“Overview of the Unique Environmental Challenges of Military Lands and Research Needs to Address these Challenges" by Dr. Elizabeth Ferguson
In support of readiness for the Nation’s Armed Forces, the Department of Defense (DoD) uses land for unique purposes. Soldier training requires a variety of settings from unpopulated natural settings to replicas of future or existing contested urban environments. Training requires the use of weapons and munitions as well as mobility. Training range environments can be significantly stressed by these requirements; however, the DoD maintains as a priority the protection of the environment to ensure the ability to train and protect soldiers, military families and communities adjacent to training lands and installations. As the military prepares for another reduction in land area due to base realignment and closure (BRAC), lands may need to support a higher tempo and an increased variety of training stress. Research is needed to guide DoD in adapting lands to meet new and evolving training stress including greater physical land use, heavier contaminant loading, and the use of novel and emerging chemicals and materials. This presentation provided an overview of DoD impacts on military lands as well as potential topics for future research to address DoD needs.
“Phytoremediation of Explosives Contaminated Soil by Transgenic Grass" by Dr. Neil Bruce
Decades of military activity on live-fire training ranges have resulted in the contamination of land and groundwater by high explosives. This DoD-funded project evaluated grasses with unique abilities to detoxify TNT and degrade RDX. TNT and its transformation products are toxic, but these tend to bind strongly to clay and organic matter in soil and are largely contained at the site of contamination; however, RDX is a major concern because of its high mobility through soils and subsequent contamination of groundwater. RDX contamination on training ranges is now proving to be a significant threat to drinking water sources. Currently, there are no cost-effective processes to contain RDX or remediate large areas of contaminated vegetated land on training ranges. We have genetically modified military relevant plants by inserting genes into them to degrade RDX and detoxify TNT in soils. This technology is currently being evaluated under field conditions. Engineered plant systems have the potential to provide a self-sustaining, inexpensive and environmentally friendly method of range restoration that can be used over large areas of land to prevent groundwater contamination. Also, applications of this technology will allow the land to remain in use with limited closure to military activities. Specific areas that can benefit from this technology are wide ranging and include firing points, impact areas, manufacturing sites and demolition areas.
Dr. Elizabeth Ferguson serves as an Army Senior Science Technical Manager and Lead Technical Director (TD) for the Army Environmental Quality and Installations (EQI) Business Area. She also serves as Technical Director of the Military Materials in the Environment (MME) program at the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center (ERDC) in the Environmental Laboratory, Vicksburg, Mississippi. As Lead EQI Technical Director, Dr. Ferguson is responsible for the programmatic direction of the research areas of Adaptive and Resilient Infrastructure (the built environment) as well as the natural environment in Sustainable Ranges and Lands and Military Materials in the Environment. As Technical Director for MME, she leads research and technology development for contaminant impacts, sensing and remediation. As chief of the Environmental Processes Division, Risk Assessment Branch at ERDC since 2004, she has led laboratory-based research and development activities in risk assessment. Dr. Ferguson’s technical background is in ecological and human health risk. She obtained Bachelors degrees in chemistry and psychology (1991), a Master's degree in radio-analytical chemistry (1994), and a Ph.D. (1998) in fish physiology and aquatic toxicology from the University of Kentucky.
Dr. Neil Bruce is a Professor in the Centre for Novel Agricultural Products at the University of York in the United Kingdom. His research focuses on plant and microbial metabolism of xenobiotic compounds with in depth structural analysis and characterization of the enzymes mediating these metabolic processes. He has discovered a diverse range of enzymes that have environmental and industrial biotechnology applications. Dr. Bruce has co-authored 140 peer-reviewed papers and book chapters. He earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Hertfordshire in 1983, and a doctorate from the University of Kent in 1987.