Nick Fetty | July 8, 2016
University of Iowa researchers are studying the role freshwater mussels play in the nitrogen cycle as a way to improve water quality in the Hawkeye State.
Craig L. Just – an assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering – and Ellen Black – PhD candidate in Environmental Engineering and Science – are studying the potential of using freshwater mussels as a way to remove nitrogen from Iowa waterways. Nitrogen contributes to the growth of algae which serves as a food source for the mussels. Specially, Black is looking at the effect that microbial communities have on native freshwater mussels.
“Mussels filter water and excrete nitrogen into underlying sediment, thus sequestering biologically active nutrients for microorganisms to consume and possibly remove from river systems,” Black told The Daily Iowan.
Through the use of generation sequencing, Black is able to pinpoint all bacteria found in mussel beds which can help researchers to better determine the effect that mussels have on microbial processes.
In addition to his work with mussels, Just has also worked with civil and environmental engineering PhD candidate Hunter Schroer. Just and Schroer are studying ways to make military explosives less prone to self-detonation. The researchers also seek to discover and potentially mitigate the impact that explosives have on the environment by finding organisms that detoxify explosives by converting them into carbon dioxide. They’re also studying ways they can use plants as a cost-effective way to detect explosives in soil.
For more information about Black and Schroer’s research, check out The Daily Iowan.