Text Version of Bioremediation Module Introductory Video

Hello. I am Dr. Sabrina Powell, and I am an environmental scientist. This module investigates the topic of bioremediation, which is a method for cleaning up contaminated soil or water. Microorganisms or plants are able to contain, degrade, or eliminate metals, pesticides, solvents, explosives, oil, and other contaminants. The word bioremediation comes from bio, meaning living, and remediation, meaning to improve the condition of something. When plants are used, the process is called phytoremediation, as the word phyto means plant. Bioremediation is clean, efficient, relatively inexpensive and non-environmentally disruptive, as opposed to processes that require the digging up and removal of soil. Interest in bioremediation has intensified as mankind searches for sustainable ways to clean up contaminated environments. The metabolic abilities of microorganisms and plants to contain or degrade pollutants are nothing less than amazing.

My work as a scientist has focused on the bioremediation of polluted soil from a former industrial site. Naturally occurring bacteria are able to degrade some of the contaminants in the soil, and my research sought a way to improve the cleanup process. I tested a compound which potentially could have sped up the degradation of the contaminants. Unfortunately, I found that the new method did not improve the extent or the speed of degradation. This sometimes happens, as research can be a trial and error process. Other scientists are still working on this problem, and perhaps one of them will find a way to improve the cleanup of contaminated soils.

Bioremediation is an interdisciplinary field which combines elements of biology, chemistry, geology, and public health. In this module, we present information about the bioremediation of a former industrial site. We provide a hands-on activity which will simulate the phytoremediation of copper-contaminated groundwater. Students can grow sprouts and investigate the how well the sprouts remove copper from solution. We also present a large data set describing how fern plants can remove the metal arsenic from soil. The data sets are accompanied by question-and-answer sets which will guide discussion and lead students to think critically about the data. We have also included teaching strategies, FCAT test-taking strategies, Florida-themed digital resources, and a list of student misconceptions. Bioremediation is accessible yet complex. The interdisciplinary nature of bioremediation touches on many of the Sunshine State Standards, and students will be engaged with this real-world application of science. Ideally students will acquire a level of understanding that will allow them to analyze evidence, formulate and solve problems, and draw their own conclusions. Other modules in this series will explore additional topics.