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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Microbiological and bioinformatics investigation into acid rock drainage phenomenon in Alberta oil sands tailings TaghinezhadNamini, Masoud


The Alberta oil sands have produced considerable revenue for Canada. However, the environmental effects associated with extracting the oil can be devastating if not understood and dealt with. One of the potential environmental hazards is acid rock drainage (ARD) from oil sand deposits. Acidification is a well-known destructive phenomenon from our mining industry that leads to the pollution of soil and surrounding water resources. Since microorganisms are major contributors in the onset and propagation of ARD, the successful approach to the problem should focus on the microorganisms. Five bacteria that are believed to be major contributors to ARD were isolated from raw and paraffinic thickened tailings at different temperatures. To gain a deeper insight into the isolated bacteria, their 16S rRNA genes were partially sequenced, Gram stains were performed, metabolic rates were determined using pH, sulfate, thiosulfate, ferric iron concentration changes. All of these were determined at 6 different temperatures 7, 12, 25, 30, 37 and 40°C. The results revealed that all of the isolates were capable of growth at 4°C but had maximum growth rates at 25 or 30°C. A significant attempt was made to isolate the phages capable of lysing isolated bacteria for the possibility of phage therapy. An in depth study was conducted regarding the CRISPR systems in the bacteria that are believed to be the major contributors to ARD. The results revealed that there is evidence of lytic viral infections in the bacterial population capable of reducing the pH in ARD environments. This reveals that lytic viruses could be isolated under the right circumstances.

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