Instructor: Om Parkash Dhankher

Contact Details: Phone 413-545-0062; Email:

Prerequiste: Basic Biology – if you don’t have the prerequisite class, BIOLOGY 152 at UMass, please contact the instructor, Dr. Om Parkash Dhankher, at to request permission to enroll )

Course Description: This course will cover the various aspects of phytoremediation – the use of plants and their associated microbes with the purpose of environmental clean up of contaminated soil, sediments and water. Various strategies and mechanisms involved in the phytoremediation of a wide range of toxic pollutants, both organic and elemental, will be discussed. Also, the economic and social issues related with environmental pollution and the proposed remediation strategies will be considered.

Course Outline:

  1. Course overview, Introduction to Phytoremediation, advantages and limitations of phytoremediation, types and processes of phytoremediation, recap of plant anatomy and cell structure.
  2. Natural hyperacculators plants for metals and their limitations vs. transgenic plants; Brief discussion about process of gene cloning and making transgenic plants.
  3. Phytoremediation of Inorganics: heavy metals, metalloids, radionuclides; Toxicity of heavy metal and environmental impact; Plant processes (physiological, molecular and biochemical mechanisms) involved in phytoremediation of various inorganic pollutants.
  4. Designing phytoremediation strategies- site assessment, choosing right plants, soil amendments, monitoring etc. Proposal assignment- select a contaminated site of your choice (real or hypothetical, terrestrial or aquatic) and design an appropriate phytoremediation strategy- written report due by end of semester.
  5. Case studies: Phytoremediation of Hg (mercury): discussion and an overview.
  6. Phytoremediation of Arsenic: discussion and an overview
  7. Phytoremediation of Selenium (Se): discussion and an overview
  8. Phytoremediation of Pb and Cr: discussion and an overview
  9. Phytomining: use of plants for mining of precious metals like gold and silver and stabilizing the abandoned gold mine sites, Socio-economic impact of phytomining on artisanal miner communities in South America.
  10. Phytoremediation of organic pollutants: chlorinated solvents, pesticides, and munitions. Toxicity of organic pollutants and environmental impact; Plant processes (physiological, molecular and biochemical mechanisms) involved in phytoremediation of various Organic pollutants.
  11. Role of plant enzymes for organic pollutants phytoremediation- Green Liver Model.
  12. Case studies: Phytoremediation of TCE, Explosives- TNT, RDX.
  13. Risk assessment issues in phytoremediation, Environmental regulations- role of regulatory agencies like EPA.
  14. Plant Biomass- dual use for phytoremediation and bioenergy. Overview of phytoremediation, societal impact, public perceptions and concern.
  15. Use of genetically modified plants and microbes for phyto/bioremediation, concerns of gene flow in the environment and containment strategies, environmental and societal impacts.

List of Textbooks: None. All of the topics will be covered from research and review articles published in journals such as Nature, Nature Biotechnology, Plant Physiology, New Phytologist, International Journal of Phytoremediation, Environmental Science & Technology etc. Photocopies/pdf of all reading material will be provided via Moodle.

Description of Assignments (papers, examinations, projects, presentations):

Two take home exams, quiz, discussions and a written proposal.

Grading Criteria:

  • Two Take home exams – 50%
  • Quizzes- 15%
  • Student-led discussion– 10%
  • Phyto/bioremediation written proposal– 25%

Grading Scale

A = 93- 100%
A = 90- 92.5%
B+ = 87- 89.5%
B = 83- 86.5%
B = 80- 82.5%
C+ = 77- 79.5%
C = 73- 76.5%
C = 70- 72.5%
D+ = 67- 69.5%
D = 63- 66.5%
D = 60- 62.5%
F = <60%

Academic Honesty

No form of cheating, plagiarism, fabrication, or facilitating of dishonesty will be condoned in the University community. Academic dishonesty includes but is not limited to:

  • Cheating – intentional use or attempted use of trickery, artifice, deception, breach of confidence, fraud and/or misrepresentation of one’s academic work
  • Fabrication – intentional and unauthorized falsification and/or invention of any information or citation in any academic exercise
  • Plagiarism – knowingly representing the words or ideas of another as one’s own work in any academic exercise. This includes submitting without citation, in whole or in part, prewritten term papers of another or the research of another, including but not limited to commercial vendors who sell or distribute such materials
  • Facilitating dishonesty – knowingly helping or attempting to help another commit an act of academic dishonesty, including substituting for another in an examination, or allowing others to represent as their own one’s papers, reports, or academic works

Sanctions may be imposed on any student who has committed an act of academic dishonesty. Any person who has reason to believe that a student has committed academic dishonesty should bring such information to the attention of the course instructor as soon as possible. Formal definitions of academic dishonesty, examples of various forms of dishonesty, and the procedures which faculty must follow to penalize dishonesty are contained in the Academic Honesty Policy.


This class fulfills requirements for all three of the online programs offered by the University of Massachusetts Stockbridge School of Agriculture in Sustainable Food and Farming: