Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Ecosystem of vanishing lake yields valuable bacterium

19.10.2006
In the salt flats near a slowly vanishing lake, a team of researchers have found never-before-seen bacterium that could clean up some of humanity's pollution.

In three scientific papers currently being written, Brent Peyton, a Montana State University chemical engineering professor, his students, and collaborators are describing the unique qualities of Halomonas campisalis, a bacterium Peyton discovered in 1995 near Soap Lake, Wash.

At the time of discovery, Peyton worked for the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) in Richland, Wash., one of nine U.S. Department of Energy labs. The laboratory wanted to develop a treatment to remove nitrate contaminants from alkaline and saline radioactive wastewater. Such a treatment could also be used to clean-up wastewater from fertilizer and explosive manufacturing plants, which is 10 to 15-times saltier than the ocean and laden with polluting nitrates.

Peyton hoped the salty ecosystem of Soap Lake might be home to a bacterium that could live in such high-salt waters and also find nitrates appetizing.

Soap Lake is one of only 11 known meromictic lakes in the United States. The water in meromictic lakes separates into layers of differing mineral concentrations. The upper layer of Soap Lake is a little less than half the saltiness of the ocean, but more than 100-times saltier than river water. The bottom layer is more than twice as salty as the ocean and more than 700-times saltier than river water. These two layers are thought to have remained unmixed in any significant way for the past 2,000 to 10,000 years. The conditions of Soap Lake are considered so extraordinary the National Science Foundation designated it a "microbial observatory."

Near Soap Lake are salt flats. Water seeping through these flats finds its way into the lake, carrying salt with it. It was in these flats Peyton collected some mud in 1995.

In the lab, he tried to make something grow and something did: the bacterium he would later name Halomonas campisalis. The last part of the name translates from Latin into "salt flats."

Making its home in super-salty water, Halomonas campisalis eats nitrates for breakfast, dinner and lunch. When it's digested its meal, it gives off nitrogen as waste. In the grand scheme of things, nitrogen is pretty harmless. About 80 percent of the air we breathe is nitrogen.

The bacterium was perfect for the treatment of salty, nitrate-bearing wastewater, as well as wastewater from the production of explosives and fertilizers.

"You could pour that salty wastewater in a tank with Halomonas campisalis, add sugar or vinegar for food and let it perk away to create nitrogen," Peyton said.

It might sound simple, but it's taken years of painstaking laboratory work to grow, identify, and characterize all the unique capabilities of Halomonas campisalis. It could take years more for the bacterium to be turned into an industrial process, something Peyton hopes a company will attempt in the future.

His work has been done in close collaboration with microbiologists Melanie Mormile from the University of Missouri - Rolla in Rolla, Mo., and Holly Pinkart, from Central Washington University in Ellensburg, Wash.

Since first walking in Soap Lake's mud, Peyton's career and his Soap Lake research have taken him from five years at PNNL to eight years at Washington State University in Pullman, Wash., and then to MSU in August 2005. It was a homecoming of sorts: Peyton received his Ph.D. in chemical engineering from MSU in 1992.

During that time, Soap Lake has continued on a course that may lead to its disappearance.

"Many unique and undiscovered organisms have evolved in the extraordinary saltiness of the Soap Lake ecosystem," Peyton said. "But the lake's saltiness is being diluted, likely because of a major irrigation project built in the 1950s. It is already 60 percent less salty than 50 years ago. In another 50 years, Soap Lake as we know it - and the unique life it harbors - may not exist."

Contact: Brent Peyton, (406) 994-7419 or bpeyton@coe.montana.edu

Brent Peyton | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.coe.montana.edu

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Dune ecosystem modelling
26.06.2017 | Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg im Breisgau

nachricht Understanding animal social networks can aid wildlife conservation
23.06.2017 | Leibniz-Institut für Gewässerökologie und Binnenfischerei (IGB)

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: Can we see monkeys from space? Emerging technologies to map biodiversity

An international team of scientists has proposed a new multi-disciplinary approach in which an array of new technologies will allow us to map biodiversity and the risks that wildlife is facing at the scale of whole landscapes. The findings are published in Nature Ecology and Evolution. This international research is led by the Kunming Institute of Zoology from China, University of East Anglia, University of Leicester and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research.

Using a combination of satellite and ground data, the team proposes that it is now possible to map biodiversity with an accuracy that has not been previously...

Im Focus: Climate satellite: Tracking methane with robust laser technology

Heatwaves in the Arctic, longer periods of vegetation in Europe, severe floods in West Africa – starting in 2021, scientists want to explore the emissions of the greenhouse gas methane with the German-French satellite MERLIN. This is made possible by a new robust laser system of the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen, which achieves unprecedented measurement accuracy.

Methane is primarily the result of the decomposition of organic matter. The gas has a 25 times greater warming potential than carbon dioxide, but is not as...

Im Focus: How protons move through a fuel cell

Hydrogen is regarded as the energy source of the future: It is produced with solar power and can be used to generate heat and electricity in fuel cells. Empa researchers have now succeeded in decoding the movement of hydrogen ions in crystals – a key step towards more efficient energy conversion in the hydrogen industry of tomorrow.

As charge carriers, electrons and ions play the leading role in electrochemical energy storage devices and converters such as batteries and fuel cells. Proton...

Im Focus: A unique data centre for cosmological simulations

Scientists from the Excellence Cluster Universe at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich have establised "Cosmowebportal", a unique data centre for cosmological simulations located at the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. The complete results of a series of large hydrodynamical cosmological simulations are available, with data volumes typically exceeding several hundred terabytes. Scientists worldwide can interactively explore these complex simulations via a web interface and directly access the results.

With current telescopes, scientists can observe our Universe’s galaxies and galaxy clusters and their distribution along an invisible cosmic web. From the...

Im Focus: Scientists develop molecular thermometer for contactless measurement using infrared light

Temperature measurements possible even on the smallest scale / Molecular ruby for use in material sciences, biology, and medicine

Chemists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in cooperation with researchers of the German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM)...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Plants are networkers

19.06.2017 | Event News

Digital Survival Training for Executives

13.06.2017 | Event News

Global Learning Council Summit 2017

13.06.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Study shines light on brain cells that coordinate movement

26.06.2017 | Life Sciences

Smooth propagation of spin waves using gold

26.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Switchable DNA mini-machines store information

26.06.2017 | Information Technology

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>