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University of California Santa Barbara study reveals how gas, temperature controlled bacterial response to Deepwater Horizon spill
Date:10/3/2011

(Santa Barbara, Calif.) In a new study, UC Santa Barbara scientists explain how they used DNA to identify microbes present in the Gulf of Mexico following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, and how they identified the microbes responsible for consuming the large amount of natural gas present immediately after the spill. They also explain how water temperature played a key role in the way bacteria reacted to the spill.

The results of their research are published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The study was led by David Valentine, a geochemist and professor of earth science at UCSB, and Molly Redmond, a postdoctoral scholar in Valentine's laboratory. The research was supported by the National Science Foundation and the Department of Energy.

The Deepwater Horizon oil spill was unique, according to the scientists, because it happened at such great depth and contained so much natural gas predominantly methane, ethane, and propane. Those factors influenced the way bacteria responded to the spill. In earlier studies, Valentine, Redmond, and their colleagues showed that ethane and propane were the major hydrocarbon compounds being consumed in June 2010, two months after the start of the April spill. By September 2010, the scientists found that these gases and all of the methane had been consumed.

In May and June of 2010, the scientists found that bacterial communities in the Deepwater Horizon submerged plume were dominated by just a few types Oceanospirillales, Colwellia, and Cycloclasticus and were very different from control samples without large concentrations of oil or gas, and also from the communities in surface oil slicks collected at the same time.

"It's much warmer at the surface than in the deep water around 80 degrees (Fahrenheit) versus 40 degrees, which is pretty close to the temperature in your refrigerator," said Redmond, the study's lead author. "There was
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Contact: George Foulsham
george.foulsham@ia.ucsb.edu
805-893-3071
University of California - Santa Barbara
Source:Eurekalert  

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