Research Opportunity for Science Teachers
Interdisciplinary study of Acid Mine Drainage


Science teachers are being sought to participate in an NSF-funded research project as part of a graduate program at the University of Massachusetts Amherst (see project description below). This opportunity is open to middle and high school science teachers. Teachers will enroll in either a master's degree or CAGS (certificate of advanced graduate standing) program at UMass. The program will help teachers fulfill the new Massachusetts requirements for "Professional Licensure," which replaces the Standard Certificate. There will be three cohorts of teachers, beginning spring semester 2003, 2004 and 2005.


Program description

Teachers will participate in on-going research projects supervised by science or engineering faculty as a major component of their requirements. Research opportunities will include laboratory studies, fieldwork, or computer modeling. In order to provide time for an introduction to the research project and follow-up, teachers will need to make the following commitment:



UMass faculty involved includes Prof. Richard Yuretich (Geosciences), Profs. David Ahlfeld and Sarina Ergas (Environmental Engineering), and Prof. Klaus Nusslein (Microbiology).


A master's degree in education (M. Ed.) at UMass requires a minimum of 33 graduate credits. A larger number will be required if a teacher would like to use this degree to satisfy the State's requirements for Professional Licensure. The exact number is still being negotiated with the UMass Graduate School and the Massachusetts Department of Education. A Certificate of Advanced Graduate Standing requires a minimum of 30 credits beyond the masters, of which at least 15 must be in the School of Education. Although the State licensure regulations received final approval at the time of this writing, there is every expectation that the CAGS associated with this project will meet the requirements for Professional Licensure.

Application procedures

There is a two-part application procedure. Teachers who are not currently graduate students in the University of Massachusetts Amherst School of Education will need to apply to the Graduate School for either the master's degree or CAGS program in the Secondary Teacher Education Program.


The second part of the process is to apply to be part of this research project. To do so please send a letter to Prof. Feldman stating why participation in this project will enhance your teaching and your understanding of science. Include a copy (may be unofficial) of your undergraduate and any graduate transcripts, and a current resume or vita.


For more information contact:

Prof. Allan Feldman

School of Education

University of Massachusetts

Amherst, MA 01003

413 545-1570


Project description

Biogeochemistry of Fe(III) and sulfate reduction in extreme acidic environments


Acid Mine Drainage (AMD) results from the oxidation of pyrite and other sulfide minerals in streams and shallow groundwater. Much research has been directed toward understanding the processes of AMD generation; however, the biogeochemistry of natural attenuation of AMD is relatively unknown. This project is an interdisciplinary collaboration among experts in geology, microbiology, environmental engineering and science education. The principal goals are to carefully examine the processes of Fe(III) and SO4 2- reduction in a representative AMD site through field studies, modeling, and laboratory experiments, and to quantify the roles of acidophilic and acid-tolerant anaerobic microorganisms. These organisms may have global significance in the reduction of iron and sulfate in other near-surface environments.


A field study site has been established along the outflow of Davis Mine, a long-abandoned pyrite mine in western Massachusetts. Changes in hydrology and geochemistry of the stream and groundwater will be monitored as a function of distance from the AMD source. Core samples from the stream and surrounding aquifer will be used for laboratory studies of community analysis and enrichment cultures.  Community structure will be examined at three levels: (1) anaerobic microorganisms will be identified by sequencing, (2) Fe(III) and sulfate-reducing community members will be identified from functional genes by using specific primer pairs for polymerase chain reaction (PCR) (3) the metabolic potential of iron- and sulfate-reducing acidophiles will be assayed by designing primers for quantitative PCR that are unique for specific functional genes. Other sediment samples will be inoculated with these microbial communities to document the electron donors supporting the iron-and sulfate-reducing bacteria, and to determine the nutrients that limit the proliferation of these organisms. Data from the laboratory will provide valuable information on the diversity, distribution, and activity of microorganisms catalyzing iron and sulfate reduction. Additional experiments will involve in situ microcosms and laboratory columns to link the microbiological analyses to the field studies and modeling. Kinetic coefficients will be estimated and integrated into a predictive model that will evaluate both the biological and physico-chemical contributions to AMD attenuation. International collaboration will enable comparisons with similar mines in the U.K.