University of Vermont

Anthony McInnis Joins RSENR as Assistant Professor in Ecological Design

Faculty profile

Anthony McInnis, Rubenstein School assistant professor in ecological design next to the Aiken Eco-Machine
Anthony McInnis, RSENR assistant professor in ecological design and ecotechnology oversees research involving the Aiken Center's Eco-Machine.

Anthony McInnis (PhD-NR '11) joined the Rubenstein School faculty this fall as an assistant professor in ecological design and ecotechnology.  He has big shoes to fill, but if anyone can do it, Anthony can. He takes over for his PhD advisor, recently retired Professor John Todd, world renowned pioneer in ecological design and inventor of the Eco-MachineTM which uses living organisms to treat and clean wastewater at sites throughout the world.

With degrees in environmental toxicology and ecological design, and industrial solutions, and work experience in mining air and water quality and industrial hygiene, Anthony designed and tested an Eco-Machine to treat mining waste products for his doctoral research.  “Our ultimate goal was to remove the chemicals from these waste products so that we could start testing conversion of these wastes into products for environmentally-beneficial applications,” Anthony explains.

Anthony has dived into teaching John’s former courses—Ecological Design and Living Technologies this fall and Ecological Design Studio, the hands-on applied portion of the coursework, in the spring. Anthony also joined in to help team teach NR 6 Race and Culture in Natural Resources with other RSENR faculty and staff this fall

He oversees research involving the Aiken Center's Eco-Machine which will treat the building's wastewater for use in flushing toilets. He works closely with staff member Matt Beam (NR '07, MS-NR '11), who built and maintains the Eco-Machine, and undergraduate student interns who will come on board in spring 2013 to assist with maintenance and research once the system is fully operational.

"The system is now in the ramp-up phase," explains Anthony. "We are introducing building wastewater at design capacity, but treated water is not yet being re-used to flush toilets."

Once the Eco-Machine is fully operational and the system's treated water meets the permit requirements, research will focus on how to optimize the system using different configurations of the Eco-Machine's tanks that hold communities of aquatic organisms. Anthony also plans to conduct computer simulation modeling of the system for different situations; better understand what the plants contribute; test the filtering of phosphorus from the system; and research removal of emerging pollutants, such as personal care products and pharmaceuticals that pass through the human system and which most water treatment facilities are not designed to handle.

When he isn't busy optimizing the Aiken Eco-Machine, Anthony will pursue his own ecotechnology research interests. He expects to continue his doctoral research on mining wastes and biodegradation of associated hazardous chemicals. He also plans to study chemicals linked to the capture of carbon; bacteria that can break down pollutant chemicals; and molecular genetics of organisms that function in living technology treatment systems. His long-time dream is to study closed ecological life support systems, or CELSS, used for human and animal survival in space travel!

Anthony enjoys living and spending time with friends in Vermont. With his family in northern Manitoba, he travels home when he can. In between, he takes shorter road trips to places like Ottawa, Ontario and other more local destinations.