Professor Norman Terry's research focused on the physiology and biochemistry of environmental stresses on plants, as associated with water, salinity, mineral nutrients, and toxic heavy metals. Since 1989 his research has focused on phytoremediation, the use of plants to clean up contaminated soil and water. While at Berkeley, Terry developed methods for using constructed wetlands to remove selenium and toxic heavy metals from agricultural and industrial wastewater and pioneered research into the development of genetically engineered plants for phytoremediation. Lewis Feldman, professor of plant biology, said Terry was regarded by colleagues as being “among the top scientists in the world in the field of phytoremediation.”
Terry authored over 265 research publications, obtained three patents, and co-edited the book Phytoremediation of Contaminated Soil and Water. He regularly shared his findings and work on phytoremediation and environmental plant biology overseas, delivering lectures or leading seminars at international conferences and symposia.