Heavy metal contaminants such as lead, copper and mercury can enter the food chain through sources such as vehicle exhaust, house paint, fertilizers and atmospheric deposition. To better understand how microorganisms might influence the break down of such contaminants, the U.S. Department of Energy has established research sites, including one in Oak Ridge, Tenn.
The goal of research done at these sites is to develop tools and resources regarding mechanisms and rates at which contaminants are removed that can be used at other contaminated sites. The subsurface sediment of the Oak Ridge – Field Research Center is highly acidic and has been contaminated with heavy metals and organic solvents. The microorganisms found in this environment have adapted to these harsh conditions and will be sequenced to help researchers understand how the bacteria have adapted to thrive here. Some of the data being sought focuses on bacterial adaptations to stress factors such as various contaminants and the acidity of the soil, and whether or not the microorganisms are forming consortia to collectively survive. Researchers hope to use the genomic data to better understand the stress responses of the bacteria being sequenced, and potentially identify new enzymes that could have industrial applications.
Principal Investigators: Annette Bollmann, Miami University of Ohio
Program: CSP 2010