Ammonia removal is an important part of wastewater treatment, as high levels of ammonia can be toxic to aquatic life, and cause eutrophication. I study the microorganisms involved in nitrification: the oxidation of ammonia to nitrate via nitrite. Using metagenomics, I am determining the abundance and diversity of complete ammonia-oxidizing bacteria (comammox) in the rotating biological contactors of a wastewater treatment plant. In the lab, I also work with an enrichment culture of ammonia-oxidizing archaea (AOA) and study its growth.
I combine environmental DNA sequencing (e.g., 16S rRNA gene, metagenomic) with enrichment culturing to probe the role of microbial iron cycling in Canadian boreal shield lakes. Working at the IISD-Experimental Lakes Area, I aim to characterize how anaerobic iron-oxidizing and reducing bacteria serve as biogeochemical links to other key elemental cycles (C, N, S) and to understand the magnitude of the impact of those bacteria on ecosystem-level processes. Prior to this project, I developed targeted PCR primer pairs to explore the soil “rare biosphere” for phylogenetically novel bacterial groups. I enjoy exploring the outdoors, casual stargazing (e.g., at the IISD-ELA), and getting a better understanding of how the hidden microbial world shapes our everyday lives.
My project aims to assess the relative abundance of ammonia-oxidizing bacteria (AOB), comammox bacteria and ammonia-oxidizing archaea (AOA) present in the Guelph wastewater treatment plant (WWTP) as well as to investigate the potential adaptation of ammonia oxidizers to biofilm-specific growth in the aeration basins of the WWTP.
Wastewater management in Canadian Arctic communities is a challenging task due to cold climate, small population sizes and remoteness of the communities. My project involves constructing a baseline characterization of the microbial community in the waste stabilization pond (WSP) of Baker Lake, Nunavut through DNA sequencing of 16S rRNA genes and whole metagenomes. I aim to create taxonomic and functional profiles of the WSP and downstream bodies of water to get a better understanding of the effects of the current wastewater treatment system on microbial populations.