Water Resources Research Act Program

Details for Project ID 2017VT85B

Trails to remediation: the effects of seasonal variations on the acid mine drainage microbiome at Ely Copper Mine in Vershire, VT

Institute: Vermont
Year Established: 2017 Start Date: 2017-03-01 End Date: 2019-02-28
Total Federal Funds: $33,985 Total Non-Federal Funds: $67,973

Principal Investigators: LesleyAnn Giddings

Abstract: Acid mine drainage (AMD) is the outflow of acidic water from coal and mining regions worldwide containing metal-sulfide-rich rocks. Water quality (Fig. 1) in these regions is affected due to the acidification that occurs during the chemical weathering of these rocks. The state of Vermont has three copper mining sites that are on the Environmental Protection Agency’s Superfund National Priorities List. Ely Copper Mine in Vershire, Vermont has been abandoned for >50 years and has developed AMD (Fig. 1) that has impacted surrounding aquatic environments for decades. AMD environments select for microbes that can withstand extreme conditions, such as toxic levels of metal and acid, and have been investigated to find sources of enzymes for industrial purposes, including bioremediation [3]. This study focuses on characterizing the AMD microbiome and finding genes involved in heavy metal trafficking or storage for bioremediation. The biodiversity of the AMD microbiome varies with changes in growth conditions, such as ionic strength, pH [4], and temperature, which change with seasons [5]. Thus, we hypothesize that the biodiversity of the Ely Copper Mine AMD microbiome varies in the coldest and warmest months of January and July, respectively, and some of these microbial genes are involved in adapting to these environments and transforming heavy metals." "To better understand how to restore the water quality at Ely Copper Mine, this proposal aims to 1) use shotgun metagenomic sequencing to characterize the biodiversity of the AMD microbiome specifically in Ely Brook and a nearby Vadose zone, and determine how these microbial communities change with seasons; 2) identify genes involved in adaptation and heavy metal transformation (e.g., P- type ATPases, multicopper oxidases, and cus determinants [6]); and 3) identify metabolites produced by culturable AMD-microbes using high resolution liquid chromatography/mass spectrometry and nuclear magnetic resonance and determine how select microbial metabolomes change with temperature. This will be the first characterization of an AMD microbiome in the Vermont copper belt. Metagenomic and metabolomics data will help characterize the AMD microbiome, including sulfate-[7] or iron-reducing bacteria that can be used in bioremediation, identify functional genes required for microbial adaptation to these environments, gain insight into how the microbiome changes with seasons, and examine the effects of temperature on the small molecules produced by culturable AMD-microbes. Importantly, this work will meet the goals of 1) the U.S. Geological Survey [8] by identifying microbes and genes involved in transforming heavy metals that can be used to develop in situ technology for the management and remediation of contaminated sites, 2) Section 104(b) of the Water Resources Research Act [9], as well as those of 3) the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation [10], which aims to preserve, enhance, restore, and conserve Vermont’s natural resources.