Sep 9, 2022: Evaluating the impact of ecological growth strategies of bacteria on plasmid transfer and function for bioremediation of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons

Paige Varner, PhD Candidate

Duke University

She / Her / Hers


Typical bioremediation methods that involve adding bacteria to contaminated sediment often fail due to die-off of exogenous bacteria. Genetic bioaugmentation adds degradative genes to adapted, native bacteria via plasmid transfer for sustained removal of contaminants. However, the absence of methods for tracking plasmid transfer in-situ have resulted in a lack of understanding of factors that affect gene transfer and expression. We developed fluorescence-based methods for tracking in-situ plasmid transfer to evaluate the impact of bacterial growth strategies on plasmid transfer and function of two PAH-degrading plasmids in simple and complex communities. This work aims to understand the factors that promote genetic bioaugmentation in complex communities for sustained removal of PAHs and other contaminants. 

About the Speaker: Paige Varner is a 6th year PhD Candidate in the Civil and Environmental Engineering Program and the Integrated Toxicology and Environmental Health Program working under Dr. Claudia Gunsch. She received her B.S. in Marine Biology and minor in Chemistry from College of Charleston in 2016. Before attending Duke University, she worked as a lab technician in Dr. Helen Hsu-Kim’s lab in Duke’s Civil and Environmental Engineering department. Her thesis research aims to promote remediation of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons by investigating how growth strategies of bacteria affect degradative gene transfer and function. Outside of research she is passionate about the intersection of environmental health, advocacy, and policy, and has served as an Environmental Impact Fellow and Student Consultant at the Duke Environmental Law and Policy Clinic.

Friday, September 9, 2022, 12:00-1:15 pm Eastern

Field Auditorium Room 1112, Grainger Hall (9 Circuit Dr, Durham, NC)

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