Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

UMass Team to Study Bioremediation of Acid, Heavy Metals From Collapsed Mine

22.11.2002




Work funded with $1.59-million from the National Science Foundation

Highly acidic drainage from an abandoned sulfide mine in Rowe is slowly cleaning itself over time, and an interdisciplinary research team from the University of Massachusetts Amherst is studying why. The group brings together experts from the fields of microbiology, geology, engineering, and science education, to determine the extent and rate of bioremediation. Researchers say their findings may enable quicker natural cleanups not just at this mine, but at others throughout the country and the world. The interdisciplinary project has received a $1.59-million grant from the "Biocomplexity in the Environment" program of the National Science Foundation. This highly competitive program has funded only 10 projects this year nationwide.

"The mine collapsed in 1911 and filled with groundwater," explained Klaus Nüsslein, assistant professor of microbiology. "The overflowing groundwater drains out of the old mine shafts, and flows down the stream channel." The drainage waters are more acidic than vinegar, with pH values around 2, and carry large loads of metals, including copper, zinc, and iron, Nüsslein said. "In other areas of the country, similar acid-mine drainage from former coal or gold mines can mobilize additional undesirable contaminants." Researchers stress, however, that there is no threat to the local environment or the area’s water supply, because the iron sulfide in the Davis Mine contains few hazardous impurities. This makes the site an ideal subject for examining the natural processes that are contained in the drainage. Rowe is located in western Massachusetts, near the Vermont border.



The other UMass researchers involved in the project are Richard Yuretich of geosciences, who is the principal investigator of the project; Sarina Ergas and David Ahlfeld of civil and environmental engineering; and Allan Feldman of the School of Education. Jonathan Lloyd of the University of Manchester, England, is also collaborating, studying a similar abandoned mine in Wales. The group will combine field work, computer modeling, and laboratory research to study the issue over the next five years. In the end, this interdisciplinary group will demonstrate the global importance of using bacteria to clean up the environment.

Nüsslein, a microbiologist, will try to determine which particular microorganisms are oxidizing the acids and heavy metals, providing a natural source of bioremediation. "Obviously these microorganisms are very successful at remediating the site. We want to know which microorganisms are there, which ones are thriving, or just making do, and what their actual function is," he said. Yuretich, a geologist who has brought classes to the site for more than 20 years, will study what role geology is playing in the natural clean-up: "The acid and the heavy metals react with bedrock and other glacial deposits and are neutralized. It’s similar to a person with an upset stomach taking an antacid; the acid level drops," said Yuretich.

There are also hydrology issues at work, researchers say. Engineers will study the way the groundwater and surface water are flowing. "There are a series of complex biochemical processes going on in order to enable the bioremediation to take place, and we need hard data to understand those processes," said Ergas. "We need to know the direction of groundwater flow, the amount of water movement, and its chemical composition." added Ahlfeld.

Feldman notes that a strong science education component has been built into the research project. Twelve high-school and middle-school teachers, who are pursuing master’s degrees in science education, will work as researchers for spring, summer, and fall, taking what they learn for use in their classroom teaching. "Participation in active research projects is often cited as the best way to learn science and the ways in which scientists think," Feldman said. Surveys and interviews of the teacher-scholars will be used to evaluate their perceptions of the nature of science, engineering, and scientific research. Their K-12 classes will be observed to determine whether their experiences have changed the way in which they understand and teach science, and the effects on their students’ learning.

Note: Klaus Nüsslein can be reached at 413/545-1356 or
nusslein@microbio.umass.edu

Elizabeth Luciano | EurekAlert!

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Global threat to primates concerns us all
19.01.2017 | Deutsches Primatenzentrum GmbH - Leibniz-Institut für Primatenforschung

nachricht Reducing household waste with less energy
18.01.2017 | FIZ Karlsruhe – Leibniz-Institut für Informationsinfrastruktur GmbH

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Quantum optical sensor for the first time tested in space – with a laser system from Berlin

For the first time ever, a cloud of ultra-cold atoms has been successfully created in space on board of a sounding rocket. The MAIUS mission demonstrates that quantum optical sensors can be operated even in harsh environments like space – a prerequi-site for finding answers to the most challenging questions of fundamental physics and an important innovation driver for everyday applications.

According to Albert Einstein's Equivalence Principle, all bodies are accelerated at the same rate by the Earth's gravity, regardless of their properties. This...

Im Focus: Traffic jam in empty space

New success for Konstanz physicists in studying the quantum vacuum

An important step towards a completely new experimental access to quantum physics has been made at University of Konstanz. The team of scientists headed by...

Im Focus: How gut bacteria can make us ill

HZI researchers decipher infection mechanisms of Yersinia and immune responses of the host

Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...

Im Focus: Interfacial Superconductivity: Magnetic and superconducting order revealed simultaneously

Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.

While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...

Im Focus: Studying fundamental particles in materials

Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales

Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Sustainable Water use in Agriculture in Eastern Europe and Central Asia

19.01.2017 | Event News

12V, 48V, high-voltage – trends in E/E automotive architecture

10.01.2017 | Event News

2nd Conference on Non-Textual Information on 10 and 11 May 2017 in Hannover

09.01.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Tracking movement of immune cells identifies key first steps in inflammatory arthritis

23.01.2017 | Health and Medicine

Electrocatalysis can advance green transition

23.01.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

New technology for mass-production of complex molded composite components

23.01.2017 | Process Engineering

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>