Elisa Clagnan

Developing microbial and molecular fingerprinting of land drainage systems as a tool to achieve sustainable intensification

PhD research student - Walsh fellow

Elisa Clagnan

Telephone: +44 (0)114 22 25786
Room: Kroto G17

email : eclagnan1@sheffield.ac.uk


Elisa graduated with a BSc in Molecular Biology in 2011 at the University of Trieste after a year internship working on lichens as biosensors of environmental pollution. She gained an MSc in Functional Genomics in 2013 at the University of Trieste, after a year internship in the bacteriology group of ICGEB (International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology) conducting a research on the quorum sensing systems of a rice pathogen. At the same time she took part in the MIT competition of synthetic biology iGEM, developing a probiotic platform for protein expression.

Research interests

Contamination of natural waters by nitrogen from agricultural sources is a major threat to the environment and human health. With global food demand expected to increase in future years, efficient drainage systems are necessary to increase the amount of crop yield. However, these systems often create negative effects due to nitrogen losses from agricultural land, representing a risk to water quality. To combine agricultural needs and environmental requirements for sustainable agriculture, there is a need for “Climate Smart Drainage” that, through a better and smarter characterisation of linked soil, groundwater and drainage systems, will improve the understanding of drainage impacts. This is necessary to avoid incorrect conclusions on the impacts of current and future agricultural land management practices, and to design effective mitigation measures and remediation technologies for soil and water resource conservation.

This project will focus on validation of a methodology for the assessment of environmental impacts and bioremediation performance of agricultural drainage systems that support sustainable intensification. It will involve the characterisation of an extensive drainage system on farmland through a multi-technique approach, including molecular and microbial fingerprinting of soil and water, as a function of drainage system design, operation and seasonal fluxes. This will identify the microbial and environmental factors which regulate the source, distribution and transformation of nitrogen within the drainage system and define conditions which create “bioremediation hotspots” for enhanced nitrogen attenuation that reduce losses and environmental impacts.

This work is undertaken within a Walsh Fellowship in collaboration with TEAGASC, The Irish Agriculture and Food Development Authority [http://www.teagasc.ie/].