2005 Research Grant Recipient - Sarah Bogart
Sarah Bogart foresees a day when simply planting cotton grass on contaminated mine sites
could replace the messy work of moving masses of soil for remediation.
Bogart, a graduate of Nipissing University in North Bay, Ont., spent last summer investigating
how cotton grass, a type of sedge common to wetland areas, traps metals, including nickel,
copper and iron in its cells and prevents them from being released into the environment.
“This species will, over time, be able to clean up any site that humans have polluted with
metals,” says Bogart. “That’s just amazing.”
Her research, partly funded by The Royal Canadian Geographical Society, involved collecting
plants from a bog near Inco Limited’s former Coniston Smelter in Sudbury. For more
than 60 years, ore was piled waist-high in the area and burned over coal and logs in preparation
Researchers have previously observed the bioremediation potential of cotton grass, but Bogart’s
study concentrated on the plant’s metal-storing cells, called sclereids.
The findings, she says, could eventually be used by gold or nickel mines across Canada and
will be especially beneficial in difficult environments such as bogs and permafrost.
Bogart says she has been interested in biology since she was a child growing up in the Northern
Ontario town of Coleman. “It would be wise,” she says, “to learn how to clean up my backyard.”
— Angela Johnston