Microbial Ecology to Manage Processes for Rioremediation


Sebastian Behrens
Associate Professor, Dept. of Civil, Environmental, and Geo Engineering

March 24, 2017


The research fields of microbial ecology and bioremediation are inherently tied to each other. The concepts and tools of microbial ecology are the basis for managing processes for bioremediation; and applications of bioremediation in natural or engineered ecosystems provide interesting cases studies to advance concepts and technologies in microbial ecology. In this presentation, Dr. Behrens will give an introduction and overview of the major objectives and challenges of both research fields and then use examples of his research to demonstrate how microbial ecology and bioremediation work together. One example will be a field study on reductive dechlorination of chloroethenes in a contaminated aquifer during biostimulation. In the other example, he will demonstrate how microbial interactions with soil organic matter and pyrogenic carbon can stimulate anaerobic microbial respirations (iron reduction, denitrification) to enhanced heavy metal mobility and nitrate removal in soils.


Dr. Behren's research focuses on linking environmental processes to the spatial-temporal distribution and metabolic activity of key functional groups of microorganisms. He follows an interdisciplinary approach that combines the disciplines biogeochemistry, microbiology, and molecular biology to understand the basic microbial ecology principles driving the biogeochemical cycling of metals and metalloids, the biodegradation of organic contaminants, and the emission of greenhouse gases from the molecular to the ecosystem scale. The gained knowledge on microbial transformation processes in natural and engineered ecosystems is then implemented in order to optimize microbial remediation approaches, resource recovery, and the biological treatment of water (drinking water, surface water, groundwater, or waste water), thereby spanning the gap between basic and applied research aspects of bioremediation.