New UI research could help fight pollution with microorganisms

Concrete and other surfaces are often covered in a thin film of pollution and pollution fighting bacteria and fungi (via Creative Commons). 

Julia Poska | December 20, 2019

As pollutants like particulates, PCB and pesticides filter out of the air, they often accumulate on surfaces like asphalt or building exteriors. When it rains, the pollutants can run off into water sources.

University of Iowa researchers recently published findings in Earth and Space Chemistry, revealing that a variety of bacteria and fungi live within the film of pollution on such surfaces. Some of those microorganisms are able to digest and break down the pollutants.

Researchers Scott Shaw (chemistry) and Timothy Mattes (civil and environmental engineering) intend to sequence the DNA of these organisms in the future. They will then be able to determine which could potentially be cultivated for fighting pollution in other areas, according to Iowa Now.

CGRER, the UI Center of Health Effects of Environmental Contamination,  the U.S. Department of Defense Army Research Office and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission funded this research.

Fungus Threatens Bats in Iowa

Photo by Michael Kappel; Flickr

A fungus, Geomyces destructans, has been found on a single bat in Maquoketa Caves State Park. The fungus causes white-nose syndrome (WNS), a desease that has killed 7 million bats since 2006.

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Drought damaged corn further threatened by fungus

Photo by agrilifetoday, Flickr.

Agricultural officials throughout Iowa, Nebraska, and other corn producing states are on watch for corn contaminated by a poison-producing fungus.

The fungus thrives in hot, dry conditions like this summer’s drought, and trace amounts have already been identified in some of the corn harvested in the United States.

For more information, read the full article at The Gazette.

On the Radio: Fungal detection means new precautions at Maquoketa Caves

Photo by USFWS/Southeast, Flickr.

Listen to this week’s radio segment here or read the transcript below. This week’s episode discusses the emergence of white-nose syndrome in the Maquoketa Caves.

With trace amounts of the white-nose syndrome found on a bat in the Maquoketa Caves, Iowans should keep in mind new precautions.

This is the Iowa Environmental Focus.

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