Thanks everyone who turned up for the final JAMS of 2014. Great presentations, quality beer and pizza and that special JAMS hummm that fills a room. Looking to the future 2015 will be a big year. We have our fourth annual symposium on the 25th of February with a stellar line up of guest speakers, along with the bioinformatics/biostatistics workshop from the 23rd-24th Feb. Also by March we should have the TOF-SIMS up and running at UNSW. Finally, in the new year and based on the JAMS Inc network we will be launching the Australian Microbial Biotechnology Alliance (AMBA) to unite researchers in this space and increase lobbying capacity for large funding opportunities. Thanks again everyone for a fantastic year. Have a great break and we'll see you in 2015.
On the last Wednesday of spring we were spoiled with the room on the top floor of the Australian Museum and magnificent views of Sydney, yes, once again! Joining us were not only our regular JAMS crowd, but also visitors from Europe (yes, that is really cold in Europe during this time of the year!)
Biodegradation of dichloroethane by aerobic bacteria at the Botany Industrial Park
The chlorinated hydrocarbon 1,2-dichloroethane (DCA) is a common pollutant of groundwater, and poses both human and environmental health risks. The Botany Industrial Park in south Sydney is heavily contaminated with DCA and other organochlorines. The main user of the site (Orica Ltd) operates a large groundwater treatment plant (GTP) on site to contain and remediate the DCA-contaminated groundwater. At present, remediation is done by air-stripping and thermal oxidation, but this is very costly and energy-intensive. Orica is interested in alternative technologies for treating the groundwater, including bioremediation. In 2010, a pilot scale membrane bioreactor (MBR) was set up to treat a fraction of the groundwater. The aims of our study were to identify DCA-degrading bacteria and genes in the GTP and on the site at large, define the community structure and ecological successions occurring in the MBR, develop a qPCR for catabolic genes in the DCA biodegradation pathway, and field-test this qPCR assay in the MBR and in a survey of groundwater in monitoring wells on the site. We discovered that DCA-degrading bacteria using a hydrolytic pathway (dhlA/dhlB genes) were widespread and diverse at this site, and that the dhlA gene was carried on a catabolic plasmid. The community in the MBR was dominated by alpha- and beta-proteobacteria, and was highly dynamic, changing dramatically in composition as the percentage of raw groundwater in the feed was increased. By combining dhlA qPCR and 16S pyrosequencing data, we found evidence that thus-far-uncultured species of Azoarcus may play a major role in DCA bioremediation in situ in the MBR.