Chronic Hydrocarbon Spills: Linking the Soil Microbiome to Biodegradation
End Date: 08/31/2017
Biodegradation in subsurface environments depends significantly on the compositions of soil microbial communities and pollutant mixtures. So far, this problem has not been analyzed in the context of the soil microbiome using state-of-the-art metagenomic and other methods that can resolve this interdependence. The complexity of subsurface biogeochemical systems likely requires such an approach. We hypothesize that depending upon the composition of environmental pollutant mixtures the soil microbiome may be significantly affected along with its ability to degrade the pollutants. In a full proposal, we would examine this hypothesis through a combination of field sampling and soil microcosms to elucidate the role of the microbiome in contaminant degradation. We would use high-throughput gene sequencing to characterize the soil microbiome, and PCR analyses to examine the roles of specific bacterial species. We plan to examine changes in the composition and function of the soil microbiome in response to an understudied contamination scenario: small hydrocarbon spills that occur due to the operation of motor vehicles. The chronicity of such spills results in significant cumulative spill volumes and potential adaption of the soil microbiome.