Date of Award


Document Type




First Advisor

Jennifer Slate, Ph.D.


In collaboration with the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago and Gross-Wen Technologies, I examined the microbial communities in experimental tertiary wastewater treatment systems employing algal phytoremediation. Three algal phytoremediation systems were examined: two vertical conveyor belt systems, known as the 10-foot belt system and the series 4 system, and a third system lacking a converter belt in which planktonic algae grew in a control pond. I used EcoPlates to measure carbon substrate utilization by microorganisms in each system. EcoPlates contain thirty-one different carbon substrates, with a dye that indicates microbial use of each substrate. I conducted a Principal Component Analysis which indicated differences in microbial community function in each of the three algal systems. There was higher utilization of polymers in the vertical algal systems than in the control pond. Increased polymer utilization by microorganisms may be indicative of their ability to remove larger organic compounds from wastewater. Understanding the microbial use of carbon substrates can help us further understand the symbiotic relationships between algae and the microbial community in wastewater treatment systems.