Bacteria and other microorganisms are well known to play a critical role in the biodegradation and detoxification of organic pollutants in natural ecosystems. Exploiting and managing these natural roles to remediate contaminated environments, and having an understanding of the microorganisms involved in these processes, is essential for designing engineered solutions to pollution problems. Further, microbial processes are often used for the production of fine chemicals and pharmaceuticals thanks to the metabolic versatility and diversity of this group of organisms. We aim to expand our knowledge of the molecular and biochemical nature of bacterial transformations of sulfur-containing organic contaminants by bacteria and fungi using traditional, genomic and proteomic approaches. We hope to develop biocatalysts and biosensors for bioremediation of contaminants such as mustard gas hydrolysis products, sulfonated Perfluorochemicals and petroleum hydrocarbons. Significant stores of mustard gas remain in storage depots in the US and aquatic dump sites in Canada and abroad, a legacy remaining from WWI. Perfluorochemicals are emerging toxic contaminants used in the manufacture of products such as water and stain repellents, non-stick coatings, and some firefighting foams. Finally, we have recently begun exploring the impacts of feed additives on methanogenesis and fecal E. coli shedding from cattle.
Jonathan Van Hamme
While Thompson Rivers University is a relatively new institution, we have built a laboratory where undergraduate and MSc students have excellent access to equipment for basic microbiology and molecular biology, fermentations up to 40 L, 2D gel proteomics, protein purification, a range of analytical equipment (e.g. gas chromatography, Q-TOF ESI LC/MS, NMR), and more recently tools for microbial community analysis by DGGE and rep-PCR.