Environmental Science

Factors Affecting the Uptake of Soil Pollutants

The biological availability (i.e., uptake) of pollutants from soil is controlled by a number of biological, chemical, and physical factors. Chemical properties of a pollutant, metabolic capabilities and ecological strategies of organisms, soil characteristics, and the residence time of a compound in soil are among those variables that affect the bioavailability of soil toxins. Currently, we are studying some of the factors that influence the uptake of DDE, a persistent metabolite of DDT, by earthworms and plants. Our test organisms are Eisenia foetida, Aporrectodea caliginosa, and Lumbricus terrestris (earthworms) and Cucurbita pepo and Cucurbita maxima (squash plants). Test organisms are grown separately in soil containing either field-weathered DDE (in soil for approximately 50 years) or soil to which DDE has been added by us. Soil samples are provided by Dr. Jason White of the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station, who is collaborating with us on this work. Tissues of the organisms are extracted, and uptake of DDE is quantified through gas chromatography. Ultimately, we hope our findings will have an effect on the regulation and remediation of hazardous waste sites. In addition, we hope to provide data that will be useful in the development of phytoremediation techniques (i.e., the use of plants to clean up contaminated soil). If you are interested in learning more or getting involved, contact Dr. Jason Kelsey at 484-664-3144 or kelsey@muhlenberg.edu