BTN LiveBIG: Michigan State grad makes magic happen with manure

BTN LiveBIG: Michigan State grad makes magic happen with manure

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During football and basketball games, BTN LiveBIG will spotlight notable examples of research, innovation and community service from around the conference. In-Game stories will provide more background on these features, and the opportunity to view the videos again.

Being someone who works with cow poop, it’s a good thing Jim Wallace has a sense of humor. Just don’t ask him if he knows any good gags about manure.

“I seriously don’t have any cow manure jokes,” he said with a laugh. “Sorry.”

Wallace, who graduated from Michigan State with an environmental engineering Ph.D., regularly gets his hands dirty in his work, which centers on converting the unpleasant but inevitable byproduct of dairy farms into valuable resources — most notably, potable water.

“When people ask me what I do for a living, I explain that we have a process that takes dairy manure, concentrates the nutrients and produces clean water that you could drink,” he said. “They don’t believe it. But it’s true.”

Wallace sniffed out big opportunities in manure when he arrived at Michigan State. With a background in wastewater treatment and an interest in the process used to convert the substance to methane, he researched ways to turn cow droppings into clean water and concentrated nutrients. After he earned his doctorate, he entered the private sector and began helping dairy farms apply his findings.

“What we’re trying to do is … provide the farmer with a better way to manage the manure,” he explained. “It’s more environmentally sustainable.”

He’s off the beaten career path — and he definitely has to watch where he steps — but there’s nothing Wallace would rather be doing.

“I grew up with a passion [for] playing football,” said Wallace, who played for the Boilermakers as an undergraduate. “But beyond that my passion grew into … how I could make a difference with the environment. I could’ve never envisioned going from the football field to the farm field, but it’s where I’m at, and I love it.”

Watch the one-minute video above to get more info on Wallace’s work.

By Brian Summerfield

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