Oil spills in the ocean are messy and can be catastrophic to the surrounding environment. The GENICE research team is hoping their research in the Arctic Ocean will help identify microorganisms that could aid in oil spill response plans and in climate change through mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions. The GENICE project aims to identify naturally occurring microorganisms that could potentially degrade oil or other greenhouse gases such as methane and carbon dioxide through a process known as bioremediation.
In a paper published in May 2021 “Characterization of marine microbial communities around an Arctic seabed hydrocarbon seep at Scott Inlet, Baffin Bay
” the team characterized the seep communities and their chemical emissions. Seeps are found deep on the ocean floor and are supplied by hydrocarbon reservoirs that can release oil and natural gases into the surrounding area. The research team used a remotely operated vehicle to explore the sea floor and identified the microbial community that lived near the Scott Inlet seeps. The chemicals released from the seeps provide an environment where certain microorganisms thrive. In turn, these microorganisms become an important food source for various other sea creatures.
In their investigation of organisms near the seafloor of the Scott Inlet seep, the GENICE researchers identified methane degrading microorganisms up to 5 km away from the seep. High methane levels were measured at the benthic zone near the seeps, which were not present at higher seal levels. The researchers concluded that this seepage does not represent a source of green house emissions into the atmosphere and that the methane-degrading microbes, even when found in low abundance, could regulate this methane emission.
The GENICE team also published a paper in August 2021 “Biodegradation of diesel and crude oil by Labrador Sea cold adapted microbial communities
” that found different oil-eating microbes in the Arctic off the Labrador coast. Interestingly, this was the first time that some of these previously known bacteria were documented as oil-degrading. These findings will become an important tool for emergency preparedness for any future accidental oil spills. Oil eating microbes in the Arctic could be a promising solution for oil spill emergency response, green house gas emission mitigation, and combating climate change.
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on Instagram, a joint page highlighting two Genome Alberta projects, GENICE (a Genome Canada Large Scale Applied Research Project) and Arctic Genomics (a Genome Canada Genomics in Society Interdisciplinary Research Teams Project).