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Centre for

Marine Biodiversity and Biotechnology

From the shoreline to the deep ocean, tackling issues from pure ecology
and physiology to aquaculture, marine spatial planning and conservation.

Deepwater Horizon oil spill research

During his research at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Tony Gutierrez used several sophisticated molecular techniques to reveal insight on the microbial response to the oil spilled into the Gulf of Mexico after the Deepwater Horizon blowout.

Using DNA-based stable isotope probing (DNA-SIP) coupled with multiplex amplicon pyrosequencing and cultivation-based methods, several new species of oil-degrading bacteria were identified that contributed to the degradation and ultimate removal of the oil from surface and deep waters in the Gulf. Some of these bacteria were successfully cultivated in the laboratory that allowed for the opportunity to directly examine, and therefore better understand, their capacity to degrade the oil. Pending future funding, his interest is to apply these and various other techniques to critically study the resident oil-degrading microbiota in the water column and sediment of the North-East Atlantic where contamination from the oil and gas industry is prevalent.

Key CMBB Reference: Gutierrez, T. (2011) Identifying polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon-degrading bacteria in oil-contaminated surface waters at Deepwater Horizon by cultivation, stable isotope probing and pyrosequencing. Reviews in Environmental Science & Bio/Technology, 10:301-305.