Life Science Hour Seminar Series

Name:Mary Beth Leigh
 Professor of Microbiology
Title:Fate and effects of oil and spill response products in Alaskan marine environments
Date:Friday, 9 November 2018
Location:Murie Life Science Bldg, Murie Auditorium.


As the risk of oil spills increases in Alaskan waters, there is a growing need to understand the biodegradation of petroleum as well as the fate and effects of oil spill response products. We are conducting laboratory incubation studies using Arctic (Chukchi Sea) and sub-Arctic (Prince William Sound) seawater as well as the Arctic benthos to assess oil degradation rates and to identify microbial taxa important to biodegradation. We are also investigating two spill response products on the National Contingency Plan (NCP) Schedule that are eligible for use in Alaskan waters and elsewhere: the chemical dispersant Corexit 9500A and Oil Spill Eater II (OSEII), a product marketed as an enzymatic biodegradation agent. Our goals include assessing the degradation of the major surfactant components of Corexit 9500A and characterizing the composition and effectiveness of the lesser-known product OSEII. Because spilled oil can also become entrained in sediments, we are investigating the biodegradation of oil under aerobic and anaerobic conditions in Arctic sediment mesocosms as well. Using microbial community analyses (e.g. 16S rRNA gene sequencing), we are characterizing shifts in community structure following exposure to oil and/or dispersants to identify taxa important to the biodegradation of petroleum and spill response products in the Alaskan marine environment. Through these studies, we aim to provide fundamental insight into Alaskan marine microbial ecology and to provide timely information to regulators, the oil spill response community, industry, and other stakeholders regarding the fate and effects of oil and spill response products in preparation for future oil spills.

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