Derek Bell

Activators of microbial enzymes for enhanced C capture and decreased pathogen populations in arable soils.

About me

I completed an MSc in Medical Microbiology at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and worked in performing and teaching clinical microbiology techniques and research. I decided to shift my focus to environmental microbiology as climate change appears to be the greatest threat to our planet’s well being. This project offered me the unique opportunity to develop microbial means to improve overall soil quality and community health, while at the same time addressing the global need to sequester carbon. On top of all of this there may be an added benefit for the oceans as bicarbonate produced via CO2 dissolution may end up in the oceans potentially decreasing ocean acidity.

My project

Agriculture is a necessary product of the large population of people the planet now supports.  However, the emissions from this industry are estimated to make up 25% of the global greenhouse gas emissions. By adding basalt to arable soil there is a potential to not only ease our dependence on chemical fertilizers but utilise vast areas of farmland soils for carbon sequestration into carbonate minerals. I will be performing in-vitro, mesocosm, and field experiments aiming to identify key microbial organisms, genes, and/or pathways that play an active role in rock weathering. Following identification and characterization, I will seek to develop a means of modulating the processes to increase the regulation, activity, efficiency, and/or persistence of the most active microorganisms with three goals in mind:

  1. Increase the amount of microbial carbon sequestration in soil, with basalt treatments.
  2. Have a negligible or positive effect on plant yield
  3. Ensure research outcomes can easily translate into current agricultural practices


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