Erika Espinosa-Ortiz

Engineer Erika Espinosa-Ortiz received a seed grant from Montana NSF EPSCoR in February and quickly jumped into sharing her work with students and teachers via a new outreach project called CREWS Junior Researcher (CREWS is the acronym for the current Track 1 project: The Consortium for Research on Environmental Water Systems).

For the seed grant research project, Espinosa-Ortiz, a research assistant professor at Montana State University, is leading a team of Center for Biofilm Engineering researchers that will develop and test new biofilms for treating water contaminants commonly associated with coal mining. The CREWS Junior Researcher project help kids replicate similar experiments at home.

Espinosa-Ortiz said her childhood growing up in Mexico City – a population center of over 20 million people – impacted her decision to become an environmental engineer. She saw serious issues with water scarcity and wants to look for ways to preserve our water resources. She also hopes to inspire other young people (everywhere) to care, conserve, and join in the search for solutions to our water crisis.

The CREWS Junior Researcher experiments focus on acid mine drainage, and they will help young people understand how stream pollution might occur when industrial activities like mining combine with naturally occurring processes. Youth will also learn how scientists and engineers — including those on the Montana NSF EPSCoR project — are helping to preserve water quality and clean up contaminated areas using natural materials and processes.

Both experiments use materials that can be found fairly easily at home or at a grocery store. However, Montana NSF EPSCoR can support students or teachers who would like to do the experiments but are having trouble accessing the materials. Please email Suzi Taylor at if you would like help acquiring the materials or would like a group kit to complete with a classroom or out-of-school youth program.

You can download the CREWS Junior Researcher: Acid Mine Drainage experiments below.