MSU Research Leads to New Method of Protecting Water Affected by Mining

MSU Research Leads to New Method of Protecting Water Affected by Mining

News Type: State, Regional, Federal Source: Billings Gazette
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BOZEMAN — When Lisa Kirk came to Montana State University for graduate school she was seeking answers to something that had puzzled her as a geochemist in Idaho.

While helping to develop methods of treating waste rock at phosphate mines, she had observed surprisingly low levels of selenium, a naturally occurring element that can become concentrated in mine runoff, harming livestock, fish and other organisms. She couldn’t explain the phenomenon in terms of traditional chemistry. But, probing the question further, she found that microbes — something outside the normal scope of geochemistry — were probably playing a role.

“I got so excited that I decided to quit my job and go back to school to study it,” said Kirk, who earned her doctorate in ecology and environmental sciences from MSU in 2014.