Dr. Deborah J. Roberts

Educational Background

  • Ph.D. - Microbiology (University of Alberta, 1990) . Dissertation Topic: Methanogenic Metabolism of m-Cresol.
  • B.S. - Microbiology (University of Alberta 1985).  Undergraduate Thesis: Effect of Cyanide on the Methanogenic Metabolism of Phenolic Compounds

General Background

My research combines my training as a classical microbiologist with 20+ years experience in an engineering setting researching and developing new methods for the application of microbial processes to treat contaminated water, soil and sediments. I train students in classical and modern microbiological techniques, theory and application of analytical chemistry and the development of new methods for the analysis of contaminants and their breakdown products in addition to the theory and application of biological techniques to contaminant removal from environmental media.

Teaching Interests

  • Laboratory Skills
  • Applied Microbiology
  • Biological Treatment Processes
  • Environmental Engineering
  • Water Quality Engineering and Analysis
  • Engineering and the Environment

Research Interests

  • Biological systems for treatment of extreme wastewaters
  • Microbial fuel fells (MFC) as waste to energy applications for the agricultural industry
  • Sulphur oxidizing microbes and their effects on the environment (microbial deterioration of concrete and acid rock drainage)
  • Source water protection through best management practices. 


Book Chapters

  • Shelir Ebrahimi, Yeyuan Xiao, Deborah J. Roberts, 2017. Bio-Regeneration of Resin: Novel Method for Sustainable Development of Ion Exchange Process. Chapter 7. In Ion Exchange: Theory and Applications. Nova Science Publishers.
  • Shelir Ebrahimi, Yeyuan Xiao and Deborah J. Roberts. 2012. Interactions of Perchlorate and Nitrate in Biological Treatment Systems. In Nitrate: Occurrence, Characteristics and Health Considerations (In press Nova Publishing).
  • Roberts, D.J. Methods for Assessing Anaerobic Biodegradation Potential. 2001. In: Manual of Environmental Microbiology 2nd Ed. Edited by C.J. Hurst, R.L. Crawford, G.R. Knudsen, M.J. McInerney, L.D. Stetzenbach. ASM Press. Washington D.C.
  • Roberts, D. J., S. B. Funk, R. H. Kaake, D. L. Crawford and R. L. Crawford. 1997. Biorrecuperacion anaerobia a escala real de suelos contaminados con dinoseb. In: Biotratamiento De Residuos Toxicos Y Peligrosos. Edited by M. Levin and M. Gealt. McGraw Hill Publishers. (Spanish translation of the book chapter below).
  • Roberts, D. J. and S. Pendharkar. 1995. Enrichment and characterization of anaerobic TNT-degrading bacteria. In: Bioremediation of Recalcitrant Organics. R. Hinchee, R. Hoeppel, D.B. Anderson (eds.). Bioremediation Series 3. Vol. 7. pp. 273-280. Batelle Press, Columbus, OH.
  • Funk, S. B., D. L. Crawford, D. J. Roberts, and R. L. Crawford. 1994. Two-stage bioremediation of TNT contaminated soils. In: Bioremediation of Pollutants in Soil and Water, ASTM STP 1235. Brian S. Schepart, Ed., American Society for Testing and Materials, Philadelphia. PA.
  • D.J. Roberts, S. B. Funk, R. H. Kaake, D. L. Crawford and R. L. Crawford. 1993. Field-scale anaerobic bioremediation of dinoseb-contaminated soils. In: Biotreatment of Industrial and Hazardous Waste. Edited by M. Levin and M. Gealt. McGraw Hill Publishers. New York, NY.

Publications in Refereed Journals

  • Duhaime K. and D.J. Roberts. (2018) Theoretical implications of best management practices for reducing the risk of drinking water contamination with Cryptosporidium from grazing cattle. Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment. (In Press).
  • Dean, C., S. Siddiqua, and D.J. Roberts. (2017). Geotechnical properties of polymer-amended TSRU oil sands tailings. Canadian Geotechnical Journal 54(9): 1331-1339.
  • Dean C., R. Xiao, and D.J. Roberts. (2016). Enriching acid rock drainage related microbial communities from surface-deposited oil sands tailings. Canadian Journal of Microbiology. 62(10): 870-879.
  • Ebrahimi, S. and Roberts D.J. 2016. Mathematical modelling and reactor design for multi-cycle bioregeneration of nitrate exhausted ion exchange resin. Water Research 88: 766-776.
  • Stepanov V.G., Xiao Y, Lopez A.J., Roberts D.J., Fox G.E. 2016. Draft genome sequence of Marinobacter sp. strain P4B1, an electrogenic perchlorate-reducing strain isolated from a long-term mixed enrichment culture of marine bacteria. Genome Announc 4(1):e01617-15. doi:10.1128/genomeA.01617-15.
  • Faccini, J., Ebrahimi, S. and Roberts, D.J. 2016. Modeling the Regeneration of Single Use Ion Exchange Resins Exhausted With Perchlorate. Separation and Purification Technology. 158: 266-274
  • Hostland, C., Lovegrove, G, and Roberts, D.J.. 2015 . Economic Justification for Proactive Remediation of Private Homes of High Use Asthmatics. International Journal of Engineering Technology and Scientific Innovation. 1: 122-141.
  • Hostland, C., Lovegrove, G. and Roberts, D.J.. 2015. Sustainable Home Health: An Integrated Approach to Address Mold Related Indoor Air Quality and Illness. International Journal of Engineering Technology and Scientific Innovation. 1: 102-121.
  • Ebrahimi, S., Hau, H,T, and. Roberts, D.J.. 2015. Effect of temperature & salt concentration on salt tolerant nitrate-perchlorate reducing bacteria: nitrate degradation kinetics. Water Research 83: 345-353.
  • Ebrahimi, S. and Roberts D.J. 2015. Bioregeneration of Single Use Nitrate Selective Ion-Exchange Resin Enclosed in a Membrane: Kinetics of Desorption. Separation and Purification Technology. DOI: 10.1016/j.seppur.2015.03.038.
  • Hostland, C., Sadiq, R., Lovegrove, G. and Roberts, D.J.. 2015. HEALTH2: A Holistic Environmental Assessment Lay Tool for Home Health. Can. J. Civ. Eng. 42: 1–9 (2015) dx.doi.org/10.1139/cjce-2014-0228
  • Stepanov, VG., Xiao, Y., Tran, Q., Rojas, M. Willson, R.C., Fofanov, Y., Fox, G.E., & Roberts, D.J. 2014. The Presence of Nitrate Dramatically Changed the Predominant Microbial Community in Perchlorate Degrading Cultures Under Saline Conditions. BMC Microbiology 14:225. DOI: 10.1186/s12866-014-0225-3
  • Bergen, M.H., Nichols, J., Collier, C.M. Raja, B., Roberts, D.J., Ruchhoeft, P., Willson, R.C., and Holzman, J.F. 2014. A retroreflective imaging system for optical labelling and detection of microorganisms. Appl. Opt. 53, 3647-3655.
  • Ebrahimi, S. and Roberts D.J. 2013. Sustainable nitrate-contaminated water treatment using multi cycle ion-exchange/bioregeneration of nitrate selective resin. J. Haz. Mat. 262:539–544.
  • Xiao, Y. Roberts D.J. 2013. Kinetics Analysis of a Salt-Tolerant Perchlorate-Reducing Bacterium: Effects of Sodium, Magnesium and Nitrate. Environmental Science and Technology. 47: 8666–8673. DOI: 10.1021/es400835t.
  • Xiao, Y. Roberts, D.J., Zuo, G., Badruzzaman, M., and Lehman, G.S. 2010. Characterization of microbial populations in pilot-scale fluidized-bed reactors treating perchlorate- and nitrate-laden brine, Water Research 44: 4029-4036.  doi:10.1016/j.watres.2010.05.006.
  • Xiao, Y., and D.J. Roberts.  2010.  A Review of Anaerobic Treatment of Saline Wastewater.  Environmental Technology. 31: 1025-1043.
  • Xiao, Y., A. Basu, V. Kashyap and D. J. Roberts. 2010. Experimental and Numerical Analysis of Biological Regeneration of Perchlorate Laden Ion-Exchange Resins in Batch Reactors.  Environmental Engineering Science 27: 75-84.
  • Zuo, G., D.J. Roberts, G.W. Jackson, G. Fox and R. C. Willson. 2009. Molecular assessment of salt tolerant, perchlorate- and nitrate-reducing microbial cultures. Water Science and Technology 60: 1745-1756.
  • Patel, A. G. Zuo, S. G. Lehman, D. A. Clifford, and D. J. Roberts. 2008. Fluidized Bed Reactor to Treat Perchlorate and Nitrate Contaminated Ion-Exchange Brine. Water Research 42: 4291-4298.
  • Van Ginkel, S. W. Chang Ahn, Mohammad Badruzzaman, Deborah J. Roberts, S. Geno Lehman, Samer S Adham, and Bruce E. Rittmann. 2008. Kinetics of nitrate and perchlorate reduction in ion exchange brine using the membrane biofilm reactor (MBfR). Water Research 42: 4197-4205.
  • Lehman, S.G., M. Badruzzaman, S. Adham, D.J. Roberts, and D.A. Clifford. 2008. Perchlorate and Nitrate Treatment by Ion Exchange Integrated with Biological Brine Treatment. Water Research. 42: 969-976.
  • Lin, X., D.J. Roberts, T, Hiremath, D.A. Clifford, T. Gillogly, S. G. Lehman. 2007. Divalent cation addition (Ca+ or Mg2+) stabilizes biological treatment of ion-exchange spent brine. Environmental Engineering Science. 24: 725-735.
  • Nguyen, Alan H., David Herman and Deborah J Roberts. 2006.  Biodegradation of Synthetic Base Fluid Surrogates in Gulf of Mexico Sediments and Simulated Deep Sea Conditions. Environmental Science and Technology: 40: 5737-5742.
  • Hiremath, T., D.J. Roberts, X. Lin, D. A. Clifford, T.E. Gillogly and G.E. Lehman. Biological Treatment of Perchlorate in Spent ISEP Ion-Exchange Brine. Submitted to Environmental Engineering Science Oct 2005. Accepted March 2006.
  • Herman, D. and D.J. Roberts. 2006. The Influence of Structural Components of Alkyl Esters on their Anaerobic Biodegradability by Marine Sediments. Biodegradation:17 457-463.
  • Herman, D. and D.J. Roberts. 2005. A Marine Anaerobic Biodegradation Test Applied to the Biodegradation of Synthetic Drilling Mud Base Fluids. Soil and Sediment Contamination 14:433-447.
  • Cang, Y, D. Roberts and D. Clifford. 2004. Development of Cultures Capable of Reducing Perchlorate and Nitrate in High Salt Solutions. Water Research 38: 3322-3330.
  • Roberts, D.J. 2002. Detailed Summary of NSF Biodeterioration Workshop. International Biodeterioration and Biodegradation. 49: 277-282.
  • Hernandez, M.T., E.A. Marchand, D.J. Roberts and J.L. Peccia. 2002. In situ assessment of active Thiobacillus species in corroding concrete sewers using fluorescent RNA probes. International Biodeterioration and Biodegradation. 49: 271-276.
  • Roberts, D.J., D. Nica, G. Zuo and J.L. Davis. 2002. Quantifying microbially induced deterioration of concrete: Initial studies. International Biodeterioration and Biodegradation. 49:227-234.
  • Larkin, D. C., S.A. Martinis, D. J. Roberts and G.E. Fox. 2001. Do Small Peptides Mediate a Peptidyl Transferase Reaction with Aminoacylated RNA. Origins of Life and Evolution of the Biosphere. 31: 511-526.
  • Nica, D., L. Dickey, J. Davis, G. Zuo, and D. J. Roberts. 2000 Isolation and characterization of sulfur-oxidizing organisms from corroded concrete in Houston sewers. International Biodeterioration and Biodegradation.46: 61-68.
  • Davis, J., D. J. Roberts and D. Nica. 1998. Analysis of corroded concrete cores from Houston sewers. International Biodeterioration and Biodegradation. 42: 75-84.
  • Roberts, D. J., S. Pendharkar, and N. Venkataraman. 1998. The effect of metals on biological remediation of munitions-contaminated soil. Environmental Engineering Science. 15: 265-277.
  • Roberts, D.J., S. Pendharkar, and, F. Ahmad 1998. Effects of TNT and its metabolites on anaerobic TNT Degradation. Journal of Environmental Engineering, 124: 660-667.
  • Roberts, D. J., F. Ahmad, and S. Pendharkar. 1996. Optimization of an Aerobic Polishing Step to Complete the Anaerobic Treatment of Munitions-Contaminated Soils. Environmental Science and Technology 30:2021-2026.
  • Ahmad, F. and D. J. Roberts. 1995. The use of narrow bore HPLC-diode array detection to identify and quantitate intermediates during the biological degradation of 2,4,6-trinitrotoluene. Journal of Chromatography A 693: 167-175.
  • Funk, S. B., D. J. Roberts, D. L. Crawford, and R. L. Crawford. 1993. Initial-phase optimization for bioremediation of munitions compound-contaminated soils. Applied and Environmental Microbiology. 59: 2171-2177
  • Roberts, D. J., R. H. Kaake, S. B. Funk, D. L. Crawford and R. L. Crawford. 1993. Anaerobic remediation of dinoseb from contaminated soil. An on-site demonstration. Applied Biochemistry and Biotechnology. 39: 781-789.
  • Kaake, R. H., D. J. Roberts, T. O. Stevens. R. L. Crawford and D. L. Crawford. 1992. Bioremediation of soils contaminated with the herbicide 2-sec-butyl-4,6-dinitrophenol (dinoseb). Applied and Environmental Microbiology 58: 1683-1689
  • Roberts, D. J., P.M. Fedorak and S. E. Hrudey. 1990. CO2 incorporation and 4-hydroxy-2-methylbenzoic acid formation during anaerobic metabolism of m-cresol by a methanogenic consortium. Applied and Environmental Microbiology. 56: 472-478.
  • Roberts, D. J., P.M. Fedorak and S. E. Hrudey. 1988. Culture methods for obtaining m-cresol-degrading methanogenic consortia. Current Microbiology. 17: 83-87.  
  • Roberts, D. J., P.M. Fedorak and S. E. Hrudey. 1987. Comparison of the fates of the methyl carbons of m-cresol and p-cresol in methanogenic consortia. Canadian Journal of Microbiology. 33: 335-338.
  •  Fedorak, P.M., D. J. Roberts and S. E. Hrudey. 1986. The effects of cyanide on the methanogenic degradation of phenolic compounds. Water Research. 20: 1315-1320.

Reviewed Reports

  • Roberts, D., K. Duhaime and K. Story. (2016) Verifying Best Management Practices (BMPs) for Livestock Grazing in Community Watersheds in the Okanagan Valley of BC: Final Report. Written for the BC Ministry of Forests Lands and Natural Resource Operations and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada and the BC Ministry of Agriculture.
  • S. G. Lehman, M. Badruzzaman, S.S. Adham. D. J. Roberts D.A. Clifford, G. Zuo, A. Patel, B. Rittman, C. Ahn. and S. Van Ginkel. 2009. “Biological Destruction of Perchlorate and Nitrate in Ion-Exchange Concentrate: 158 pages, AWWA Research Foundation.
  • Roberts, D.J. and A.H. Nguyen. 2006. Degradation of synthetic-based drilling mud base fluids by Gulf of Mexico sediments: Final report. U.S. Dept. of the Interior, Minerals Management Service. Gulf of Mexico OCS Region, New Orleans, LA. OCS Study MMS 2006-028. 122 pages. Funding from the US Minerals Management Service.
  • Aldridge, L., T. Gillogly, G. Lehman, D. Clifford, D. Roberts and X. Lin. “Treatability of Perchlorate in Ground Water Using Ion Exchange Technology” 110 pages, AWWA Research Foundation, 2004.
  • Tripp, A., D. Clifford, D. Roberts, Y. Cang, L. Aldridge, T. Gillogly, and L. Boulos, “Treatability of Perchlorate in Ground Water Using Ion Exchange Technology” 192 pages, AWWA Research Foundation, 2003.

Last reviewed shim4/16/2018 10:03:37 AM


Deborah J. Roberts
Office: EME 3233
Tel: 250.807.8722
E-mail: deborah.roberts@ubc.ca

Please visit the biological solutions lab website for more information about my research.

BSl logo links to external site

I also invite you to visit the FEBI web site for more information about our microscopic analysis capabilities FEBIlinks to external site

I am always looking for excellent students. My research is experimental in nature so I seek new members of my research group with skills in analytical chemistry, microbiology, or reactor design. I am willing to help postdoctoral fellows prepare applications to fund their postdoctoral research.