Microbial Community Composition of Permeable Reactive Barriers – Who Is Really Doing the Work?

June 27, 2013 in Current Research Projects, Microbes, Nitrogen

Jen BowenPIs:  Jennifer Bowen, UMASS-Boston

Ken Foreman, MBL Ecosystems Center

Funding: MIT Seagrant

Description: Permeable Reactive Barriers (PRBs) are currently being tested at the Waquoit Bay Reserve as a potential partial mitigation strategy for nutrient pollution. The barriers are designed to remove nitrogen by promoting microbially-mediated denitrification but there has been no examination of the microbial community that is responsible for the removal of the nitrogen and no attempt to understand how those microbial communities might respond to future environmental change.  This project will use molecular biology to examine how the barriers, and the periodic inundation of seawater, alter the structure and function of the microbial community. This information will help determine the best placement of the barriers to maximize their effectiveness.  Understanding how the microbial communities in the two barriers differ and under what environmental conditions the denitrifying bacteria thrive will help to guide future barrier construction, particular in the context of rising sea levels.