Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


College of Science and Mathematics


Chemistry and Biochemistry

Thesis Sponsor/Dissertation Chair/Project Chair

Nina Goodey

Committee Member

Jennifer Krumins

Committee Member

Jim Dyer


The overall goals of this research were to 1) understand the influence of microbes and heavy metals on extracellular enzyme activity in soil environments and 2) explore the possibility of using living organisms, such as microbes, to improve the enzyme activity of contaminated, poor-functioning soil—bioremediation. Microbes exude enzymes into the soil, which are vital in the cycling of nutrients in soil communities. Thus, measuring extracellular enzyme activity can be used to quantify the health of soil. In this experiment, phosphatase enzyme was measured as a proxy for enzyme activity. The study site is a closed-off section of Liberty State Park (LSP), located in Jersey City, NJ. LSP was previously a rail yard and industrial dumping ground, yet it sustains a robust forest. This thesis contains four individual chapters, each with a purpose and objective(s) that contribute to the overall goals:

1. Chapter 1 (Thesis Introduction) details the importance of this research and provides necessary background for the thesis.

2. Chapter 2 {Enzyme Activity and Metal Concentrations at LSP and HMF) provides preliminary research that quantified the metal concentration and enzyme activity at LSP, in comparison to a reference site, Hutcheson Memorial Forest (Franklin Township, NJ), with no history of heavy metal contamination. LSP has a higher concentration of heavy metals than HMF, as expected; but it also exhibits higher enzyme activity than HMF.

3. Chapter 3 (Extracellular Enzyme Activity at LSP during Bioremediation) contains two parts that contribute to the second goal of this thesis, using the microbes at LSP to improve the enzyme activity of contaminated poor-functioning soil. Both parts suggest that LSP’s microbes could be used to increase enzyme activity of poor functioning soil, and that the success of this was dependent on both the living and non-living contributors of soil environments. Finally,

4. Chapter 4 (The Effect o f Storage Conditions on Enzyme Activity) is a physical characterization study that determined that the optimum storage condition to minimize changes in enzyme activity over time was the fridge (20 °C) or the freezer (4 °C).

This research will give insight into the extracellular enzyme activity of microbes that are able to survive in heavy metal contaminated sites, as well evaluate LSP's potential as a source for these unique microbes used to increase the enzyme activity of contaminated soils in the field of bioremediation.

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