Event Date: 
Wednesday, September 25, 2013 - 07:00 - 08:00
Helmholtz Centre for Groundwater Ecology, Munich, Germany

Limiting factors for anaerobic aromatic hydrocarbon degradation in contaminated aquifers and oil reservoirs



  • Rainer Meckenstock studied biology at University of Konstanz, Germany 1985-1990. He finished with a thesis in the group of Prof. Winfried Boss on microbial sugar transport systems (molecular microbiology). He did his PhD at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) in Zürich, Switzerland, with a thesis on biochemistry of light-harvesting complexes of phototrophic bacteria (1990-1993) in the Institute of Molecular Biology and Biophysics with Prof. Zuber. During his post-doc at the Swiss Federal Institute of Environmental Science andTechnology (EAWAG) in the group of Dr. van der Meer in Dübendorf, Switzerland, he developed molecular methods to monitor trichlorobenzene-degrading microorganisms and their degradation activities in the environment (PCR, RT/PCR, in situ hybridisation) (1993-1995). He changed to the investigation of anaerobic degradation of aromatic hydrocarbons in the Microbial Ecology Group of Prof. Bernhard Schink, University of Konstanz, Germany, in 1996. Here, he isolated novel anaerobic BTEX and PAH-degrading organisms and studied the degradation pathways. A new method to study microbial activities in the environment with analysis of stable isotope fractionation was developed. Since 2000 he changed to the Center of Applied Geosciences at the University of Tübingen, Germany, and set up a Geomicrobiology group within the Chair of Environmental Mineralogy (Prof. Stefan Haderlein). Research topics were the anaerobic degradation of mono- and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (BTEX, PAH), isotope fractionation as a means to monitor biodegradation in contaminated groundwaters, limitations of natural attentuation, and the reduction of iron minerals as electron acceptor. Since July 2003, he became the director of the Institute of Hydrology at GSF which changed its name to Institute of Groundwater Ecology at the beginning of 2004. In 2007 he was appointed as a full professor for Groundwater Ecology at the Life Science Center (WZW) of the Technical University of Munich.

Maria-Luisa Gutierrez-Zamora

The JAMS rendezvous this October 31st took place in the fourth floor of the Museum with a magnificent view of Sydney, and began with an ad hoc presentation featuring sulphurous scents and sexy fangs. Katherina Petrou (UTS) initiated us in the science of the sulphur cycle in the oceans and how this process is dominated by the production of dimethylsulfoniopropionate (DMSP) by microalgae and its decomposition into dimethylsulphide (DMS), a strong odorous chemoattractant for a range of marine organisms. In tackling the mystery of how harmful algal blooms disappear, Katherina discovered that DMS produced by the dinoflagellate Alexandrium minutum (causative agent of toxic algal blooms) was the chemical cue for the infection of its parasitoid Parvilucifera sinerae.  An elegant video illustrated how DMS at 300 nM was able to activate the parasitoid spores from a dormant state to leave the sporangium (an infected A. minutum cell) in transit to infect other cells and propagate. Activation only occurred in the range of 30 to 300 nM indicating that the effect was dependent on cell density. Thus, Katherina’s work showed that DMS plays an important role in the biological control of toxic algal blooms in the oceans. Her results contribute to the better understanding of marine chemical ecology.

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