Bioremediating Lunar Regolith through Controlled Environment Agriculture

Interdisciplinary Areas: CISLunar (Space science and Engineering), Power, Energy, and the Environment

Project Description

Lunar regolith may serve as a growth medium in controlled environment (CE) production systems for long-term life-support systems. However, plants grown in fertigated lunar regolith, are stunted by metal, salinity, and abrasion stresses. This project will design, test, and validate methods to use greywater from CE systems to accelerate the amelioration of regolith soil through microbial weathering, metal leaching, and organic residue formation. We will test the effects of microbial inoculants, CE waste water streams, and treatment conditions on plant productivity and soil and water quality. The research will make use of spectroscopic (VNIR, FTIR), imaging (SEM, TEM), and omic techniques to quantify changes in mineralogy, water quality, and plant and microbial activity. We will evaluate the factors governing the quality and rate of regolith amelioration, and tune water treatment properties to enhance the key processes. Our project will advance our understanding of how CE water treatment systems can be engineered to support terraforming soils, drawing on expertise from an interdisciplinary team of researchers in engineering, earth and planetary sciences, plant biology, and agronomy. The project will also support the application of finding to CE production systems in remote regions on Earth.


Start Date

May 1, 2024


Postdoc Requirements

Experimentation with plant-microbe systems and controlled environments, microbiology, molecular omics techniques 



Dr. Caitlin Proctor (ABE/EEE,
Dr. Briony Horgan (EAPS, )
Dr. Michelle Thompson (EAPS, )
Dr. Roland Wilhelm (AGRY,


Short Bibliography

1. Proctor, CR and Hammes, F. 2015. Drinking water microbiology—from measurement to management. Current Opinion in Biotechnology.
2. Proctor, CR, Garner, E, Hamilton, KA, et al. 2022. Tenets of a holistic approach to drinking water-associated pathogen research, management, and communication. Water Research.
3. Thompson, MS, Christoffersen, R, Zega, TJ, Keller, LP. 2014. Microchemical and structural evidence for space weathering in soils from asteroid Itokawa. Earth, Planets and Space
4. Ehlmann, BL, Anderson, FS, Andrews‐Hanna, J, … Horgan, B, et al. 2016. The sustainability of habitability on terrestrial planets: Insights, questions, and needed measurements from Mars for understanding the evolution of Earth‐like worlds. Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets
5. Wilhelm, RC, Muñoz-Ucros, J, Weikl, F, et al., 2023. The effects of mixed-species root zones on the resistance of soil bacteria and fungi to long-term experimental and natural reductions in soil moisture. Science of The Total Environment.