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University of New Mexico

Superfund Research Program

Bioremediation by Integrating Plant-Fungi Symbiosis and Natural Minerals for Uptake of Metal Mixtures

Project Leader: Jose Manuel Cerrato
Co-Investigator: Anjali Mulchandani
Grant Number: P42ES025589
Funding Period: 2022-2027
View this project in the NIH Research Portfolio Online Reporting Tools (RePORT)

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Project Summary (2022-2027)

The goal of this project is to develop effective bioremediation technologies for metal mixtures occurring in contaminated waters and soils in sites impacted by mining legacy that are used for agriculture and grazing in Navajo Nation and Laguna Pueblo. The burden of mining activities has affected various Superfund sites in the U.S., causing multigenerational metal exposures across partner communities. The negative health impacts of human exposure to uranium, arsenic, vanadium, and other co-occurring metals are well documented. The chemical reactions influencing the solubility of metal mixtures in environmental systems remain unclear. The team’s collective expertise is integrating advances in ecology, mycology, molecular biology, and environmental engineering. The researchers are developing novel bioreactors catalyzed by plant-fungal symbiosis coupled with adsorption and precipitation using natural minerals for sustainable bioremediation of metal mixtures.

They are pursuing the following specific aims:

  • Identifying mechanisms underlying the interaction between plants and fungi in water that mediate the adsorption and precipitation of metal mixtures
  • Manipulate bioreactors in pots containing plants and fungi in soils with natural minerals under environmentally relevant water chemistries for remediation of metal mixtures.

The research will provide new insights about the reactivity of metal mixtures mediated by fungi and plants. Collaborations with Navajo Nation and Laguna Pueblo are serving to ensure that the science generated is responsive to community needs. Additionally, this project engages graduate students from under-represented minority groups, in this way contributing to training the next generation of scientists and engineers. The knowledge that results from the project is essential to risk assessment and to the advancement of bioremediation risk reduction strategies for metal mixtures.

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