When you listen to stories from wastewater, what can those tales tell us?

That’s the question Archana Anand deals with in her work, after a journey that took her from mechanical engineering to biology and environmental science.

Archana points out that 10 rivers, 8 of them in Asia, carry 90 percent of marine litter. We know that wastewater drains nitrogen from the ocean, but how does it affect the creatures who inhabit these areas and the ecosystem as a whole?

She did some of her research in the waters around Hong Kong, one of the most densely populated places on the planet. And it turns out that, despite all of the environmental stressors, those waters are rich in marine life.

To study these tiny creatures, she used “Ocean Hotels” or Ocean ARMS (Autonomous Reef Monitoring Structures.) Made from a stack of parallel plastic rectangular plates that allows water to pass between them, these dwellings become home to all sorts of marine life. After a set time, they’re brought to the surface for scientists to analyze.

Archana points out that the undersea realm is a mysterious world. More than 60 percent of life in the ocean is either unknown, unnamed, or invisible to the naked eye.

There are many stories to be learned from what we find in wastewater. But the front-page headline nowadays is one that can help us fight the global pandemic. There is a correlation between the concentration of COVID-19 in wastewater and its incidence in the human population.

That means, for example, that studying wastewater can give us a heads up that it may be time to be more careful about protecting ourselves. And that’s a pretty big story.


About Archana Anand

Archana is an engineer and marine biologist. She primarily works on the interface between environmental engineering and coastal marine microbiology. Archana is intrigued by aquatic microbes that drive several vital biogeochemical processes in the land and ocean. Today, she researches microbes in wastewater while developing and applying bioinformatics techniques to understand the mixed microbial communities involved in nutrient removal and cycling.

Archana won the National Geographic Explorer Award in 2019 to support her work in mapping coastal biodiversity in the scientifically understudied Andaman & Nicobar Islands. She obtained her PhD in Ecology & Biodiversity from the University of Hong Kong and her B.Eng from the National University of Singapore.


About Women Blaze Trails Festival:  

In celebration of the International Day of Women and Girls in Science (February 11), LenovoEDU sponsored Women Blaze Trails, a virtual 3-day festival celebrating women in science, exploration, and conservation from around the world.  

The virtual festival had one simple goal: celebrating incredible women, doing incredible things around the world, day in and day out. We’re sharing these videos from the festival so you can meet scientists, explorers, conservationists, filmmakers, photographers and more, showcasing their work, challenges, adventures, research and expeditions.