A recent study by the Joye Research Group at University of Georgia, highlighted in The Atlantic, brings fresh attention to the use of chemical dispersant to mitigate oil contamination in the deep ocean.
Members of the Hamdan Lab commented on the work in a review in The Atlantic. This elegant study by Kleindienst and colleagues demonstrates that hydrocarbon degrading microorganisms are really good at their job, because they have evolved over geological time to have layers, upon layers of biodiversity to withstand life in highly a variable and hydrocarbon-containing environment. The paper provides evidence, through microcosm experiments, that their ability to ‘do their job’ where hydrocarbons are concerned, is not improved by chemical dispersant application. More work like this, including a study in progress by Jennifer Salerno in our lab are needed to help inform environmental decision making.