University of Manitoba, MS
SCS Scholar 2021
Methane-Oxidizing Bacteria in Landfill Cover Soil Under Extreme Seasonal Fluctuation
Municipal solid waste landfills were responsible for 15% of total methane emissions in the USA in 2018. Fugitive emissions through landfill cover soils can release methane, a potent greenhouse gas that has 25 times the global warming potential as carbon dioxide. While most modern landfills collect and manage landfill gas, uncaptured methane still escapes collection. Typically, topsoil covers are used to cap off landfills that have reached capacity, but this method can vary in efficiency and allow fugitive methane gas to escape into the atmosphere.
Plouffe’s research investigates a type of bacteria known as methanotrophs that are found in landfill cover soil, which have the ability to convert methane gas into carbon dioxide. Plouffe will compare the microbial community in conventional clay cover soil that is commonly used to cap off landfills with the microbes in an engineered landfill cover, called a “biowindow,” that is designed to reduce the amount of methane reaching our atmosphere. This research will also investigate the differences across the various seasons and the ability of these bacteria to persist throughout the wide range of temperatures found in a continental climate that ranges from -40F to 100F.
Plouffe completed her undergraduate degree at the University of Manitoba, graduating in 2019 with a Bachelor of Science Honours in Microbiology. As an undergrad, she was the recipient of three NSERC Student Research grants, allowing her to spend her summers conducting research on biopolymer production in bacteria. She has also been involved with the Manitoba Energy Justice Coalition, a local volunteer-led environmentalist organization where she has helped organize events to increase awareness of climate justice issues. She returned to the University of Manitoba in 2020 to begin her Master of Science, where she currently studies methane-oxidizing bacteria in landfills. She expects to graduate in the Fall of 2022.