- Earth Science
Katerina Mazari is an environmental researcher focused on preventing and abating pollution by employing environmentally-friendly methods like phytoremediation. Phytoremediation is when green plants are used along with microorganisms to decay, fixate, or accumulate xenobiotics, which are substances foreign to an ecological system, from soil, water, and air. Her capstone work focused on possible techniques to remove lead from soil. Mazari conducted research on finding varieties of barley that could better tolerate drought stress and higher CO2 concentration in response to climate change.
Prior to her Ph.D. study, Mazari was working at Chemical Industrial Laboratory to determine the concentration of metals in metal samples. Mazari’s Ph.D. research included an investigation into plant species which showed the ability to effectively accumulate selected radionuclides, which are unstable atoms due to their excess nuclear energy, around atomic power generating stations through a technology known as phytoextraction, which uses green plants to accumulate elements from water and/or soil. Mazari was actively involved in promoting science to students of elementary and secondary schools.
Mazari is currently working with Prof. Gabriel Filippelli and his team on the Pleasant Run Waterway project assessing and monitoring various contaminants from water, sediments, soil, and air by utilizing bioindicators with other conventional measurements. The Pleasant Run Waterway (PRW) receives contamination from a number of sources. The main concern from a human health perspective emerges from bacterial pollution, especially fecal coliforms bacteria originating from human and animal guts. This comes from the combined sewer overflow (CSO) which is the old plumbing system in Indianapolis allowing home sewage to directly enter the stream without any further treatment. The team’s data showed that some PRW localities significantly exceed EPA standard thus limiting the opportunity for safe human interaction with the waterway. The goal of the research is to evaluate the current state of the waterway prior to technical adjustment, which was ordered by EPA, and then the state after for comparison.
The team also evaluates the content of selected elements and nutrients in the PRW. Besides measuring their concentration in water, soil, and sediment, they selected several tree species to serve as urban bioindicators. The long-term atmospheric deposition by trace elements is assessed from tree bark and the short-term deposition from leaf samples indicating a strong relationship to local industry and vehicular traffic.