Ramesh Goel

Mercury and bacteria mediated methylation in Great Salt Lake

The GSL watershed and the surrounding wetlands are of critical importance, and are instrumental in the sustenance of the regional ecosystem. Recent studies have reported alarmingly high concentrations of mercury in the Great Salt Lake (GSL), posing serious questions on its ecological viability. Bacteria mediated methylation of mercury in wetland sediments has come to be an issue of recent concern and this is the focus of interest in this study.

The research approach employed involved the synoptic analysis of the Total Mercury (THg) and Methyl Mercury (MeHg) concentration in the water column and sediments of the Farmington Bay (FB) in GSL, Utah Lake, upper and lower sections of Jordan River. Further, sediment samples were collected at three locations from a site in the wetlands of FB duck clubs to evaluate: (1) the rate of mercury methylation, and (2) the ecology of sulfate reducers, which possibly participated in mercury methylation. The total and methyl mercury concentrations in the water column of Farmington Bay analyzed were 19.05±9.48 ng/L and 1.49±1.19 ng/L, respectively; Utah Lake water column and the corresponding sediments total and methyl mercury concentrations were 2.74±0.393ng/L, 0.0536±0.024 ng/L and 27.13±2.58 µg/Kg, 0.0717±0.0235 µg/Kg, respectively. The upper section of the Jordan River mercury concentrations in the water column and the sediments estimated were 19.95±0.78 ng/L, 0.18±0.08 ng/L and 18.5±0.282 µg/Kg, 0.021±0.0 µg/Kg respectively. While, in the lower sections were 26.9±0.78 ng/L, 0.64±0.07 ng/L and 79.05±29.63 µg/Kg, 0.15±0.023 µg/Kg respectively.

The average mercury methylation rates for the three sites in the FB duck clubs were estimated to be 0.018±0.001 day-1. The phylogenetic analysis and diversity of the sulfate reducers has been analyzed and reported. Majority of the clones belong to the family of Desulfobacteraceae, signifying that the acetate consuming bacteria may be widespread.

Dr. Ramesh Goel is an Associate Professor of Environmental Engineering at the University of Utah. He obtained his Doctoral in Environmental Engineering from the University of South Carolina in 2003 and then moved to the University of Wisconsin for his Post Doctoral training. In both degrees, he extensively studied biological nutrient removals.

Since joining the University of Utah, Dr. Goel has been conducting applied as well as fundamental basic research in environmental engineering and science. Dr. Ramesh Goel is recipient of NSF-CAREER award in his transformative research related to bacteriophages in engineered bioreactors. Currently, Dr. Goel is serving on several WEF committees including Environmental Management and Disinfection. He is also serving on WEFTEC Research Symposium Committee. Dr. Goel is also working with Black & Veatch, SIEMENS on various applied project.

Currently, he is researching in surface water quality and the effect of urbanization on surface water quality, antibiotic resistance bacteria and their evolutionary process, decentralized wastewater treatment, water management for forward bases, bacteriophages in engineered bioreactors and simultaneous sludge reduction and nutrient removal. His research work has appeared in journal of international repute with high impact factors.

Photograph by Bob Willbanks

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