Tomasz Wlodarczyk

Graduate Student, PhD


Raina M Maier, Alicja Babst-Kostecka


Environmental Science


Identification and metal recovery from native metallicolous plant species in southeastern Arizona

Phytoextraction is a promising strategy for remediation of metal-contaminated mine tailings. This technology implements plants that can effectively remove metals from soil and concentrate them in above-ground tissues. However, to date, little research has been done on plant metal accumulation in arid and semi-arid climatic regions. Consequently, the selection of plant species for phytoextraction under these conditions is a challenge. To address this gap, we employed a portable X-ray fluorescence analyzer which enables rapid screening of metals in plant tissues in situ. We explored various natural and post-mining locations across the US Southwest and identified metallicolous populations of plants and trees that concentrated metals to extreme levels. Further, by applying sustainable chemistry reactions, plant-derived metal complexes can be subsequently used as “ecocatalysts” to replace traditional catalyst used in industrial production of materials (e.g., fragrance or pharmaceutical industry).  That said, this research not only broadens our understanding of plant metal adaptation and homeostasis in arid and semi-arid regions but also supports the mining industry in foresting sustainability by providing technology for metal recovery from mine tailings