Microbial community genomic DNA was extracted from sediment samples collected from the northern Gulf of Mexico (NGOM) coast. These samples had a high probability of being impacted by Macondo-1 (M-1) well oil from the Deepwater Horizon (DWH) drilling site. The hypothesis for this project was that presence of M-1 oil in coastal sediments would significantly alter the diversity within the microbial communities associated with the impacted sediments. To determine if community-level changes did or did not occur following exposure to M-1 oil, microbial community-diversity fingerprints were generated and compared. Specific sequences within the community's genomic DNA were first amplified using the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) using a primer set that provides possible resolution to the species level. A second nested PCR that was performed on the primary PCR products using a primer set on which a GC-clamp was attached to one of the primers. These nested PCR products were separated using denaturing-gradient gel electrophoresis (DGGE) that resolves the nested PCR products based on sequence dissimilarities (or similarities), forming a genomic fingerprint of the microbial diversity within the respective samples. Sediment samples with similar fingerprints were grouped and compared to oil-fingerprint data from Rosenbauer and others (2010). The microbial community fingerprints grouped closely when identifying those sites that had been impacted by M-1 oil (N=12) and/or some mixture of M-1 and other oil (N=4), based upon the oil fingerprints. This report represents some of the first information on naturally occurring microbial communities in sediment from shorelines along the NGOM coast. These communities contain microbes capable of degrading oil and related hydrocarbons, making this information relevant to response and recovery of the NGOM from the DWH incident.
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USGS Numbered Series
A survey of alterations in microbial community diversity in marine sediments in response to oil from the Deepwater Horizon spill: Northern Gulf of Mexico shoreline, Texas to Florida