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EAPSI: Harnessing Microbial Potential to Address Challenges in Groundwater Remediation


With the rise of the human population as well as industrial and agricultural activities, global sustainability is becoming an increasingly critical issue. Although environmental pollutants are of global concern, these contaminants generally differ in terms of type and concentration across the globe. Therefore, it is essential to investigate multinational pollutants and their associated degradation pathways across different geographic distributions. In this study, we will collaborate with Professor Yufang Song in the Institute of Applied Ecology at the Chinese Academy of Sciences to examine the biodegradation of China-specific subsurface contaminants and compare the results to those obtained in the United States. <br/><br/>A recent survey by China's Ministry of Water Resources estimated that 80% of groundwater in China has already been contaminated with chlorinated solvents, with chlorinated methanes among the most common. Chlorinated methanes such as carbon tetrachloride and chloroform have been classified as probable human carcinogens resulting from their adverse effects on organ function. Biodegradation has proven effective in multiple scenarios by transforming many toxic chlorinated compounds into environmentally benign end-products. However, the fundamental microbial pathways for mitigating chlorinated methane contamination still remain largely unknown. To this end, we will establish microcosms with samples collected from several contaminated sites to enrich and identify the microorganisms responsible for the biodegradation and biotransformation of chlorinated methanes. Identifying these microorganisms can lead to their use as predictive biomarkers in evaluating the bioremediation potential at contaminated sites. The overarching goal of this proposal is to apply established molecular tools to identify novel microorganisms, assess the bioremediation potential and develop remediation technologies in China. These shared results can be applied on a global scale and will effectively complement NSF?s current focus on the intersection of food, energy and water.<br/><br/>This award under the East Asia and Pacific Summer Institutes program supports summer research by a U.S. graduate student and is jointly funded by NSF and the Ministry of Science and Technology of China.

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