Oceanography Seminar

November 7, 3:00pm - 4:15pm
Mānoa Campus, MSB 100

David L. Valentine
Professor of Microbial Geochemistry
Department of Earth Science and Marine Science Institute
University of California, Santa Barbara

“The microbiology and chemistry of the Deepwater Horizon disaster (Gulf of Mexico)”

Abstract: The Deepwater Horizon event began on April 20, 2010 with the blowout of the Macondo well in the Gulf of Mexico, and led to the discharge of an estimated 5.1 million barrels of oil and associated natural gas. This event differed from all previous blowouts and spills as it occurred at a water depth of 1500m. At these extreme conditions the discharge fractionated into several forms based on chemical and physical properties, generating both slicks at the Ocean's surface and an intrusion layer of hydrocarbons trapped deep below.

In this presentation I will tell of my own experience studying hydrocarbons in the marine environment, starting with research into the natural seepage of oil and gas, and the abrupt transition to studying the response of the microbial community to the Macondo blowout. I will begin with a review of deep water oil and gas production in the Gulf of Mexico, and then will consider the details of the Deepwater Horizon event. Much of the talk will focus on the interplay between chemistry, physics, biology and human efforts that structured the response of hydrocarbon degrading microbes to the discharge. Several case studies will be presented to highlight the prominent modes of microbial response and to reveal the interplay between the physical processes of currents and mixing, the chemical processes of dissolution and fractionation, and the microbiological processes of growth and metabolism.

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Oceanography, Mānoa Campus

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