Mar 15, 2013

Professor Guides Student Research in Brazil

Missouri University of Science and Technology team will measure effectiveness of water filters

Amazon River Brazil Missouri University Science and Technolor Research

At the Missouri University of Science and Technology, the idea of a student missing the annual St. Patrick’s Day celebration is rare. Missing that and spring break is unheard of. But that is exactly what Dr. Daniel Oerther and three of his students are going to do. The group will spend the latter half of March conducting research and fieldwork in Para, Brazil.

The group will be based at the confluence of the Tapajos and Amazon rivers. The students’ research will focus on measuring the effectiveness of the current water filters that are in place in the local village. Oerther’s research will center on understanding small-scale agriculture, black earth (terra preta, or terra prêta do índio, dark soils found in the Amazon Basin) and linking these topics back to the local community gardens in Rolla, Mo.

Joining Oerther on this trip will be Tommy Goodwin, a senior in biological sciences from Niangua, Mo.; Andrew Schranck, a senior in architectural and civil engineering from Alton, Ill.; and Lee Voth-Gaeddert, a graduate student in environmental engineering from Hesston, Kan.

“I really admire these students and their dedication to learning through experience,” said Oerther, the John A. and Susan Mathes Professor of environmental engineering and an Alcoa Fulbright Endowed Chair at the university. “These guys are not only giving up St. Pat’s and spring break, they are giving up almost all their creature comforts to better the lives of others.”

This will mark Oerther’s second research trip to Brazil and his first with students accompanying him.

“I am very interested to get their perspectives of the location down there,” Oerther said. “It will be exciting to see how they integrate with the local community. None of us have any real background in Portuguese and I have a feeling that these students will wish they understood the language, not because they will be intimidated, but because they will want to really interact and learn from the people.”

Missouri S&T prioritizes undergraduate research opportunities and Brazil is a new experience for all of these students. Oerther points out that it is a fitting location for S&T students, seeing as it is one of the largest producers of the aluminum ore bauxite.