The great Sulfolane degrader of the Subarctic.

Article and Link:

Identification and Characterization of a Dominant Sulfolane-Degrading  Rhodoferax sp. via Stable Isotope Probing Combined with Metagenomics

by Christopher Paul Kasanke, R. Eric Collins &  Mary Beth Leigh

published 2/28/2019

Summery: Researchers were able to identify and obtain metagenomics on a microbacteria within the microbial community of the Sulfolane contaminated water aquifer in North Pole, Alaska that is naturally degrading the Sulfolane contaminate.     While microbacteria in other temperate regions of the world: Illinois, Canada and Japan, have identified Sulfolane degraders this is the first in a subarctic climate.   This bacteria, Rhodoferax sp. is found to be the Sulfolane degrader able not only to survive in the subarctic conditions and persist at 4o C, the average temperature of the aquifer year-round, it also

Connections:   This information connects to what we have covered in class in that the identification of Rhodoferax sp. is a further example of niche evolution and how there are different bacteria that evolve doing the same job in different areas in different ways.

Critical analysis: I think it is interesting and exciting that this is the first subarctic microorganism of its kind identified.   I think this paper is scientifically accurate.   The paper has many references, was a continuation of earlier research, processes were explained well and thought through.   I think the researcher does a good job of communicating science to the public, while there were parts that might be a little in depth, I believe that even if someone read it that did not understand exactly what everything meant, they would be able to understand the overall message.

Question: I am curious to know, where is Rhodoferax sp. found around the world, besides Alaska?

1 Comment for “The great Sulfolane degrader of the Subarctic.”



As someone who lives just outside of the Sulfolane Plume of North Pole, this is great news! Now that a species which degrades sulfolane, and is already active within the aquifers has been identified, perhaps they can begin more bio-remediation of this contaminant. To my knowledge the only real approach has been to line everyone to city water, which doesn’t really get rid of the contaminant. Perhaps, they can attempt to make the conditions more hospitable for this bacteria, much like Dr. Leigh did previously with the Uranium contamination. I definitely enjoy hearing about research making breakthroughs in helping clean up the environment, thank you.
Samantha Smith

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