Tom Bott

Name: Tom Bott

Project title: Turning Down the Gas: what is the potential for microbial mitigation of methane leakage from soils?

Where based: The University of Nottingham and the British Geological Survey, Keyworth


I didn’t really know what I wanted to do when I finished school and went to university, so I took natural sciences at Lancaster. This let me study pretty much anything that I thought sounded interesting. After three years I realised that I liked the puzzles surrounding environmental science, these were even more interesting when they involved microbiology. This led me to a masters in land contamination and remediation, an odd but brilliant mixture of biology, chemistry, risk assessment and engineering. It was here that I met soil as an academic subject and realised that it had everything that interested and excited me.

Project description:

I study how soil microbial communities change in response to gaseous hydrocarbons. Methane, from landfill sites and hydrocarbon deposits, can be consumed by soil bacterial communities: it’s these communities and subsurface methane sources I am focusing upon. Interest in methane and the related bacterial communities within soils not new due to the concerns of methane emission from landfills and methane’s subsequent radiative forcing effect in the atmosphere. This project is related to the current interest in unconventional hydrocarbons which may lead to releases of methane. Changes in microbiology can potentially detect hotspots of methane emission, for example these changes may aid the identification of disused but damaged wells which are seeping methane. Later work may include exploiting the microbial communities to reduce methane emission to the atmosphere. Cumulatively, it is hoped this project will develop a toolkit to help mitigate the risk of methane emission from the extraction of unconventional hydrocarbons or from other sources.