Bioremediation of Plastic Pollution to Conserve Marine Biodiversity (2019-2020)

This Bass Connections project leveraged newly identified enzymes to create a lab strain of bacteria capable of rapidly degrading plastic to restore environmental health and conserve marine biodiversity.

The team tested and optimized a new system for plastic bioremediation that uses bioengineered laboratory strains of E. coli to express the two plastic-degrading enzymes PETase and MHETase. Using this strain, the team tested if the new E. coli-based system can degrade plastic and then work on optimizing this new system to enhance plastic bioremediation.

In the long term, this research will inform work to engineer a solar-powered portable bioreactor that can be deployed to areas in need of plastic remediation and removal. This project will therefore have the positive societal benefit of creating a new way to protect our oceans.

Timing

Fall 2019 – Summer 2020

Team Outputs

Protecting Oceans by Putting Plastic Waste to Use (Fortin Foundation Bass Connections Virtual Showcase 2020)

Bioremediation of Plastic Pollution to Conserve Marine Biodiversity (video)

This Team in the News

Confronting the Plastic Pandemic to Restore Environmental Health and Biodiversity

Doctoral Students Honored for Commitment to Outstanding Mentorship

Meet the Winners of the 2020 Bass Connections Student Research Awards

See related team, Bioremediation of Plastic Pollution to Conserve Marine Biodiversity (2020-2021).

 

Image: Smithsonian’s National Zoo presents “Washed Ashore: Art to Save the Sea,” by Adam Mason/Smithsonian’s National Zoo, licensed under CC BY 2.0

Smithsonian’s National Zoo presents “Washed Ashore: Art to Save the Sea."

Team Leaders

  • Meagan Dunphy-Daly, Nicholas School of the Environment-Marine Science and Conservation
  • William Eward, School of Medicine-Orthopaedic Surgery
  • Thomas Schultz, Nicholas School of the Environment-Marine Science and Conservation
  • Jason Somarelli, School of Medicine-Medicine: Medical Oncology

/graduate Team Members

  • Zoie Diana, Marine Sci & Conservation-PHD
  • Yiwei Duan, Civil & Environmental Engg-MS
  • Laura Givens, Marine Sci & Conservation-PHD
  • Emily Melvin, Master of Environmental Management, Coastal Environmental Management

/undergraduate Team Members

  • Ella Gunady, Biomedical Engineering (BSE), Biology (BS2)
  • Sarah Kwartler, Biology (BS)
  • Beatrice Schleupner, Biology (BS)
  • Emma Schmaltz, Environmental Sciences (BS)
  • Serafina Turner, Computer Science (BS)
  • Sophie Vincoff
  • Megan Wang
  • Zachary Weishampel, Biology (BS)
  • Justin Yang, Chemistry (BS)
  • Newland Zhang

/yfaculty/staff Team Members

  • Hailey Brighton, School of Medicine-Orthopaedic Surgery
  • Sarah Plumlee, School of Medicine-Orthopaedic Surgery
  • Andrew Read, Nicholas School of the Environment-Marine Science and Conservation
  • Kathryn Ware, School of Medicine-Molecular Genetics and Microbiology

/zcommunity Team Members

  • Durham Public Schools, City of Medicine Academy
  • North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences
  • STEM in the Park
  • East Durham Children's Initiative