Bacterial biosensors for detection of naphthenic acids and as high throughput bioremediation screening tools
Extracting oil from the Athabasca oil sands generates large volumes of processed water that is stored in vast tailings ponds. Due to the accumulation of numerous organic compounds, this water needs to be monitored and eventually treated. Bioremediation is the use of bacteria to degrade the contaminants in the wastewater and is a low cost, feasible approach to treat large volumes of water. This proposal aims to develop a new biosensor technology to detect naphthenic acids in water, one of the primary chemicals of concern. The biosensors consist of engineered bacteria that produce light (bioluminescence) in the presence of naphthenic acids. Compared to current methods, biosensors are rapid, simple, low cost and high throughput. Biosensors will also be used to screen thousands of bacterial isolates to identify bacteria and the genes that are used to degrade naphthenic acids. Our goal is to improve our understanding of using bacterial bioremediation to clean up the water stored in the tailings ponds.