Research

Publications

For a list of my reviewing activities, please head to Publons.

Biswakarma, J; Rushworth, D; Srivastava, G; Singh, G; Kang, K; Das, S; Anantharaman, SB; Aeppli, M; Popp, AL; Bhuyan, DJ. Organizational Level Responses to the COVID-19 Outbreak: Challenges, Strategies and Framework for Academic Institutions. Frontiers in Communication, 2021, doi:10.3389/fcomm.2021.573585.
Aeppli, M; Vranic, S; Kaegi, R; Kretzschmar, R; Brown, AR; Voegelin, A; Hofstetter, TB; Sander, M. Decreases in Iron Oxide Reducibility during Microbial Reductive Dissolution and Transformation of Ferrihydrite. Environmental Science & Technology, 2019, doi:10.1021/acs.est.9b01299.
Aeppli, M; Kaegi, R; Kretzschmar, R; Voegelin, A; Hofstetter, TB; Sander, M. Electrochemical Analysis of Changes in Iron Oxide Reducibility during Abiotic Ferrihydrite Transformation into Goethite and Magnetite. Environmental Science & Technology, 2019, doi:10.1021/acs.est.8b07190.
Aeppli, M; Voegelin, A; Gorski, CA; Hofstetter, TB; Sander, M. Mediated Electrochemical Reduction of Iron (Oxyhydr-)Oxides under Defined Thermodynamic Boundary Conditions. Environmental Science & Technology, 2018, 52 (2), 560-570, doi:10.1021/acs.est.7b04411.
Armanious, A; Aeppli, M; Jacak, R; Refardt, D; Sigstam, T; Kohn, T; Sander, M. Viruses at Solid-Water Interfaces: A Systematic Assessment of Interactions Driving Adsorption. Environmental Science & Technology, 2016, 50 (2), 732-743, doi:10.1021/acs.est.5b04644.
Franchini, AG; Henneberger, R; Aeppli, M; Zeyer, J. Methane Dynamics in an Alpine Fen: A Field-Based Study on Methanogenic and Methanotrophic Microbial Communities. FEMS microbiology ecology, 2015, 91 (3), doi:10.1093/femsec/fiu032.
Armanious, A; Aeppli, M; Sander, M. Dissolved Organic Matter Adsorption to Model Surfaces: Adlayer Formation, Properties and Dynamics at the Nanoscale. Environmental Science & Technology, 2014, 48 (16), 9420-9429, doi:10.1021/es5026917.

Current Projects

Controls of mineral redox reactivity on carbon turnover in floodplain soils

Floodplains are active sites of carbon turnover. The controls on anaerobic microbial respiration of organic carbon in floodplain soils are poorly understood. Organic carbon can be thermodynamically stabilized under oxygen-depleted conditions due to low energetic yields of microbial respiration. It is unclear if organic carbon is thermodynamically stabilized if microorganisms use redox-active minerals of iron and manganese as electron acceptors. This project aims at determining how mineral redox reactivity affects microbial respiration and hence the fate of carbon in floodplain soils. I work with floodplain soils from the East and Slate rivers, both located near Crested Butte in the Rocky Mountains, Colorado.

Biogeochemistry of Lake Tahoe sediments

Lake Tahoe is a deep lake with mostly nutrient-free water located in the Sierra Nevada mountain range at the border between California and Nevada. The sediments of Lake Tahoe contain large amounts of ferric iron minerals. These minerals are at risk to be reductively dissolved as oxygen supply to the sediments decreases due to increased lake stratification in a warmer climate. Reductive dissolution of iron minerals releases ferrous iron as well as nutrients that are associated with the minerals into the water column, impacting lake water quality. I am collaborating with researchers at the Tahoe Environmental Research Center to determine which biogeochemical processes are active in the lake sediments today and how these will change in the future.

Biogeochemical and transport processes in alluvial groundwater systems

Groundwater quality in alluvial systems is controlled by biogeochemical and transport processes. The Scientific Focus Area: Groundwater Quality project addresses the question of how these processes couple to one-another and control groundwater quality under hydrologically variable conditions. I work on this project as part of an interdisciplinary team of environmental microbiologists, modelers, geochemists, and biogeochemists. My research addresses questions regarding the products and rates of exchange across interfaces between anoxic and oxic zones in aquifers. I study these exchange processes in the laboratory in simulated alluvial aquifers consisting of column systems that contain coarse sand with embedded finely ground, reduced sediments.

Redox reactivity of iron minerals in the Calhoun Critical Zone Observatory

In a collaboration with Aaron Thompson at the University of Georgia, we are looking into the characteristics of iron minerals in soils from the Calhoun Critical Zone Observatory. We are interested in how iron mineral properties, in particular the reactivity toward electrochemical and microbial reduction, varies across soil horizons and usage (cultivated, hardwood and pine soils). The photo shows the differences in colors among soil horizons and usage which are caused by variations in iron mineralogy.

Redox buffer behavior of clay minerals

Iron in clay minerals can be involved in redox reactions over an unusually large range of environmental conditions. In collaboration with researchers from the Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology, Newcastle University , University Poitiers, and ETH Zurich, we are combining electrochemical analyses of iron redox reactivity with the evaluation of iron binding and redox state by spectroscopic and microscopic analyses. We perform these analyses on synthetic clay minerals with well-defined iron coordination that we subject to redox cycling, as shown in the illustration above. More details on the project are available here.

Development of rapid detection methods for lead in spices

I am involved in a project led by Jenna Forsyth at the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment that focuses on the detection of lead in spices. Even though lead is a potent neurotoxin, spices such as turmeric are sometimes adulterated with lead-laced chemical compounds. Our goal is to develop rapid testing methods for the detection of lead in spices that are simple and safe to use. One of these methods uses a purple dye (diphenylcarbazide) to detect lead in turmeric roots, as shown in the photo above.

Past Projects

Ferric iron oxides are redox-active minerals that are widespread in nature. Electron transfer to ferric iron is a key step in many biogeochemical processes that control the cycling of nutrients and trace elements, as well as the dynamics of organic and inorganic pollutants. My doctoral research aimed at improving our understanding of this electron transfer reaction.

Development of electrochemical approach to quantify electron transfer to iron oxides

I developed a mediated electrochemical approach to characterize the electron accepting properties of ferric iron oxides. This approach allows quantifying rates and extents of electron transfer to iron oxides at defined applied reduction potential and pH. The applied reduction potential and pH determine the thermodynamic driving force for electron to the ferric iron oxide. Therefore, conducting electrochemical measurements at varying applied reduction potential and pH allowed me to relate rates of electron transfer to the iron oxides goethite and hematite to the thermodynamics of the electron transfer reaction. Describing electron transfer properties on the basis of thermodynamics allows us to compare these properties among iron oxides and solution conditions. This work was published as Mediated Electrochemical Reduction of Iron (Oxyhydr-)Oxides under Defined Thermodynamic Boundary Conditions.

Changes in the redox reactivity of iron oxides during oxide transformations

Amorphous iron oxides, like ferrihydrite, transform into thermodynamically more stable iron oxides over time. Using mediated electrochemistry, I showed that the transformation of ferrihydrite into goethite and magnetite is accompanied by a decrease in the reactivity of the iron oxide toward accepting electrons. Quantitative information on the decrease in oxide reactivity during ferrihydrite transformation is key to estimating how transformation affects redox reactions involving iron oxides, such as anaerobic microbial respiration to ferric iron. This work was published as Electrochemical Analysis of Changes in Iron Oxide Reducibility during Abiotic Ferrihydrite Transformation into Goethite and Magnetite.

Decreasing redox reactivity of iron oxides during microbial reduction of oxides

Iron-reducing microorganisms transfer electrons to ferric iron during anaerobic respiration. This process produces ferrous iron that induces phase transformation into thermodynamically more stable oxides that are harder for microorganisms to reduce. In incubations with the iron-reducing bacterium Shewanella oneidensis and ferrihydrite, I showed that the redox reactivity of the iron oxide decreased as ferrihydrite transformed into goethite and magnetite. The cessation of microbial respiration in the incubations coincided with a drop in redox reactivity due to magnetite formation, suggesting that microbial respiration rates were limited by the redox reactivity of ferric iron. This work was published as Decreases in Iron Oxide Reducibility during Microbial Reductive Dissolution and Transformation of Ferrihydrite.

Reduction of ferric iron oxides by electron transfer shuttles

Ferric iron exists in the form of minerals in the environment and iron-reducing microorganisms therefore face the challenge of transferring electrons to solid phases. To overcome this challenge, microorganisms use organic molecules to shuttle electrons from the microbial cells to the mineral surfaces and enhance respiration rates. Rate enhancements vary considerably among organisms, electron shuttles, and iron minerals and it remains unknown which properties of extracellular electron shuttles are responsible for stimulating microbial metabolism. In this work, I present a thermodynamic approach to elucidate these properties.