Dr Terry J McGenity (University of Essex Biological Sciences)
Dr Rob Holland (Oil Spill Response Ltd.)
Oil spills are one of the most challenging threats to the marine environment that can have long-term impacts on fisheries, the economy and society. Dispersants are commonly applied as a remediation strategy to disperse oil into the water column and produce small oil droplets that are more readily degraded by indigenous oil-degrading bacteria. Whilst dispersants are one of the many tools to prevent coastal contamination, there are concerns they may contribute to the formation of marine oil snow (MOS). MOS has been speculated to be a transport vector for oil into the deep sea. This PhD will investigate whether dispersants inhibit or enhance the formation of MOS over a range of relevant conditions.
The student will use state-of-the-art microbiological, chemical, and molecular techniques to quantify the effects of dispersants on MOS formation over a range of differing oil and environmental conditions. Using lab experiments and in-situ analyses the student will use Next Generation Sequencing to identify oil-degrading microbes associated with MOS.
Training will include marine fieldwork, including participating in a multidisciplinary controlled oil-spill experiment at sea with the CASE partner OSRL. Training will be given in experimental design, molecular microbiology (e.g. Next Generation Sequencing, bioinformatics) and environmental chemistry. The student will be part of the vibrant Ecology and Environmental Microbiology Group at the University of Essex, as well as benefiting from expertise at OSRL and further engagement with OSRL’s Industry partners, such as IPIECA, Shell and ExxonMobil. Additionally, as part of the ARIES cohort, the student will have access to a range of training courses, such as “advanced genomics”.
This is an exciting opportunity for a highly motivated student with a background in Microbiology, Marine or Ecological Sciences, who is keen to learn new skills to address a global environmental issue and engage with the oil industry’s scientific expertise. The successful applicant will undertake studies as part of a multi-disciplinary team (Boyd McKew, Terry McGenity and Rob Holland). The PhD will be based at the University of Essex, with three months spent at OSRL in Southampton.