The role of molecular methods in evaluating biological treatment processes.

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14 Scopus citations


Methods derived from molecular biology provide powerful new tools to analyze biological treatment processes. Because molecular methods can be used to directly interrogate genetic information about the microbial community, they can provide the fine detail that is impossible with the blunt, nondiscriminating information usually obtained from more traditional measures such as biochemical oxygen demand and volatile suspended solids. Molecular methods allow tracking of critical groups of microorganisms, such as ammonia oxidizers, that comprise a small fraction of the total biomass. Molecular methods also allow tracking of specific metabolic reactions or other functions that are key to the satisfactory performance of a system. Despite their power, molecular methods do not provide sufficient information when used alone. Aggregated measures and quantitative modeling remain necessary to establish mass balances, quantify the function of the microbial community, and connect the results of molecular assays to practice. Several examples involving nitrifying bacteria in activated sludge illustrate the fine detail available with molecular methods and how they can be linked to traditional and quantitative analyses. Other manuscripts in this special issue also provide examples of the value of using molecular tools in combination with traditional methods.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)421-427
Number of pages7
JournalWater environment research : a research publication of the Water Environment Federation
Issue number5
StatePublished - 2002
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Ecological Modeling
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution


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