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Oil-degrading Microbes

The use of microbes for the biodegradation of pollutants has intensified in recent years in an attempt to find sustainable ways of cleaning contaminated environments.  Pollutants including hydrocarbons, polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) can be toxic to organisms, making the marine environment especially vulnerable to oil spills.

Research into the use of oil-degrading microbes is ongoing at Heriot-Watt University.  Particularly through the School of Life Sciences' Centre for Marine Biodiversity and Biotechnology.

Dr. Tony Gutierrez is a microbial ecologist whose research interests lie in the study of the natural diversity, physiology and ecology of bacteria in marine environments.

Dr. Mark Hartl's research activity focuses on marine ecotoxicology, in particular the potential impact of manufactured nanomaterials and chemicals used in offshore oil production on marine organisms. He is also interested in the ecotoxicology of near-shelf deep-sea organisms, the general ecophysiology of benthic organisms, the effects of anthropogenic activity on community structure and the fate of organic and inorganic pollutants in the marine and estuarine environment.

Current projects include: 

Year Funding Body Title Principal Investigator
2015 NERC "Evaluating the resilience of deepwater systems to recover from oil spills", PhD Studentship October 2015 to Ocotber 2019.  PhD Candidate Laura Duran Suja T. Gutierrez
2014 MASTS Technology, Platforms and Sensors Samll Grant "Understanding microbial oil-degradation processes in the ocean using an in-situ based microbial chamber" T. Gutierrez; A. Gallego
2014 Society of Applied Microbiology Understanding the microbial response to a major oil spill in the Faroe-Shetland Channel: toward improved bioremediation strategies in deep water provinces T. Gutierrez
2014 Royal Society Research Grant, UK "Investigating eukaryotic phytoplankton as a reservoir of oil-degrading bacteris in the ocean" T. Gutierrez; Co-I: E. Bresnan
2014 MASTS Marine Energy Forum Small Grant, UK "Advancing our understanding of oil-spill biodegrative processes using and in-situ based system" T. Gutierrez; Co-I: A. Gallego
2014 Royal Society International Exchange Grant, UK "Creating a NE Atlantic Microbial Observatory (NEAMO)" T. Gutierrez and M. Joye
2014 MASTS Visiting Fellowship Grant, UK "Improving the classification of key marine microorganisms for biogeography and ecophysiology studies" T. Gutierrez and D. Berry
2014 MASTS PECRE grant, UK "North-East Atlantic baseline on the Microbiology of oil-degrading communities (NEADMICRO)" T. Gutierrez
2013 James-Watt PhD Scholarship, UK "Investigating the diversity, abundance and function of oil-degrading microbial populations in the North-East Atlantic" T. Gutierrez
2012 US Department of Energy - Joint Institute (DOE-JGI), US "Whole genome sequencing of novel marine hydrocarbon-degrading bacteria" T. Gutierrez and W.B. Whitman
2012 James-Watt PhD Scholarship "Understanding the relationship between PAH-degrading bacteria and marine eukaryotic phytoplankton" T. Gutierrez
2012 CREW Grant, UK "Review the impacts/risks of the water related known unknowns, such as nano-materials, microplastics and other priority hazardous substances, and review and evaluate monitoring methodologies to identify the sources of water related known unknowns" M. Hartl; Co-I: T. Gutierrez
2012 NSF Rapid Response Grant, US "The microbial Response to the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill" Collaborators: T. Gutierrez et al., PI: A. Teske, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, USA

 If you are interested in learning more about these particular projects, please Contact Us.