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Biological systems and organisms

Mexican Institute of Petroleum


Dr. Mydam Adela Amezcua-AIlieri was born in Mexico city on March 8th, 1973. She received her B. Sc. in Biology (first class honours) from the Faculty of Sciences, Universidad Nacionai AutOnoma de Mexico (UNAM) [National Autonomous University of Mexico] in 1998. The awards that she received from UNAM were: Outstanding Student Diploma for her final grade of 10 during the all undergraduate studies (1996), the Gabino Barreda Medal, which is awarded to the best student with the highest grade point average of its class (1997), and Honourable Mention in her professional examination for her research thesis (1998). She obtained her Master in Science Degree in Environmental Engineering (2000) from Instituto Polit├ęcnico Nacional (IPN) [National Polytechnic Institute], with a final grade point average of 9.74 (from 0 to 10). She obtained two complementary scholarships in 2000 (one from the Mexican Government and one from The University of Birmingham) in order to obtain her Ph. D. in Geography and Environmental Sciences (honours) from The University of Birmingham, UK in 2003. She has also obtained two certifies for studies in "Development of Technological Innovation Projects" (2005) and "Policy and Management of Technological innovation" (2006).

Her research areas include the bioremediation of soil contaminated with hydrocarbons and metals, contaminant bioavailability and speciation, and impact of petroleum industry in environment in order to avoid further human/ecological risk.

The oil industry is the main sector of wealth generation and development in Mexico, which represents the tenth largest oil company in the world in terms of revenue. Due to the nature of the industry, negative impacts may occur on the Mexican environment. Pollution with polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), one of the main petroleum components, has attracted much attention in recent years. PAHs constitute a group of priority pollutants, which are present in the soils of many industrially contaminated sites, particularly those associated with the petroleum industry. In Mexico soil contamination by the petrochemical industry is the main source of soil contamination. Due to the exploitation, refinement, transport, commercialisation and storage of hydrocarbons, both tropical soils have been heavily polluted with PAHs and certain metals, which are known to be toxic for soil microfiora.

The bioremediation of soil contaminated with PAHs has received increasing attention internationally. Bioremediation which is the use of plants, microbes or other organisms to reduce contamination levels, is frequently used for PAHs removal. However, soils are systems with a range of different types of contaminants co- existing in different physical and chemical forms. Despite this, organic contaminants and toxic metals are frequently studied separately and their interaction, and the effect that remediation procedures may have on both, is neglected.

Dr. Amezcua contribution to science has been to study the influence of microbial activity on metal behaviour during the PAHs bioremediation process. Bioremediation technique is a relatively effective method of removing PAHs from contaminated soils. However, the action of the added fungi and other rnicrofiora also appears act on the solid phase in such a way that the flux and concentration of toxic metals are increased significantly. This increased pool of metal is likely to be significantly more bio-available than the immobile metal in the solid phase, with potential consequences for plant uptake and for increased movement of metals into the human food chain.

In particular, Dr. Amezcua has focused on the study of fungal bioremediation of PAHs and its impact on metals (Cr, Pb, Cd, Ni, V). The microbial activity of the fungi Penicillium frequentans increased solid-soil fluxes and concentrations of labile metal complexes. Metal uptake has been detected in addition to metal translocation from root to leaves. Overall, the results suggest that phytoremediation and not bioaugmentation using P. frequentans is a better alternative to obtain a considerable PAHs removal, while minimising the increase in pool of potentially bioavailable and toxic metal species.

These results highlight the behaviour of metals as a side effect of the bioremediation process. Consideration of such processes emphasizes both the complexity of environmental processes and their impacts on pollution problems and remediation procedures. Furthermore, consideration of such mutually dependent processes is necessary, if the most effective overall rernediation techniques are to be successfully implemented. Dr. Amezcua articles has been cited by 25 different authors.

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