The big deal with little particles in ecosystems: nano materials in the environment

Monday, November 17, 2014

12:00 pm to 1:00 pm


Ben Colman

Ben Colman, Ph.D., is a Post Doctoral Associate in the Department of Biology.

Abstract: The ecology and biogeochemistry of ecosystems can be dramatically altered by contaminant-dependent perturbations. Manufactured nanomaterials (1-100 nm) are an emerging class of contaminants that are increasingly entering the environment, yet little is known about their potential impacts. Due to their unique properties, nanoparticles are likely to differ from well-studied contaminants in their transport, reactivity, and organismal uptake. Silver nanoparticles are of particular concern because they are used in consumer products for their potent biocidal properties. They are also predicted to enter the environment, primarily through land-application of biosolids and effluent release from wastewater treatment facilities. This talk will describe the findings of microcosm and mesocosm experiments designed to examine the fate and impacts of silver nanoparticles in simulated ecosystems. In both aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems, silver nanoparticles markedly altered plant and microbial abundance, composition, and activity, leading to changes in trace gas fluxes. At the same time, ecosystems altered nanoparticle size, toxicity, and fate. Focusing on manufactured nanoparticles has also provided new insights into the role of ubiquitous natural nanoparticles in ecosystems.