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Research Grants

2005 Research Grant Recipient - Sarah Bogart

Plant trap
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 for smelting.

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

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