Design Portfolio


The best guardians of isolated natural habitats are often the very communities which inhabit them. As urbanization pulls rural inhabitants from their historical homes, these habitats become increasingly vulnerable to commercial exploitation. The scarcity and poor quality of hospitals, schools, and other public infrastructure–as well of the lure of modern technology–are undeniably compelling reasons for rural dwellers to migrate to the city. Yet for many migrants, proximity to hospitals fails to lead to better health, and modern technology remains unaffordable.  Meanwhile, return to the countryside is made impossible by loss of land ownership and the subsequent degradation of the ecosystem and resources it provided.

This rural exodus is no different in the Brazilian Pantanal. The Pantanal is a conservation hotspot and the world’s largest inland wetland. It serves an important hydrological role as a filter for Central Brazil’s largest river basin, and its rich savannas, forests, and waterways are home to numerous threatened and endangered species. The Pantanal is dotted with small, rural communities made up of fishermen and ranchers. It is more than ninety-five percent privately owned, which leaves it especially vulnerable to development by outsiders.

Our goal is to increase energy generation from organic waste in the Pantanal. In order to accomplish this, our objectives are:

  1. increase awareness about renewable energy and sustainability through structured classes using biodigester as an example technology;
  2. introduce instructional materials for constructing a biodigester in communities;
  3. test efficiency, maintenance, and ongoing costs to determine scalability of biodigester system;
  4. and conduct interviews to increase our understanding of challenges faced by rural communities.

Project Team

  • Rianna Penn ME
  • Ava Landgraf EnvE
  • Wei Fang Economics
  • Thomas Mcllwaine Int Studies
  • Uzoma Nwabara ChemE
  • Bridget Vial EnvE
Biodigester Energy | Pantanal Team


  • Dr. Steven Wright Civil & Environmental Engineering PhD.