Ecophysiology of microbes that produce taste/odour chemicals and their impact on drinking water treatability

2020-2024

PhD project to broaden our understanding of microbes that produce Taste and Odour (T&O). This project will look for genomic fingerprints that correlate with T&O production, build capacity by isolating key bloom-forming algae, and analyse their ecophysiology in photobioreactors. It will also assess the impact of microbes and T&O metabolites on drinking water treatability.

Most T&O events in source water are caused by biogenic volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which are produced via synthesis of secondary metabolites by photosynthetic algae, or by non-specific release of VOCs from decaying biomass by heterotrophic actinomycetes, streptomyces or myxobacteria. Therefore, it is imperative to understand which microbes will thrive, what VOCs they will produce, and how much T&O is likely to be released under different environmental conditions.

Focused Research Questions:

1. Which combination of water treatment processes is effective at removing T&O producers and their metabolites?
2. What is the correlation between microbial community composition and the likelihood of T&O events in source water?
3. How do environmental conditions (light, temperature, nutrients) affect T&O production rates by different algal species?
4. What are the key microbial and environmental risk factors for T&O production?

Researchers:

Jin Zhu
Bojan Tamburic
Richard Stuetz

Partners:

University of New South Wales | Sydney Water | WaterNSW | Melbourne Water | Hunter Water | WaterRA

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