Bio-Remediated Soil Techniques: Sustainable Solutions to Environmental Problems

EPA Grant Number: FP917462
Title: Bio-Remediated Soil Techniques: Sustainable Solutions to Environmental Problems
Investigators: Haber, Melissa Jeanne
Institution: University of Wisconsin - Madison
EPA Project Officer: Zambrana, Jose
Project Period: September 1, 2012 through August 31, 2014
Project Amount: $84,000
RFA: STAR Graduate Fellowships (2012) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Academic Fellowships , Fellowship - Environmental Microbiology


Currently, the need for rapid infrastructural development is limited directly by the dearth of competent soils. This, along with the problem of soil degradation, necessitates a cost-effective and environmentally friendly method to fortify soils. Induced by ureolytic bacteria, MICP is a potential solution for solving this problem; however, the introduction of non-native microbial species could be harmful to the balance of native microbial populations, as well as soil chemistry. This project seeks to use next generation sequencing and ion chromatography to understand if the process of ureolysis disrupts the natural bacterial flora and alters natural nutrient cycling processes.


To investigate the effect of MICP treatment on microbial diversity, the study will prepare individual soil microcosms containing the ureolytic bacterium Sporosarcina pasteurii using established protocols. MICP will be induced, and soil samples from treated microcosms, as well as those from untreated control microcosms, will be analyzed for changes in bacterial diversity and nutrient content. To measure bacterial diversity, the study will determine the 16s rRNA profile of each sample, using next generation sequencing to determine the abundance of individual bacterial genera. Representative analytes of the three major nutrient cycles (nitrogen, phosphorous and carbon) will be measured by ion chromatography using established protocols.

Expected Results:

The effect of ureolysis increases the surrounding pH of the environment due to the production of ammonia and bicarbonate. The result of this alkaline environment may change the relative abundance of members in the population, for example, by favoring the growth of alkalinophiles over acidophiles. Furthermore, the impact of the buildup of ammonia on the natural flora and resulting change in the natural environment is unknown. This approach will allow the more global determination of the types of changes that are expected to occur after MICP treatment.

Potential to Further Environmental/Human Health Protection

The MICP treatment may help fortify degraded soils in areas prone to liquefaction. It is important to understand the environmental effects of this treatment as a buildup of ammonia in the soil followed by subsequent runoff into ground water/lake systems that may cause these waterways to become eutrophic across time. The results of this research will help determine if MICP is an environmentally friendly solution to soil fortification.

Supplemental Keywords:

microbially induced calcite precipitation, Sporosarcina pasteurii, ureolysis

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 2013
  • Final