Introduction: Pollution and contamination of the environment
are now commonplace. Oil spills no longer surprise us. Deforestation
is old news. Phytoremediation and microbial activity in the rhizosphere
are second nature. Huh? Phytoremediation and rhizosphere?
What are these and what do they mean? Over the past decade scientists
have been working on inventive ways of cleaning up the environment.
Some of the most exciting emerging technologies are in the field of biological
remediation. In short, biological remediation is the use of
various organisms, from microbes to mustard plants, to facilitate the clean
up and removal of substances ranging from heavy metals to dynamite.
When plants are used in this process it is called phytoremediation.
When bacteria and small soil organisms are used the process is called microbial
remediation. The purpose of this laboratory is to look at the remediative
effects of plants on the uptake of copper. Oh, and in case you were
wondering, the rhizosphere is the area immediately surrounding the plant
roots where microbes and plants interact.
Purpose: Students will explore the topic of phyoremediation
by forming a question and designing a protocol to test it.
Materials: The following materials will be provided to
you. You will need to provide any other materials which are not readilly
available in the classroom.
||2 Liter plastic soda bottles
|Copper Sulfate (CuSO4)
||250 mL flask
|Copper test kit
||1 Liter volumetric flasks
||Analog or digital pH meter
||Seeds (lettuce, radish, mustard, etc.)
||2 layers of paper towel
||Plastic disposable pipettes
1. Research phytoremediation, brainstorm, select a question
to answer, and write a hypothesis.
2. As a team, students will need to prepare growth chambers by
cutting off the top third of each plastic bottle. The top piece
is then inverted, and placed on top of the chamber.
Secure the inverted chamber with tape or paper clips. Heat a cork
borer and use it to punch a 1 centimeter hole in the bottle approximately
1 inch above the bottom of the bottle. This hole will be used to
remove water samples.
3. Put 2 layers of paper towel into the inverted top of the bottle as you
would put filter paper into a funnel.
4. Fill the top to one half inch below the inverted top with soil and
5. Design the remainder of the protocol.