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DISSERTATION RESEARCH: Diversity of xenobiotic genes may suggest local adaptation and bioremediation potential of microbial communities

Bacteria have evolved a broad array of genes for the break-down and remediation of environmental contaminants. Greater diversity of genes involved in the metabolism of contaminants may facilitate a more complete remediation of these toxic compounds from polluted environments. However, to date few studies have thoroughly examined the diversity of these genes across contaminated ecosystems. <br/><br/>This award is for a Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grant for the continued research education and training of Matthew Hoostal, a graduate student at Bowling Green State University. In his studies, environmental DNA techniques will be utilized to survey the diversity of various organochlorine and mercurial remediation genes in polluted and unpolluted sediments of Lake Erie. Lake Erie, with an east-west gradient of increasing contaminants, provides an excellent system for testing the efficacy of functional gene diversity indices as indicators of ecosystem function and restoration. Diversity indices will be developed to test whether the targeted remediation genes possess greater functional diversity in contaminated compared to uncontaminated sediments. Indices of gene diversity may provide important information for management agencies to implement appropriate remediation strategies. This project underscores the value of environmental DNA techniques to assess the potential for metabolic response through natural processes generated by microbial communities. The implementation of these techniques would help in the prioritization of polluted sites in need of ecological restoration.

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