Primary Investigator:  Michael Travisano
Co-Investigators: Jim Cotner, Beatriz Baselga Cervera (Postdoctoral Research Scholar)
Industry Partners: City of Minneapolis – Deptartment of Public Works Division of Water Treatment & Distribution Services
Award Type: Seed Grant – Postdoctoral Research Scholar with NRRI Travel Grant

Problem: Harmful algal blooms (HABs) are an ecological and water supply risk due to a mixture of undesired effects: water anoxia, undesirable odors, and cyanobacterial toxins. HABS are an emerging problem in freshwater rivers, lakes, and reservoirs throughout MN, largely because of eutrophication and climate change. Concretely, cyanotoxins are emerging contaminants with diverse molecular structures and toxicological properties, ranging from mild symptoms to even death of animals and humans.

Solution: We propose to investigate microbial bioremediation of cyanotoxins. Based on natural evidence, satellite HABs communities are excellent candidates to degrade/ assimilate cyanotoxins and their degradation products. Heterotrophic bacteria play a significant role in the natural degradation and removal of cyanotoxins, but natural bioremediation of cyanotoxins and secondary metabolites by communities is largely unexplored.

Impact: We open avenues to discover degradation pathways and harness them for bioremediation through biological water treatment processes. The first step is to determine which strains have the capability to degrade the toxins. Additionally, our work will provide insight into why cyanobacteria produce toxins and facilitate management of HABS while providing insight into aquatic microbial community ecology. These studies can reveal community dynamics (indicator species or transitions), physiological, biochemical, and genetic/species differences among toxic and nontoxic strains.

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