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Research > Bioremediation of Arctic sites

Numerous sites in the Canadian Arctic are polluted with various chemicals. We are conducting studies aimed at developing technologies to biologically remediate such sites contaminated with polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and hydrocarbon fuels. We have isolated cold-adapted, aerobic PCB-degrading bacteria, and in one isolate we have characterized biphenyl uptake, induction of the biphenyl pathway and the biphenyl dioxygenase enzyme. We have also characterized anaerobic microbial consortia that dechlorinate PCBs and have done fundamental studies on this process of dehalorespiration process. We have developed a sequential process for biodegradation of highly-chlorinated PCBs using anaerobic and aerobic microorganisms. In field studies we are demonstrating the feasibility of bioremediation of hydrocarbon-contaminated Arctic sites using various bioremediation strategies. In laboratory and field studies, we are using molecular assays to characterize Arctic soil microbial communities and their dynamics when soil is polluted and bioremediated (see section on Molecular microbial ecology).

Polygonal soil Colonized pyrene crystals
Labrador Valley

Above Left: Polygonal soil near Canadian Forces Station Alert on the northern coast of Ellesmere Island; we are investigating the microbial communities indigenous to such soils as well as the potential for bioremediating such soils when they are polluted by fuel spills.
Above: Growth of a pyrene-degrading biofilm from Arctic soil on a crystal of pyrene.
Left: Labrador Valley.

Selected publications:
Master, E.R., V.W.-M. Lai, B. Kuipers, W.R. Cullen & W.W. Mohn. 2001. Sequential anaerobic-aerobic treatment of soil contaminated with weathered Aroclor 1260. Environ. Sci. Technol. in press and available online.
Eriksson, M., J.-O. Ka & W.W. Mohn. 2001. Effects of low temperature and freeze-thaw cycles on hydrocarbon biodegradation in Arctic tundra soil. Appl. Environ. Microbiol. 67:5107-5112.
Master, E.R. & W.W. Mohn. 2001. Induction of bphA, encoding biphenyl dioxygenase, in two polychlorinated biphenyl-degrading bacteria, psychrotolerant Pseudomonas strain Cam-1 and mesophilic Burkholderia strain LB400. Appl. Environ. Microbiol. 67(6):2669-2676.
Mohn, W.W., C.Z. Radziminski, M.-C. Fortin & K.J. Reimer. 2001. On site bioremediation of hydrocarbon-contaminated Arctic tundra soils in inoculated biopiles. Appl. Microbiol. Biotechnol. 57(1-2):242-247.

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