Restoring Polluted Environments

Stream pollution from coal mines. Photo by Matt Wasson, pollution from coal mines. Photo by Matt Wasson,

Across Appalachia and in many developing nations, abandoned coal mines drain dangerously-high levels of manganese into the waterways. Smithsonian Post-Doctoral Fellow Dominique Chaput studies the microbes that remove pollutants from the poisened water by helping convert dissolved manganese into an insoluble mineral form.

Chaput has identified a number of microorganisms, bacteria, fungi, and algae, that kick-start this transformation of manganese. Now she wants to figure out just how they do it. Thanks to GGI, she will. By comparing microbe genetic profiles, she aims to uncover the pathways and mechanisms responsible for converting the dissolved metal compounds to solid minerals and identify which species do it best. Her results, along with Mother Nature's help, promise to inform how we restore contaminated and polluted environments.