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Patricia Holden

Patricia Holden


Environmental Microbiology

Office: Bren Hall 3508

Lab: Bren Hall 2318



PhD, Soil Microbiology, UC Berkeley
MEng, Civil & Environmental Engineering, UC Berkeley
MS, Civil Engineering, Purdue University
BS, Civil Engineering, University of Tennessee


Professor Holdenā€˜s background is in civil/environmental engineering and soil microbiology. Her research cross-cuts these fields. She is the Director of the UCSB Natural Reserve System, equivalent to 50% of her teaching credit.

Research Interests

Bacteria are both agents of environmental restoration and agents of environmental degradation. For the former, bacteria in nature cycle nutrients and transform pollutants; our interest is in developing a predictive understanding of bacterial distribution and function in natural and polluted environments. For the latter, bacteria in human waste are indicative of disease-causing organisms; we want to know the relationships between fecal indicator bacteria and the presence of human waste, the value of culture-independent methods for detecting wastes and pathogens, and the transport and fate of fecal bacteria in the environment.

Current interests and projects include:

Vadose zone microbial ecology

  • Biofilms in unsaturated environments
  • Microbial extracellular polymeric substances (EPS)
  • Vadose zone saccharides
  • Community composition, diversity, function
  • Water stress
  • Environmental scanning electron microscopy (ESEM) of soils and soil microbes
  • Microsite phenomena
  • Cell-cell communication in dry systems
  • Reaction-diffusion modeling

Coastal and estuarine bacterial ecology

  • Pollutant interactions with bacterial communities in estuarine ecosystems
  • Markers of human sewage in aquatic bacterial communities
  • Bacterial communities as tracers for other pollutants
  • Relationships between urbanization and coastal bacteriological water quality

Bacterial interactions with nanoparticles

  • Bacterial uptake and decomposition of CdSe quantum dots, TiO2 and other nanoparticles
  • Toxicity of engineered nanoparticles to environmental bacteria
  • Planktonic and biofilm bacterial interactions with nanoparticles

Urban water quality and pollution biodegradation in soils, sediments

  • Roles of urban infrastructure on groundwater and surface water quality
  • Geospatial analysis of relationships between pollutant sources, concentration gradients, and receptors
  • Minimally invasive remediation strategies for multi-contaminants in soil and groundwater
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