Catie Gullo : 2015 SWES Outstanding Senior

Catie Gullo

Catie Gullo was an undergraduate trainee from June 2013 to May 2015 in the laboratory of  Dr. Raina Maier. As a result of her excellent work she received the 2015 Outstanding Senior award from the department of Soil, Water, and Environmental Science.  Catie, along with lab director Julie Neilson, is pictured here recieving her award.


Catie graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in May 2015 with a major in Environmental Science and a focus in Microbiology. As an undergraduate student she completed an independent study in working on the "Iron King" revegetation field site project.

She is currently employed in the Maier lab as a Research Technician and supports  various research projects. Additionally, she  is performing her own independent project, again on the "Iron King" site,  from which she hopes to author a publication. Catie has kindly provided a description of her current project for this spotlight:


"The Iron King Mine tailings waste pile contains heavy metals such as arsenic and lead that are dangerous to public health, especially that of the nearby town of Dewey-Humboldt, AZ. To mediate this hazard, our lab has been funded through an NIEHS  Superfund grant to use phytostabilization, or the planting of indigenous plants on the tailings surface, to contain the contaminated materials onsite by preventing spread  through wind or water erosion. Because the tailings are so acidic and inhospitable to plant growth, we designed an experimental area in which we tested the efficacy of different levels of compost and lime amendments on the growth of six different native plant species that included grasses, shrubs and trees. Preliminary data has shown that replicate plots of the same compost-plus-seeds treatment display highly variable conditions in the field trial due to variable environmental conditions on-site. 

We have been referring to my project as the 2014 Iron King Transect Study. ‚ÄčThe purpose is to assess this aforementioned treatment variability using several modes of data collection. Because soil microorganisms are pivotal to a healthy plant ecosystem, I hope to use microbiology to study the development of the tailings toward a system capable of supporting sustained plant growth. This is important because in order to efficiently remediate the pollution of any mining site, we must develop an easy, affordable, one-hit solution for companies to use. My project will help us better understand the effectiveness of the compost-plant treatment and its capability of long-term success. 

Methods I am using include several microbial and molecular analyses, including soil DNA extraction, quantitative PCR, and phylogenetic profiling by  iTag sequencing. These data will be compared to environmental analyses such as total plant cover and edaphic factors (soil moisture, pH, soil organic carbon and nitrogen, etc)."


In the spring of next year Catie will  seek employment at an environmental monitoring firm in the Phoenix area. Her long term goal is to attend graduate school and study marine microbiology and bioremediation of the oceans.

Congratulations Catie and best wishes in your future endeavors!


The entire article about Catie, entitled UA SRP Trainee Wins Outstanding Senior Award” was published on the University of Arizona Superfund Research website and can be found at