The on-going research at the Biology department focuses on fundamental and applied biology to meet the demands for sustainable development of the Mekong delta of Vietnam. These studies have been well-supported and cooperated by local as well as international universities and research institutes.
* Biodiversity. Examination of the diversity of phytoplankton, higher plants, molluscs and arthropods in some regions of the Mekong delta of Vietnam. The biodiversity collections are used as illustrations for teaching and references for advanced research.
* Bioassay. Screening for biologically active compounds against diabetes, oxidants and pathogenic bacteria from local medicinal plants. Pandan (Pandanus amaryllifolius R.), guava (Psidium guajava L.), great morinda (Morinda citrifolia L.) and bitter melon (Momordica charantia L.) have been reported to reduce blood sugar level in diabetic mice. Medicinal plants such as great morinda, pandan and acanthus (Acanthus ilicifolius L.) also perform antioxidant activities. In addition, extracts of the medicinal herbs were examined for their activities against pathogenic bacteria in aquaculture. False daisy’s extract shows the activity to inhibit the growth of bacterial strains belonging to Enterobacter cloacae, Vibrio brasiliensis and Vibrio parahaemolyticusisolated from the intestine of the diseased giant tiger prawns (Penaeus monodon). These studies will be continued to clarify mode of action of the medicinal plants and to set up a plan for exploration and preservation of this resource.
* Nitrogen fixing, phosphate and potassium solubilizing bacteria. Isolation of rhizosphere bacteria capable of fixing nitrogen in rice fields of different ecological systems; bacteria able to solubilize phosphate and potassium in soils in the Mekong delta of Vietnam. Nitrogen fixing bacterial strains isolated belong to species Pseudomonas stutzeri and Burkholderia vietnamiensis while phosphate and potassium solubilizing bacteria are members of Agrobacterium tumefaciens, Rhizobium tropici and Azotobacter tropicalis. Research on nitrogen fixation as well as phosphate and potassium solubilization of those strains for rice and vegetable cultivation are being conducted in green house and in situ to select potential candidates for biofertilizer production.
* Biodegradation. Isolation of indigenous bacteria able to degrade intensively used pesticides and aromatic compounds in agricultural soils and in wastewater, respectively. Novosphingobium sp. KN65.2 performing carbofuran degradation activity was isolated and genes involved in carbofuran degradation pathway in strain KN65.2 were elucidated. Many bacterial strains belonging to genera Burkholderia, Cupriavidus and Ralstoniashowing herbicide 2,4-D degradation activity were also isolated from the rice fields and their genetics were fully characterized. With the availability of isolated strains and their genetic information, biodegradation of carbofuran, 2,4-D and structurally related pesticides recently used in rice cultivation areas in the Mekong delta of Vietnam will be further explored at molecular level. Additionally, biodegradation of aromatic compounds in wastewater has been studied. These research aim at setting up suitable bioremediation method to partially reduce the amount of xenobiotic compounds in soil and water.
* Application of microalgae. Microalgae have been globally attractive as a novel source of biomass that could complement the biomass supply for the production of food, feed, energy and chemicals. However, large-scale production of microalgae for biofuels is often hampered by contamination of cultures with grazers that feed on microalgae. Therefore, chemical method using natural chemicals extracted from marine microalgae, plant extracts and biological method have been studied to control grazers like ciliate, rotifer, etc. in the microalgal cultures. In addtion to controlling biological contaminants, microalgae have been studied for nutrients removal in wastewater treatment. Subsequently, microalgal biomass collected from wastewater treatment will be used as a bio-fertilizer for sustainable argiculture.