Profile: Verbyla ’06 Goes Online to Recover Resources

by Kate Helm

Cyberspace may help solve problems of water waste.

Matt Verbyla ’06, a Ph.D. candidate in environmental engineering at University of South Florida (USF), is using social-media savvy to help start the Reclaim initiative.

Reclaim ( is an interdisciplinary network of engineers, anthropologists, biologists, marine scientists, and educators who share information about the recovery of nutrients, water, and energy from wastewater. Using social media to summarize and discuss the latest research allows anyone to interact with researchers to learn more about developments in the field.

Solutions to global problems such as drought, overpopulation, and poverty are context sensitive, says Verbyla. “The problems cannot be solved by a single person or a single group working in isolation.”

Weekly Twitter discussions hosted by USF graduate students center on waste renewal, such as using life-cycle thinking to determine appropriate ways of producing energy or nutrients. Participants from 10 organizations in six countries and from diverse academic backgrounds join the chats.

The focus of Verbyla’s doctoral study is the removal of viruses and other disease-causing microorganisms in wastewater treatment ponds. The study is partially funded by a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship.

Verbyla saw his first wastewater treatment pond in rural Honduras, where he studied community-owned water systems on a Fulbright Scholarship after graduating from Lafayette with a B.S. in civil engineering. He co-founded the College’s chapter of Engineers Without Borders.

Verbyla’s previous experience in Latin America includes studying pathogen removal from community-managed ponds in Bolivia for his master’s and working as an engineering project director for startup NGO Global Community Development in Honduras.

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