Project Title: Microbial Bioremediation and Biotransformation of phenolic compounds in Industrial Effluent Supervisors: Prof Peter Ralph, Dr Audrey Commault
I am currently a PhD candidate within the Climate Change Cluster (C3). I commenced my PhD mid-2017 after completing a Bachelor (Hons) of Environmental Biology at the University of Technology Sydney.
Bioremediation is a human-engineered process which involves use of microorganism to remove or metabolize toxic, mutagenic, and carcinogenic substances into non-toxic compounds. It is a cost effective and environmentally friendly alternative to the energy intensive physico-chemical remediation processes commonly used.
Many of today’s industrial activities have associated waste water, often loaded with toxic compounds or persistent organic pollutants. Phenol and its derivatives are a group of hazardous contaminants frequently found in industrial effluent and are known to be harmful to both the environment, and human health. Even in extremely low concentrations phenolic compounds are carcinogenic and suspected endocrine disruptors. Due to the impact of phenolic compounds on both the environment and human health, phenol polluted sites are a priority for remediation.
My project aims to investigate the ability of a microalgae and bacterial consortia to bio-transform and detoxify phenolic compounds as well as examine the role of algae and bacteria in the degradation process, both together and separately. Work will also be done to characterize the metabolic pathways employed by microbes during the degradation of phenolic compounds.
The current physico-chemical processes employed to deal with polluted industrial effluents are both energy intensive and often produce undesirable by-products that require further treatment. This research hopes to increase the understanding of microbial bioremediation as so that it can be more readily employed as an eco-friendly solution for decontaminating polluted effluent before it enters the environment.