Joseph M. Suflita

MAPCO Professor of Environmental Quality and
Director of the Institute for Energy and the Environment
George Lynn Cross Research Professor

Dr. SuflitaIn a broad sense, my research interests are concerned with the activities and interactions of microorganisms within various ecosystems. Therefore, knowledge of both the microorganisms and the habitat is essential for understanding microbial processes and the formulation of ecological principles that transcend the particular environment being studied. More specifically, I seek to determine the metabolic fate of contaminating organic chemicals in the environment and to describe these transformations in a quantitative manner.

Biodegradation information has steadily emerged in recent years with the recognition that microorganisms play preeminent roles in governing the rate and extent of pollutant transformation in virtually every major habitat. However, the efforts of my laboratory differ from others in two distinct ways: It is dedicated to the study of anaerobic biodegradation processes, and it focuses on environments that are not well studied like ground water aquifers and landfills.

I research mechanisms that anaerobes have evolved to degrade pollutant substances, the rates at which such materials are metabolized, the environmental factors that influence these rates, and the relationship of this type of metabolism to the cycling of carbon and energy in these poorly understood environments. My approach is taken because little is known about the anaerobic biotransformation of pollutants despite the recognition that such materials enter and reside in anoxic habitats like aquifers and landfills.

With the myriad of contaminants and the environmental and health implications of such materials, the need to understand and predict the fate of such materials is paramount. Therefore, the efforts of my laboratory are directed toward identifying the types of pollutants that are susceptible to anaerobic decay, isolating the requisite microorganisms, establishing the prevalent metabolic pathways, providing quantitative descriptions of biodegradation kinetics, and finding strategies for the bioremediation of contaminated areas. This effort includes both field and laboratory components.

Selected Publications:

For more information about this program, contact the Department or Dr. Joe Suflita.

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