February 17, 2015
Smithers, BC – Genome British Columbia (Genome BC) and the Bulkley Valley Research Centre are hosting a public event, “Bringing Genomics Home” on Wednesday, February 18th. The topic, Genomics: Changing the Way We Mine promises to be a lively and engaging presentation by Dr. Sue Baldwin, Professor, Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering at the University of British Columbia on current genomics applications which are affecting and benefiting the mining industry. A pioneer in this field, Dr. Baldwin is leading cutting-edge research with major mining groups to progress innovation into practice.
Members of the media are invited to attend the talk, which begins at 12:00pm on Wednesday, February 18 at Northwest Community College (3966 2nd Avenue) Room 109 in Smithers. Please visit www.genomebc.ca/smithers to register, and join the conversation about genomics and how new tools are changing approaches to bioremediation for mines.
“Dr. Baldwin is tackling old problems in new ways – and starting to make a real impact,” says Dr. Alan Winter, President & CEO of Genome BC. “I think the people of Smithers will find Dr. Baldwin’s expertise and unique research approach fascinating.”
Bioremediation of wastewater is an area of growing interest: the process uses naturally occurring microbes that live in and around mine sites to ‘digest’ the toxic compounds and detoxify the contaminated water. In essence, the specialized organisms thrive on toxic chemicals, integrating them into their metabolism while neutralizing toxicity.
While bioremediation has been around for years, we are still learning how these toxin-digesting microbes work, how to best exploit their unique capabilities and how to optimize them to work better in challenging environments.
The real benefit of applying genomics to bioremediation lies in the understanding we gain on how complex microbial communities living together in mine wastewater function and, more importantly, what makes them flourish. In order for these microbes to function effectively, it is imperative we know what sort of environment best fosters them—the type of nutrients, food sources, and conditions that maximize the growth and function of the most desirable group of microbes.
Dr. Baldwin and her team are working to discover microbes with particular abilities to treat a wide variety of waste streams and to then develop bioreactors in which to grow and use these microbes. Microbes live in diverse environments, including those that are extreme with toxic metals, strong acids, sulfurous compounds and other chemicals. Dr. Baldwin looks for microbes thriving in these harsh environments and transforms mine-related toxic compounds into more benign forms. Her efforts are also directed toward replicating conditions for optimum performance in full-scale bioreactors at mine sites.