streamed live on the Internet with free access. Participants will have the opportunity to collaborate, co-present, participate on panels and network at the 2018 Microbiome Water Summit and other conferences.

About The Contributors

Dr. Alison Ling, PhD, PE, is an Environmental Engineer with Barr Engineering Company in Minneapolis, MN. At Barr, she is engaged in front-end design and troubleshooting for water and wastewater treatment projects. Her work includes process modeling, bench and pilot testing, and technical advising for clients in the power, mining, agricultural, and municipal sectors. Ali completed her PhD at the University of Colorado at Boulder, where she split her time between the Environmental Engineering and Molecular Biology departments, and was co-advised by Norm Pace, an early pioneer in the field of 16S community analysis. For her PhD work, she analyzed microbial communities associated with concrete corrosion in wastewater collection systems and characterized correlations between microbial community trends and environmental metadata.

Barr Engineering is an engineering and environmental consulting firm based in Minneapolis. Barr’s work focuses on helping clients in the industrial and municipal realms develop, manage, process, and restore natural resources. Barr’s water and wastewater services include process evaluation and troubleshooting, detailed design, operational support, and NPDES permitting services.

Microbe Detectives is an innovator in applying modern DNA science and technology to transform water quality measurement and monitoring of wastewater, anaerobic digesters, process water, and other biological systems. Wastewater facilities utilize the company’s DNA sequencing services to optimize treatment systems, recover renewable resources, and reduce operating costs by 20 to 60%. Product innovators uniquely quantify and validate the performance of their products when applied to water microbiome environments. Microbe Detectives graduated from the Water Council BREW accelerator in 2014 and is a winner of the Wisconsin Innovation Awards.