The goal of our research program is twofold:
Isolation and molecular characterization of indigenous microorganisms for use in bioremediation of toxic spills within the Fraser Valley:
Bioremediation is the breakdown (biodegradation) of contaminating compounds using microorganisms. These microbes use contaminants as a food source, thereby completely eliminating toxic compounds by changing them into basic elements such as carbon dioxide and water. In British Columbia there are currently over 9000 contaminated soil sites, however, this number is much lower than the actual figure because it doesn’t include residential pollution. In addition to soil contamination, nonpoint source (NPS) water pollution is a major concern in BC. The risk of not controlling NPS pollution is extensive and includes: degraded drinking water, damage to aquatic ecosystems, economic losses to commercial and recreational fishing and shellfish harvesting, diminished water-based recreation and tourism opportunities, reduced aesthetic of lakes, streams and coastal areas, costs of remediation, and reduced real estate values.
The goal of this project is to generate a microbial bioremediation program at UFV, with short term goals of identifying and characterizing bacteria capable of metabolizing toxic waste at high efficiency within the Fraser Valley, and a long term goal of using these bacteria for community based green bioremediation programs. An indigenous microbial population is the most desirable since these microbes will be well adapted to conditions (temperature, alkalinity, moisture content, etc.) within the Fraser Valley. Currently we are characterizing a bacterial isolate from a contaminated agricultural site that is capable of the biodegradation of diesel. The goal is to use a process called successive adaptation to artificially increase its growth rate to enable it more able to degrade the contaminant in a timely manner. Ultimately all bacterial isolates will be characterized genetically to determine whether they contain any unique biochemical pathways that can be utilized for increased biodegradation of contaminants.
Characterization of virulence genes from a microorganism isolated off the coast of British Columbia:
Research is ongoing on a marine isolate from off the coast of BC which is capable of bioluminescence. Typically this microorganism is known to survive in a state of symbiosis with various marine animals. Interestingly the isolate under study also contains a number of genes normally expressed in more pathogenic microorganisms. Two genes of particular interest include one which codes for a multidrug efflux pump and one which codes for a putative hemolysin. Research will determine whether these genes are involved in the infection process for this normally non-pathogenic microorganism, as well as to study how these genes are regulated in the organism’s normal environment.
Dr. Steve Thomas' contact information: