Zoe Chavis has been selected as the inaugural NC State Biological and Agricultural Engineering Scholar sponsored by RES. A junior studying Biological Engineering with an Ecological concentration, her appointment will begin this spring on a project assessing existing stormwater control measures that are inefficient at removing nitrogen and how those structures can be improved to increase nitrogen extraction.
The appointment, created between BAE and RES, an ecological restoration company committed to sustainable and responsible rehabilitation of natural resources, is a novel approach to connect industry with undergraduate research opportunities.
“This type of scholars program is mutually beneficial for all participants,” explains Garey Fox, BAE department head and professor. “Our students get applicable, hands-on experience working on a research project while engaging with faculty and industry mentors. Our industry partners get early access to top engineering talent while working directly with prominent faculty members. And faculty have the ability to advance valuable research.”
The project will be led by William Neal Reynolds Distinguished Professor and Extension specialist Bill Hunt, who will also be Zoe’s faculty mentor, and RES project manager Matt Butler, who will be her industry mentor.
The project follows previous research conducted by Hunt and his team that compared nitrogen removal between an existing Town of Morrisville dry pond and a converted version of this structure into a stormwater wetland. The converted version (the weland) had a significantly higher nitrogen removal rate, which would potentially enable additional nitrogen removal to be sold on the nitrogen market. “I am thrilled to see this line of applied research become reality with RES as we partner mentoring Zoe,” says Hunt.
“We are excited to work with Dr. Bill Hunt and NC State through this scholar program to explore innovative approaches to nutrient crediting in North Carolina through stormwater retrofits and welcome Zoe to our team,” says Butler. “She will be assessing dry pond to wetland conversions for nutrient crediting potential in conjunction with a NC Division of Mitigation Services contract awarded to RES.”
In addition to her undergraduate research, Zoe is also a member of the American Ecological Engineering Society, the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers and is an ambassador for the BAE department. Some of her previous projects include remote implementation of a Guatemalan water catchment system and wood quality research on tree hybridization. “I’m honored to be the first scholar to pilot this program, and look forward to seeing where the project takes me!”