Raina Maier
Interim Director, Institute of the Environment
Professor, Soil, Water, and Environmental Science
(520) 621-7234
Ph.D. Microbiology, Rutgers University, 1988

Our group combines molecular ecology and physiological approaches to exploit bacteria and their activities and products for the benefit of human health and the environment. We seek patterns in the diversity and community structure of bacteria in oligotrophic environments including arid mine tailings from around the world, subsurface soils, desert soils and carbonate caves, and household dusts. These patterns are then related to soil formation and nutrient cycling processes to better understand the potential for these environments to withstand anthropogenic and climate induced stress. A second major area of research focuses on microbially produced surfactants (biosurfactants). These amazing molecules have been the basis for several research discoveries related to the field of environmental cleanup as well as two patents.

Selected Citations: 

Valentin-Vargas, A., R.A. Root, J.W. Neilson, J. Chorover, and R.M. Maier. 2014. Environmental factors influencing the structural dynamics of soil microbial communities during assisted phytostabilization of acid-generating mine tailings: a mesocosm experiment. Sci. Tot. Environ. 500-501:314-324. 

Ramirez-Andreotta, M.D., M.L. Brusseau, J.F. Artiola, R.M. Maier, and A.J. Gandolfi. 2014. Environmental research translation: enhancing interactions with communities at contaminated sites. Sci. Total Environ. 497-498:651-664.

Hayes, S.M., R.A. Root, N. Perdrial, R.M. Maier, and J. Chorover. 2014. Surficial weathering of iron sulfide mine tailings under semi-arid climate. Geochim. Cosmochim. Acta 141:240-257.

Zhang, L., J.E. Pemberton, and R.M. Maier. 2014. Effect of fatty acid substrate chain length on Pseudomonas aeruginosa ATCC 9027 monorhamnolipid yield and congener distribution. Process Biochem. 49:989-995.

Maier, R.M., F. Diaz-Barriga, J.A. Field, J. Hopkins, B. Klein, and M.M. Poulton. 2014. Socially responsible mining: the relationship between mining and poverty, human health and the environment. Rev. Environ. Health, 29:83-89.

Ortiz, M., A. Legatzki, J.W. Neilson, B.Fryslie, W.M. Nelson, R.A. Wing, C.A. Soderlund, B.M. Pryor, and R.M. Maier. 2013. Making a living while starving in the dark: metagenomic insights into the energy dynamics of a carbonate cave. ISME J. 8:478-491.

Ramirez-Andreotta, M.D., M.L. Brusseau, P. Beamer and R.M. Maier. 2013. Home gardening near a mining site in an arsenic-endemic region of Arizona: assessing arsenic exposure dose and risk via ingestion of home garden vegetables, soils, and water. Sci. Total Environ. 454-455:373-382. 

Henry, H.F., J.G. Burken, R.M. Maier, L.A. Newman, S. Rock, J.L. Schnoor, and W.A. Suk. 2013. Phytotechnologies – preventing exposures, improving public health. Internat. J. Phytorem., 15:889-899. 

Ortiz, M., J.W. Neilson, W.M. Nelson, A. Legatzki, A. Byrne, Y. Yu, R.A. Wing, C.A. Soderlund, B.M. Pryor, L.S. Pierson III, and R.M. Maier. 2013. Profiling bacterial diversity and taxonomic composition on speleothem surfaces in Kartchner Caverns, AZ, Micro. Ecol., 65:371-383.

Zhang, L., T.A. Veres-Schalnat, A. Somogyi, J.E. Pemberton, and R.M. Maier. 2012. Fatty acid co-substrate provides β-oxidation provides precursors for rhamnolipid biosynthesis in Pseudomonas aeruginosa: evidence from isotope tracing and gene expression. Appl. Environ. Microbiol. 78:8611-8622.

Hayes, S.M., S.M. Webb, J.R. Bargar, P.A. O'Day, R.M. Maier, J. Chorover, 2012. Geochemical weathering increases lead bioaccessibility in semi-arid mine tailings. Environ. Sci. Technol., 46:5834-5941. 

Neilson, J.W., J. Quade, M. Ortiz, W.M. Nelson, A. Legatzki, F. Tian, M. LaComb, J.L. Betancourt, R.A. Wing, C.A. Soderlund, and R.M. Maier. 2012. Life at the hyperarid margin: novel bacterial diversity in arid soils. Extremophiles 16:553-566.

Legatzki, A., M. Ortiz, J.W. Neilson, R.R. Casavant, M.W., C. Rasmussen, B.M. Pryor, L.S. Pierson III, and R.M. Maier. 2012. Factors influencing the speleothem-specific structure of bacterial communities on the surface of formations in Kartchner Caverns, AZ, USA. Geomicrobiol. J., 29:422-434.

Solís-Dominguez, F., S.A. White, T. Borrillo Hutter, M.K. Amistadi, R.A. Root, J. Chorover and R.M. Maier. 2012. Response of key soil parameters during phytostabilization in extremely acidic tailings: effect of plant species, Environ. Sci. Technol. 46:1019-27.

Research Themes: 
Ecosystem management
Data analysis
Carbon cycling
Ecosystem ecology
Ecosystem restoration
Public Health
Soil contaminants
Sustainable mining
Science Engagement
Connecting science and decision making
Arid lands
Biogeochemical processes
Groundwater remediation

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