School of Earth Sciences - Research Publications
Now showing items 1-12 of 672
A new 'bio-comfort' perspective for Melbourne based on heat stress, air pollution and pollen
Humans are at risk from exposure to extremes in their environment, yet there is no consistent way to fully quantify and understand the risk when considering more than just meteorological variables. An outdoor 'bio-comfort' threshold is defined for Melbourne, Australia using a combination of heat stress, air particulate concentration and grass pollen count, where comfortable conditions imply an ideal range of temperature, humidity and wind speed, acceptable levels of air particulates and a low pollen count. This is a new approach to defining the comfort of human populations. While other works have looked into the separate impacts of different variables, this is the first time that a unified bio-comfort threshold is suggested. Composite maps of surface pressure are used to illustrate the genesis and evolution of the atmospheric structures conducive to an uncomfortable day. When there is an uncomfortable day due to heat stress conditions in Melbourne, there is a high pressure anomaly to the east bringing warm air from the northern interior of Australia. This anomaly is part of a slow moving blocking high originating over the Indian Ocean. Uncomfortable days due to high particulate levels have an approaching cold front. However, for air particulate cases during the cold season there are stable atmospheric conditions enhanced by a blocking high emanating from Australia and linking with the Antarctic continent. Finally, when grass pollen levels are high, there are northerly winds carrying the pollen from rural grass lands to Melbourne, due to a stationary trough of low pressure inland. Analysis into days with multiple types of stress revealed that the atmospheric signals associated with each type of discomfort are present regardless of whether the day is uncomfortable due to one or multiple variables. Therefore, these bio-comfort results are significant because they offer a degree of predictability for future uncomfortable days in Melbourne.
Characterization of an autotrophic bioreactor microbial consortium degrading thiocyanate
Thiocyanate (SCN-) forms as a by-product of cyanidation during gold ore processing and can be degraded by a variety of microorganisms utilizing it as an energy, nitrogen, sulphur and/or carbon source. In complex consortia inhabiting bioreactor systems, a range of metabolisms are sustained by SCN- degradation; however, despite the addition or presence of labile carbon sources in most bioreactor designs to date, autotrophic bacteria have been found to dominate key metabolic functions. In this study, we cultured an autotrophic SCN--degrading consortium directly from gold mine tailings. In a batch-mode bioreactor experiment, this consortium degraded 22 mM SCN-, accumulating ammonium (NH4+) and sulphate (SO42-) as the major end products. The consortium consisted of a diverse microbial community comprised of chemolithoautotrophic members, and despite the absence of an added organic carbon substrate, a significant population of heterotrophic bacteria. The role of eukaryotes in bioreactor systems is often poorly understood; however, we found their 18S rRNA genes to be most closely related to sequences from bacterivorous Amoebozoa. Through combined chemical and phylogenetic analyses, we were able to infer roles for key microbial consortium members during SCN- biodegradation. This study provides a basis for understanding the behaviour of a SCN- degrading bioreactor under autotrophic conditions, an anticipated approach to remediating SCN- at contemporary gold mines.