Dr Boyd McKew, School of Life Sciences, University of Essex
Prof Terry McGenity, School of Life Sciences, University of Essex
Dr Rob Holland, Oil Spill Response Ltd (OSRL)
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 transport oil into the deep sea, potentially damaging benthic ecosystems. 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 environmental conditions. The student will learn Next Generation Sequencing and quantitative-PCR to identify and quantify oil-degrading microbes associated with MOS, and Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry to measure hydrocarbon degradation. There will also be an exciting opportunity to participate in novel multidisciplinary controlled oil-spill experiments at sea with OSRL (www.oilspillresponse.com).
Training will include marine fieldwork, 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 UoE, as well as benefiting from expertise at OSRL and further engagement with industry partners, such as IPIECA, Shell and ExxonMobil, enhancing key skills and employability. 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 individual 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 UoE, with time spent at OSRL, Southampton.