My earlier research focused on the physiology and biochemistry of environmental stresses associated with water, mineral nutrients, salinity, and toxic heavy metals. Since 1990 my research has focused on phytoremediation, the use of plants to clean up contaminated soil and water. My research approach is multidisciplinary in that my laboratory conducts research in ecology, plant physiology and biochemistry, microbiology, and molecular biology. My major accomplishments include development of the use of constructed wetlands to remove selenium and toxic heavy metals from agricultural and industrial wastewater, as well as the development of genetically engineered plants for the phytoremediation of selenium- or heavy metal-contaminated soils. Research in my laboratory now includes two new topics. The first is the study of mechanisms of boron transport and hyperaccumulation in plants and bacteria. The second is to find ways of remediating a 72-acre lowland and wetland site contaminated with petroleum hydrocarbons and heavy metals.
With respect to teaching, I currently co-teach Plant Biology 135 (Physiological and Biochemical Plant Biology, 3 units). This course, which is given in the Fall, is designed for students majoring in plant biology and other students seriously interested in plant physiology and biochemistry. In the Fall Semester of each year I teach Plant Biology 180 (Environmental Plant Biology, 2 units). This course provides a multidisciplinary approach to the interactions of plants with their environment, including dealing with the consequences of global warming, drought stress, salinity, and flooding stresses, etc. The course integrates molecular, cell, organismal and whole plant aspects of plant acclimation and adaptation mechanisms and examines the consequences of human industrial activity on plant growth and productivity.
In the News
A rotten-egg stench that fouled a swath of Southern California in September was traced to the Salton Sea — the latest episode in the environmental woes of California’s largest, but rapidly shrinking, inland lake. Now a new study has demonstrated a cost-effective method for using man-made wetlands to clean contaminants out of the freshwater rivers that flow into the sea.