Environmental Quality and Technology

 

Antibiotic resistance in the environment | Biological waste and wastewater treatment | Soil requalification and bioremediation | New analytical systems

 

The focus of the research in the Environmental area stems from three main subjects of intervention: a Laboratory, a ’Formatory’ and an ’Informatory”. In the Laboratory domain the development of innovative approaches to environment and sustainability challenges, together with the study of the public/consumer perceptions on technological risk and uncertainty, encompass the main objectives. The Informatory’s purposes focus on promoting mass education initiatives, from decentralised municipal meetings to thematic web sites. The Formatory targets the education and training of both youngsters and adult citizens so as to become aware members of the risk society they currently live in.

 

Antibiotic resistance in the environment

Regarding the dynamics of antimicrobial resistance in the environment, over the past years, a collection of bacterial isolates from surface, waste- and drinking water has been settled and characterized in terms of taxonomy and antimicrobial resistance patterns. This collection comprises environmental bacteria with recognized capacity to colonize humans and/or human related habitats. Such a collection of isolates will allow the inference on the modes and paths of transmission of antimicrobial resistant bacteria to and from the Hospital. Using phenotypic and molecular  based methods it is intend to study each of the two evolutionary driving forces involved in antibiotic resistance and determine the influence of selection and genetic recombination on the emergence and spreading of antibiotic resistance.

 

Biological waste and wastewater treatment

 

Soil requalification and bioremediation

The role of ectomycorrhizal fungi for the restoration of postfire soils is one of the subject under study, from laboratory to field studies, promoting its use as biotechnological tools in more sustainable forestry practices. Studies on phytoremediation of wastewater are being performed with studies on the application of horizontal flow pilot-scale constructed wetland (CW) for polishing wastewater produced at tourism facilities. This will include assessing efficiency in removing nutrients and in removing microbial pollution of faecal origin.

 

New analytical systems

This research topic is focused on the development of automatic, sensitive, miniaturised, and green analytical methodologies for monitoring environmental dynamic systems. Special emphasis is dedicated to develop methodologies that could be applied to different kind of waters: (freshwaters, estuarine waters, coastal waters, ground waters, wastewaters) and minimising the consumption of reagents and effluents production. Miniaturization is achieved by using flow methods such as microsequential injection analysis lab-on-valve, in which sample preparation and detection is performed on the same micro-manifold. Separation processes like SPE can be carried out using renewable functionalized microbeads; detection is done via optical fibre cables and a CCD mini spectrophotometer. Currently, monitoring nutrients, micronutrients and UV filters in waters is envisaged. Researchers working in the above topics: