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Joel Burken
Joel Burken

Professor and Chair Civil, Arch and Environmental Eng.
Missouri University of Science and Technology

Dr. Burken received his PhD from the University of Iowa, where he conducted initial research on phytoremediation. Joel’s research has focused upon low impact and natural treatment systems. His research in phytoremediation of organic contaminants and pioneering work in Phytoforensics have led to over 85 publications and a patented  assessment method for assessing potential exposures. Recognition includes twice winning the ASCE Rudolf Hering Medal, an NSF Career award, receiving the 2018 Science Award from the American Academy of Environmental Engineering and Science, and being appointed as an AEESP Fellow. Dr. Burken is current on the US EPA Science Advisory Board.


Phytoforensics for Vapor Intrusion Assessment

Vapor intrusion (VI) presents an exposure pathway for groundwater volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in residential areas. Assessing VI threats with current methods is resource intensive, invasive, and prolonged, as exposure continues. Trees and passive samplers exhibit unique characteristics that are well suited for VI sampling including their spatial- and time-weighting qualities. Research assessing subsurface VOCs at field sites utilized tree-core sampling in conjunction with solid-phase samplers (SPSs). SPSs were deployed in subslab ports, and nearby trees were cored to correlate concentrations in tree tissues with VI risk. SPSs were also installed in shallow, small-diameter wells and nearby trees were sampled to model subsurface volume sampled by trees. Results indicate that VOC concentrations in tree-core samples are associated with subsurface and subslab SPSs and results revealed a subsurface VOC plume that soil coring methods had not detect. Results show conclusively that phytoforensic plant sampling indicate potential VI and human exposure risk.

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