A Movable Feast: The Role of Microbes in the Response to the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill in the Gulf of Mexico

Session ID#: 85186

Session Description:
Microorganisms are central and cross-cutting to oil spill response strategies. Biodegradation mediated by indigenous microbial communities is the ultimate fate of the majority of petroleum (oil and gas) that enters the marine environment. Key ecosystem services provided by microbes, such as organic matter and nutrient cycling, may be adversely affected by oil contamination. The Deepwater Horizon(DWH) discharge of oil was the first large scale environmental disaster to which the methods of genomics were applied to determine microbial response to a major perturbation.  Prior to the DWH disaster, it was not known just how widespread or specialized microbes are to degrade oil.  Chemical dispersants represented a major response strategy and yet their impacts on microbial communities were not well constrained.  This tutorial will describe recent advances on the role of microbes in major oil spills, highlighting the integration of multidisciplinary approaches in biogeochemistry, microbiology, and oceanography.  In particular, the talk will synthesize knowledge gained by the application of genomics tools to interrogate mechanisms of petroleum hydrocarbon degradation and to elucidate impacts of oil exposure on ecosystem health and functioning.  Despite excellent progress, a predictive understanding remains hampered by challenges in interpreting the in situ activity and ecosystem response of microbial populations.
  • ME - Marine Ecology and Biodiversity
  • MM - Microbiology and Molecular Ecology
  • OB - Ocean Biology and Biogeochemistry
Index Terms:

4251 Marine pollution [OCEANOGRAPHY: GENERAL]
4805 Biogeochemical cycles, processes, and modeling [OCEANOGRAPHY: CHEMICAL]
4840 Microbiology and microbial ecology [OCEANOGRAPHY: BIOLOGICAL]
Primary Presenter:  Joel E Kostka, Georgia Institute of Technology Main Campus, Atlanta, GA, United States
Moderators:  James B Edson, Univ Connecticut, Groton, United States and Carol Anne Clayson, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Physical Oceanography, Woods Hole, MA, United States

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