Using Bacteria to Restore Contaminated Soil

Researchers are exploring how bacterial and fungal communities in contaminated soil in the Liberty State Park brownfield site can be harnessed to restore it.

Through a three-year, $370,000 National Science Foundation grant, Chemistry and Biochemistry Professor Nina Goodey and Biology Professor Jennifer Krumins are building on earlier research showing that microbial communities in the park’s soil can be surprisingly healthy and functional despite the presence of contaminants.

Two kids walking in Liberty State Park brownfield site.Liberty State Park brownfield site

The team recently began experimenting with mixing different contaminated soils to see if small amounts of high-functioning soils can restore function to poorly functioning ones.

“We hope to develop new practices of soil microbial community transplants — from healthy soils to degraded ones — that may increase soil functioning and health and ultimately aid in ecosystem restoration,” says Krumins. “As urban land cover increases globally, the often unique ecosystems of urban areas will be central to the health of our human habitat.”