Environmental Microbiology and Toxicology

Environmental microbiology and toxicology research at the Marine School focuses on the interface between living systems and abiotic conditions in natural environments.  Its aim is to gain a better understand of how microorganisms, mainly bacteria, grow, survive, and maintain viability in natural ecosystems.  Researchers use bacterial pathogens and indicators of fecal contamination as tools to understand ecosystem processes affecting microbial communities. The main focus on abiotic factors has been on sources, environmental fate and effects of toxic chemicals and nutrients. Numerous past research projects have focused on a combination of these two areas, involving studies of abiotic factors affecting microbial transformation of toxic organic chemicals and trace metals.

Most of the Marine School’s recent research in this area has been in aquatic and sediment ecosystems in estuaries and coastal waters of the Gulf of Maine, especially the Great Bay Estuary of New Hampshire and Maine.  The overriding theme has been the fate, transport and persistence of bacteria and toxic chemicals in aquatic, terrestrial and subsurface environments as influenced by chemico-physical factors.  Emphasis has been on using newly developed technologies and approaches for addressing the needs of environmental and resource managers in the region.

Research topics include:

  • Application and assessment of Escherichia coli ribotyping and emerging methods as tools for tracking sources of fecal pollution in surface waters
  • The survival of allochthonous bacteria in secondary habitats within estuarine ecosystems
  • Evaluation of storm water treatment technologies for removing microorganisms
  • Use of shellfish to assess bioexposure to toxic chemicals in estuarine and marine ecosystems
  • Sources and fate of mercury in estuarine ecosystems
  • Integrated approaches to environmental monitoring

Stephen Jones
Email: stephen.jones@unh.edu
Phone: (603) 862-5124