Experts in the field of microbiology may provide insight into the physiological composition of microbes in different environmental spheres.
Environmental microbiology is the study of the composition and physiology of microbes in the soil, water, air, flora, and fauna. Molecular biology has revolutionised the study of microorganisms in the environment and improved our understanding of the composition, phylogeny, and physiology of microbial communities. Environmental microbiologists possess a range of new DNA-based technologies for the identification and study of RNA and proteins extracted from environmental samples.
Microbes exist in every environment on Earth, from dry deserts to salt lakes and even permanent ice. An average gram of soil contains approximately one billion microbes representing several thousand species, most of which have not been studied. Furthermore, microbes interact with the entire biosphere, such as cyanobacteria that can photosynthesise and produce oxygen. Much of western Australia is red largely due to the iron oxide in the soil, and this oxide is a by-product of cyanobacteria billions of years ago.
Many industrial processes now use bacteria as a way to manage waste. Microbes can be cost-effective agents for the remediation of domestic, agricultural and industrial wastes and subsurface pollution in soils, sediments and marine environments. The ability of each microorganism to degrade toxic waste depends on the nature of each contaminant. Since most sites are typically comprised of multiple pollutant types, the most effective approach to microbial biodegradation is to use a mixture of bacterial species and strains,
each specific to the degradation of one or more types of contaminants. For example, to break down spilt petrol and oil, hydrocarbonoclastic bacteria is commonly used. Likewise, the processing of sewerage and other waste using microbes is an environmentally-friendly alternative to traditional chemical means.
The application of molecular biology and genomics to environmental microbiology has led to the discovery of considerable complexity in naturally occurring communities of microbes. Diversity surveying, community fingerprinting, and functional interrogation of natural populations have become common, enabled by a range of molecular and bioinformatic techniques. These same techniques enable environmental microbiologists to study how microbes can be further employed in industrial, agricultural, waste management, and energy production processes.
Experts in this field would be able to provide essential evidence which may prove integral into a case. This may be useful in elucidating how certain symptoms, transmissions, and environments may contribute toward disease or other results.
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Expertise in Action
Expert witnesses in the field of environmental microbiology are trained in the study of the complex mechanisms between human and microbe interactions that are involved in the pathogenesis of diseases, and can provide insights into diagnosis and interventions essential for disease control. Experts can offer opinions on the severity of symptoms and transmission mechanisms, for example in workers compensation cases where employees can contract an illness out in the field.
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