Katelyn Houghton is a MS student working on the impacts of oil and dispersants on bacterial productivity in the Gulf of Mexico. She is a student of Wade Jeffrey’s out of the Department of Biology and the Center for the Environmental Diagnostics and Bioremediation at the University of West Florida. She was asked two questions about her research and her daily activities.
1) What is your research project and why is it important and relevant to the GoM?
My thesis project is focused on the effects of MC-252 oil and Corexit9500A dispersant on bacterial production and community structure.
Bacteria are the most abundant and dominant life forms on earth and within the marine environment; they are the primary mediators of oil biodegradation. Biodegradation is the breakdown of complex chemicals by microbes into carbon dioxide and water. This process allows the otherwise inaccessible carbon to be utilized by higher trophic levels, feeding the microbial loop.
It is important to understand the effects of the oil and corexit mixture on bacterial production and community structure because of their critical role in the marine ecosystem. Without a healthy functioning microbial community the higher trophic levels would suffer.
2) What are you doing today?
Today, I am working as a Biology intern at the EPA, Gulf Ecology Division. Currently, I am at my desk checking emails.
When I am not glued to the computer I can be found in the molecular lab, preparing samples for DNA sequencing. We are currently working on a project focused on developing genomic indicators of nutrient enrichment in aquatic ecosystems.
Excess nutrient loading is a leading cause of decreased water quality, and as such it has become a priority to assess impacts and develop an early indicator system.
Thank you Katelyn!!! Next month we’ll talk to another C-IMAGE student about his/her research… Stay tuned!