SUS 8400A Bioremediation

Spring 2018. Subject to refinement/updating.

Instructor: Matthew Seibert
Schedule: Wednesdays, 10:00 am to 12:50 pm
Location: Spitzer Room 2M23
3 credits 3 hrs/week


Matthew Seibert, Lecturer


As the built--and increasingly unbuilt--environments exhibit detrimental concentrations of toxicity as a result of anthropogenic forces, this class will look to biological components and processes as remediation tools in the design of cities, landscapes, and communities. Phytoremediation, mycoremediation, and microbial bioremediation are some of the processes by which living organisms act to degrade or transform hazardous contaminants. These bioremediation processes will be engaged with respect to sustainability, urban design, and nature-culture constructs. Lectures, assignments, student presentations, discussions, site visit(s), and a term design project will comprise the course content.


1) Survey cultural and industrial histories (anthropogenic forces) that resulted in spatialized toxic legacies and Superfund sites: from site to community to region.

2) Understand how biological processes and components of a variety of organisms can remediate and degrade toxic compounds: from plants to fungi to micro-organisms.

3) Leverage knowledge in a design proposal, targeting a specific site, condition, or community.

Course Requirements

Attendance is mandatory at all lectures and seminars; more than 2 unexcused absences will result in automatic failure of the course. Please contact me by email in advance about personal emergencies or difficulties.

All assigned readings are mandatory. Your engagement with the material in written responses and class discussions is key to your grade. All assigned readings will be posted on BLACKBOARD under “Content.”

For library research assistance: Contact Nilda Sanchez-Rodriguez Librarian, Spitzer Architecture Library, 212-650-8766 or .

Submission of Assignments:  All slides and written work for Assignments 1-3 shall be submitted by midnight of the day they are due. Submission will by via email to an address TBD, and using a naming format that shall be explained.

Turn in all assigned work on time. The grade will drop one step for each class meeting that an assignment is late. Incompletes will not be granted except in the case of an extreme medical or family emergency, supported by a doctor’s note or other written proof of a serious situation.

Written work must be your original work, including any synopses, papers, powerpoint, and final assignment. In your papers, cite all sources, including images. A recommended citation system (Chicago Manual of Style, Author-Date variant) will be explained in class. Be extremely cautious about your citing information posted online!  Please be familiar with and in compliance with CUNY Academic Integrity policy.

Required Reading

Required Readings will be posted in pdf format on Blackboard. They will be taken from multiple sources including but not limited to books listed below.

  • Crawford, Ronald and Don L. Crawford. Bioremediation: Principles and Applications. Cambridge University Press, 2005.
  • Das, Surajit. Microbial Biodegradation and Bioremediation. Elsevier, 2014.
  • Kennan, Kate and Niall Kirkwood. Phyto: Principles and Resources for Site Remediation and Landscape Design. Routledge, 2015.
  • Stamets, Paul. Mycelium Running: How Mushrooms Can Help Save the World. Ten Speed Press, 2005.


Participation (reading responses, class discussion, etc)20%
Precedent Study Presentation15%
Research Project25%
Design Project40%

Course Outline

1) Introduction and Overview: What is bioremediation, why is it employed, and how does it compare to traditional remediation techniques?

2) Legacies of Toxicity: Sites, toxic compounds, and histories of cultural-industrial entanglements.

3) Phytoremediation: Horticulture, botany, and employment of plants in bioremediation applications.

4) Mycoremediation: Mycology, chemistry, and employment of fungi in bioremediation applications.

5) Microbial Bioremediation: Microbiology, biogeochemistry, and employment of micro-organisms in bioremediation applications.

6) Wastewater: History of wastewater treatment and new biotechnological development.

7) Extraction Industry: Tailings, slag, and extremophile metabolization.

8) Petrochemical Industry: Spills, leaks, and oil-digesting microbes.

9) Material Palette: bioreceptivity, prototypes, and case studies of biophilic construction materials.

10) Urban Environment: Communities, citizen science, and the politics of toxic legacies in the urban fabric.

11) The Gowanus Canal: Tidal estuary to Industrial Canal to Whole Foods and EPA clean-up.

12) Designing Bioremediation: Legibility, modularity, and reading the socio-ecologic landscape.