Research overview

Research in the Terry lab has focused on the phytoremediation of toxic trace elements, including selenium, boron and heavy metals. More recently, since 2013, the lab has developed an additional focus – the bioremediation of wetland and upland sites contaminated with petroleum hydrocarbons. The research approach of the laboratory is essentially multidisciplinary, ranging from molecular to field studies, and includes studies in plant physiology, microbiology, biochemistry and molecular biology.

Restoration of a petroleum hydrocarbon impacted site in the San Francisco Bay area

This research aims to use phytoremediation and constructed wetlands to restore an industrial site impacted with petroleum hydrocarbons and heavy metals using both plants and microbes.

Remediation of boron contaminated waters

Plants may provide efficient means for extracting boron from wastewater through absorption and subsequent sequestration in above-ground tissues, which may then be removed.

Remediation of Selenium in Salton Sea

The overall goal of this research is to develop a cost-effective method for removing Se and other contaminants from river water (the New River and/or the Alamo River) so that it may be used to safely support the Species Conservation Habitat in the Salton Sea for migratory birds traveling the Pacific Flyway.

Use of genetically engineered plants to decontaminate soils

We have increased the capacity of plants for phytoremediation by developing over 100 lines of transgenic plants which were engineered to remove Se, Cd, Hg and other toxic trace elements from contaminated soil by overexpressing key enzymes responsible for metal and/or metalloid sequestration and volatilization.

Habitat restoration of contaminated soils

Some industrial contaminated waste sites are so heavily polluted with heavy metals and other toxic materials that they are virtually impossible (or too expensive) to decontaminate. Using plants to stabilize the contaminants in situ (phytostabilization) is cost-effective and sustainable alternative.

Selenium removal in Constructed Wetlands

Research conducted at the Chevron oil refinery at Richmond, CA, demonstrated that 89% of the selenium from oil refinery wastewater was removed by a 90-acre constructed wetland that processed approximately 10 million liters of refinery effluent per day.

The Corcoran Wetland

10 quarter-acre wetland cells were built to test the idea that constructed wetlands can be used to solve one of the most serious problems confronting agriculture in California, i.e., the problem of what to do with selenium and heavy metal contaminated irrigation drainage water. The most successful wetlands in this study removed 85% of the selenium from the inflow and removed strontium and vanadium.