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The Warsaw Voice » The Polish Science Voice » November 29, 2012
Ecology
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Saving Our Seas
November 29, 2012   
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Protecting the environment in areas around the Baltic Sea is the main subject of several doctoral dissertations written by young researchers who have won scholarships as part of the fourth round of the InnoDoktorant program designed to support promising doctoral students.

The researchers are focusing on studies including the monitoring of air and water pollution and new methods for treating waste and sewage. The results of their research are expected to be used in sectors such as agriculture, waste management and aviation.

One of the doctoral students, Monika Kosikowska, from the Chemistry Faculty of the Gdańsk University of Technology, has developed a method to determine the amount of pesticide residues in air samples. She is conducting her research in the Gdańsk, Sopot and Gdynia Tri-City area as well as in the town of Tczew and surrounding rural areas.

According to Kosikowska, her research results could come in handy for agricultural institutes, plant and seed protection authorities, and environmental protection inspectorates.

Keeping track of the pesticides used in Poland makes it possible to determine what pesticides end up in the air over the country and what kind of pesticides are blown in from abroad, says Kosikowska. Her research is expected to help create a database of pesticides used in Poland’s northern Pomerania province and enable the authorities to introduce better controls over pesticide use. Kosikowska is working in collaboration with the Agency for Regional Air Quality Monitoring in the Gdańsk Metropolitan Area (ARMAAG).

Łukasz Marek Kopeć from the Faculty of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the Gdańsk University of Technology is conducting research that revolves around a process known as denitrification and the treatment of wastewater using a Moving Bed Biological Reactor (MBBR). The reactor represents the final stage of treating wastewater with biological methods. Denitrification is a process based on reducing the amount of inorganic nitrogen compounds such as nitrates. This process plays a significant role in the circulation of nitrogen in nature.

Kopeć says his research findings may be of interest to companies dealing with environmental protection and public utilities. He plans to work together with local authorities, design offices and other businesses. Collaboration may include technology start-ups and joint work to optimize the operations of wastewater treatment plants, in addition to the chemical analysis of water and sewage, selection of equipment for treating municipal sewage and industrial waste, and selection of technology for dewatering municipal and industrial sludge.

Anna Sulej from the Faculty of Chemistry at the Gdańsk University of Technology is working to develop new analytical methods for the determination of different components of water in areas near airports. The aim of the study is to identify the most toxic compounds in the water samples.

“These methods can be used as a tool to track changes in the environment and assess the impact of airports on the environment,” says Sulej. “This is an extremely important part of the decision making process in environmental resource management. The results will eventually become the basis for developing airport infrastructure management standards to reduce the adverse effect of the operation of airports on the environment.”

Sulej says she looks forward to working with industry and public administration officials in developing innovative procedures for the management of waste and infrastructure at Pomeranian airports.

Meanwhile, Anna Maciejewska and Aleksandra Szczepańska, two doctoral students at the Institute of Oceanology of the Polish Academy of Sciences, aim to contribute to the development of Baltic Sea fisheries and other sectors of the regional economy.

Maciejewska intends to identify factors influencing the concentration of dissolved and suspended organic carbon in the southern Baltic Sea. She is conducting experimental research and studies based on models.

Creating a biogeochemical model taking into account organic carbon concentrations in the Baltic will make it possible to describe the marine ecosystem and determine its role in the carbon cycle, Maciejewska says. An experimentally verified model will make it possible to test various scenarios of environmental change affecting the concentration of organic matter and depending on global and local economic development, without performing expensive measurements that put an excessive strain on the budgets of many institutions.

According to Maciejewska, her mathematical biogeochemical model and extensive body of experimental data on the concentrations of organic carbon in the Baltic Sea have a virtually unlimited range of applications.

“The results of my research could contribute to the development of some key sectors of the regional economy,” she says. “One of them is fishing. The model will make it possible to predict the development of the food chain in the Baltic Sea area and check possible scenarios for the development of the chain, which means food for fish. My results may provide valuable information for companies dealing with the monitoring of areas at risk of heavy pollution—such as river deltas, and areas around sewage collectors—or institutions preparing regular environmental monitoring reports.” Maciejewska adds that the results of her research could also be used in areas such as water supply, marine engineering (identification of ballast water), wastewater management and environmental protection.

Szczepańska, from the Department of Marine Chemistry and Biochemistry, is studying the rates of carbon deposition—so-called burial rates—in Baltic Sea-bed sediments. The results obtained will help define the role of the Baltic Sea in the global carbon cycle, she says. Determining the role of sea-bed sediments in the balance of biogenic compounds (such as nitrogen and phosphorus) will make it possible to determine how these substances trickle into the environment and enable their proper management.

“This will inhibit the process of eutrophication and contribute to an improvement in the quality of water, not just in the Gulf of Gdańsk, but in the entire Baltic Sea,” says Szczepańska.

In particular, her research is targeted at business sectors such as fisheries, environmental protection, environmental management, and agriculture. The results of her research are expected to be used in key sectors of the economy in the Pomerania region.

The InnoDoktorant program of scholarships for doctoral students is supported by the European Union as part of its Human Capital Operational Program for the 2007-2013 period.

Karolina Olszewska
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