Investigating the effect of oil spills
on the environment and public health.
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Funding Source: Year One Block Grant - The Alabama Marine Environmental Science Consortium

Project Overview

Gene Quantification to Elucidate Intrinsic Bioremediation Potential and Efficacy in the Oil Impacted Gulf Sediment

Principal Investigator
Auburn University
Department of Civil Engineering
Member Institutions
Auburn University, University of South Alabama


The purpose of this study was to employ genomic approaches to investigate the impact of oil-spill accident in the microbial populations (particularly hydrocarbon degrading microorganisms) and determine the potential for the intrinsic bioremediation of crude oil contaminants along the Gulf Shore. Samples were collected along the coastal regions of Louisiana and Alabama based on their proximity to the oil spill site and being known as contaminated areas. GC-MS analysis was used to determine whether or not each sample was contaminated. The PCR and qPCR assays were conducted to qualitatively and quantitatively analyze the presence of bacteria and their microbial activity. Four gene targets were selected based on their efficacy for targeting genus- or function specific- genes pertinent to the oil biodegradation process. Of the two genus bacterial targets, one was a universal bacterial target chosen to help confirm the presence of bacteria, while the other specifically targeted Pseudomonas species. This specific bacterium was chosen based on its notoriety for containing the functional genes necessary for the biodegradation of crude oil contaminants. The two functional gene targets were alkB andP450s, which each plays a pertinent role in the degradation of alkanes. The quantitative result was then compared to the levels of contamination determined using GC-MS analysis. The results obtained from the study will provide the partial information regarding whether further action (e.g., bioaugmentation or biostimulation) for oil cleanup is necessary or not. 

This research was made possible by a grant from BP/The Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative.