Publications (1)0 Total impact
ABSTRACT: Estimates of 7x105 cubic meters of crude oil were released into the Gulf of Mexico as a consequence of the April 20th, 2010 Deep Water Horizon drilling rig explosion, leaving thousands of square miles of earth's surface covered in crude oil. Dispersants were used on large slicks and injected at the well head, resulting in oil being suspended throughout the water column. Starting in June 2010, oil reached hundreds of miles of Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi, and Florida shoreline disturbing the ecological balance and economic stability of the region. While visible damages are evident in the wildlife populations and marine estuaries, the most significant affect may be on the most basic level of the ecosystems: the bacterial and plankton populations.We present results from high throughput DNA sequencing of close-to-shore water and beach soil samples before and during the appearance of oil in Louisiana and Mississippi. Sixteen samples were taken over a two month period at approximately two week intervals from Grand Isle, LA and Gulfport, MS and were sequenced using the Illumina GAIIx platform. Significant genomic-based population fluctuations were observed in the soil and water samples. These included large spikes in the human pathogen Vibrio cholera, a sharp increase in Rickettsiales sp., and decrease of Synechococus sp. in water samples. Analysis of the contiguous de-novo assembled DNAs (contigs) from the samples also suggested the loss of biodiversity in water samples by the time oil appeared at the shores in both locations. Our observations lead us to the conclusion that oil strongly influenced microbial population dynamics, had a striking impact on the phytoplankton and other flora present prior to the appearance of oil, and that the microbial community had not recovered to pre-spill conditions by the end of our observational period.