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Scientists discover how microbes can clean up contamination in the environment.


Bioremediation Research Activities

Bioremediation is one method of cleaning up contamination in the environment through the activities of living organisms. There are three types of bioremediation strategies involving microorganisms: 1) Natural attenuation – In some cases, natural populations adapt to the contaminant conditions and are able to convert the contaminants to non-hazardous endproducts rapidly enough to prevent impact “down stream”. 2) Biostimulation – In some cases, natural populations can be stimulated to degrade contaminants by adding something, such as nutrients. Anaerobic respiration is a common process by which organisms degrade contaminants, and the amendments are often the electron donors or electron acceptors needed by the organism to complete the decontaminating reaction. 3) Bioaugmentation – In some cases it is necessary to add the microbial organisms that are capable of degrading the contaminant.

Leptothrix ochracea colonies in water. Photo credit: USGSArsenic Removal at Lava Cap
Chlorinated Compounds
WBC-2 microbial consortium. Photo credit: Geosyntec ConsultantsChlorinated Organic Solvents in Aquifers; Dechlorinating 1,1,2,2 Tetrachloroethane
Methyl Bromide
USGS bench-scale fermenter produces 8 liters of cells (1012 cells/ml) of A. ciceronei strain IMB-1 in 3 days. Photo credit: Larry Miller, USGS Bacterial Oxidation of Methyl Bromide in Soils; Removal of Methyl Bromide from Contained Fumigations

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