IAB Research Project Description

Arctic Marine Biodegradation and Toxicity of Oil and Chemically Dispersed Oil

Flasks containing freshly collected seawater from the offshore oil lease areas in the Chukchi Sea are incubated with oil and chemical dispersant. Kelly McFarlin is studying how fast the natural microbial community is able to degrade oil and the chemical dispersant, Corexit 9500. This experiment is part of McFarlin's Ph.D. study on the biodegradation and toxicity of Alaska North Slope crude oil and the use of the chemical dispersant, Corexit 9500 as a potential oil-spill response option in Arctic marine environments. Credit: Marie Thoms/IAB-UAF

Flasks containing freshly collected seawater from the offshore oil lease areas in the Chukchi Sea incubated with oil and chemical dispersant. Kelly McFarlin will use these incubations to identify oil degrading microorganisms indigenous to the Alaskan Chukchi Sea. This experiment is part of McFarlin's Ph.D. study on the biodegradation and toxicity of Alaska North Slope crude oil and the use of the chemical dispersant, Corexit 9500 as a potential oil-spill response option in Arctic marine environments. Credit: Marie Thoms/IAB-UAF

Kelly McFarlin collects copepods in April 2009 from the Chukchi Sea, 1 km from Barrow, Alaska. The copepods were used to determine the toxicity of oil and dispersed oil to important food web species in the Arctic. McFarlin's research focuses on the biodegradation and toxicity of Alaska North Slope crude oil and the use of the chemical dispersant, Corexit 9500 as a potential oil-spill response option in Arctic marine environments. McFarlin is a Ph.D. student at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. Photo courtesy: McFarlin.

Kelly McFarlin collects copepods in July 2009 from the Chukchi Sea off the Northwest coast of Alaska. Copepods as well as arctic cod were collected to determine the toxic effects of oil and dispersed oil on key food web species. McFarlin's research focuses on the biodegradation and toxicity of Alaska North Slope crude oil and the use of the chemical dispersant, Corexit 9500 as a potential oil-spill response option in Arctic marine environments. McFarlin is a Ph.D. student at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. Photo courtesy: McFarlin.

Any and all uses of these images must include photographer credit.

Kelly McFarlin's current research focuses on the biodegradation and toxicity of Alaska North Slope (ANS) crude oil and the use of the chemical dispersant, Corexit 9500 as a potential oil spill response option in Arctic marine environments. McFarlin has performed near-shore and offshore biodegradation experiments under Arctic conditions using indigenous Arctic marine microorganisms, low temperatures and low levels of nutrients. She has also conducted toxicity tests with indigenous copepods (Calanus glacialis) and arctic cod (Boreogadus saida), with respect to ANS and Corexit 9500.

In 2014, McFarlin is in the second phase of a Ph.D. program, which will focus on the characterization of microorganisms active in the biodegradation of crude oil and dispersed oil in the Arctic Ocean. This portion of her work will involve the use of powerful molecular techniques to characterize the Arctic microbial community at different locations and depths; to determine their genetic potential for petroleum biodegradation and nutrient cycling; and to compare these results to those previously reported in the Deepwater Horizon spill.

Project Publications:

McFarlin KM, Prince RC, Perkins R, Leigh MB (2014) Biodegradation of Dispersed Oil in Arctic Seawater at -1°C. PLoS ONE 9(1): e84297. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0084297
 
Prince RC, McFarlin KM, Butler JD, Febbo EJ, Wang FCY, Nedwed TJ (2013) The primary biodegradation of dispersed crude oil in the sea. Chemosphere 90: 521-526.
 
Gardiner WW, Word JQ, Word JD, Perkins RA, McFarlin KM, Hester BW, Word LS, Ray CM (2013) The Acute Toxicity of Chemically and Physically Dispersed Crude Oil to Key Arctic Species Under Arctic Conditions During the Open Water Season. Environ. Toxicol. Chem. 32(10): 2284-2300.
 
McFarlin KM, Leigh MB, Perkins RA, Word JQ (2012) The Effects of Crude Oil and Corexit 9500 on the Indigenous Arctic Microbial Community. Proceedings of the 35th Arctic & Marine Oilspill Program (AMOP) Technical Seminar. Emergencies Science Division, Environment Canada, Ottawa, ON, Canada.
 
McFarlin KM, Leigh MB, Perkins RA, Gardiner WW, Word JQ (2011) Evaluating the Biodegradability and Effects of Dispersed Oil Using Arctic Test Species and Conditions: Phase 2 Activities. Proceedings of the 34th Arctic & Marine Oilspill Program (AMOP) Technical Seminar. Emergencies Science Division, Environment Canada, Ottawa, ON, Canada.

Project Funding

IAB Project #309

Media Contact

Marie Thoms
Communications/Web Manager
Institute of Arctic Biology
302A Irving I
University of Alaska Fairbanks
Fairbanks, AK 99775-7000
email: methoms@alaska.edu
phone: 907.474.7412
UAF-IAB-News-Info@alaska.edu