My current research focus involves coalmine passive remediation systems and the microbial communities that live there. I currently study four passive systems (see Field Sites for more information) built to treat circum-neutral mine drainage (two) and acidic mine drainage (two).
I am part of Dr. Nancy Trun's lab at Duquesne University, where the lab focuses on the microbial communities present in passive remediation and their impact (positive and negative) on the system. The lab uses both classical microbiology and Next-generation sequencing to test hypotheses.
I have completed a seasonal study at Wingfield Pines that determined that there is a seasonal impact on both the water quality and microbial communities living within the system (Read More Here) and I am currently performing another seasonal study that will look at the other three systems (Lowber, Middle Branch, and Boyce). I developed a lab-based system to study the microbial communities influence on passive remediation systems under controlled environments. The overarching goal of my research is to identify the impacts bacterial communities have on passive remediation systems. This is accomplished by studying iron and sulfur cycling occurring in these systems, which is understudied in passive remediation systems. My research confirms that the iron oxidation occurring in the acidic passive systems is a result of biotic processes. Furthermore more, my research revealed that nitrate-dependent iron oxidation was occurring and continual research works to characterize this reaction. In the circum-neutral systems, such as Lowber, my work investigates sulfur cycling and explores way to drive sulfate reduction. A better understanding of the biogeochemical cycling happening in passive remediation systems will provide insight on optimization and long-term efficiency of these systems.