Image above: Set up of microcosms to investigate room temperature biodegradation of crude oil at varying salinities and oil concentrations..
Photo Credit: Priyamvada Sharma.
Crude oil is a vital energy source, but if spilled acts as an environmental pollutant. Crude oil contamination is harmful for ecosystems. In situ bioremediation is a cost effective solution for degrading crude oil at remote sites. Bio-stimulation, i.e. addition of nutrients, is commonly used as one of the first steps in a spill response. This research focuses on determining the rate of crude oil biodegradation in laboratory experiments for different conditions representative of Alaska’s arctic shores, using sediments obtained from Barrow, Alaska. The objective of the research is to simulate in the laboratory what would happen if a crude oil spill occurred along the shores of the Beaufort or Chukchi sea. A laboratory microcosm study has been conducted with varying temperatures, crude oil concentrations and salinities. The crude oil degradation and microbial respiration has been monitored under those conditions. The presentation will focus on the importance of this study, its methodology, preliminary results and future work.