This month we published a research article in Frontiers in Marine Science. The paper “Exposure to Crude Oil and Chemical Dispersant May Impact Marine Microbial Biofilm Composition and Steel Corrosion” by Dr. Jennifer Salerno and colleagues investigated the impacts of oil and dispersant on marine biofilm communities. The paper reveals how spill contaminants interact with marine microbiomes on steel surfaces.
For the study, Salerno performed microcosm experiments to determine community structure and function of microorganisms in biofilms on carbon steel, a common ship hull construction material. Metal loss and biofilm dynamics were monitored over four months. The paper discovered that bacterial community structure differed significantly between experiments treated with and without oil spill related contaminants. A sustained reduction in biodiversity was observed when dispersant was present. The introduction of oil increased genes associated with sulfur metabolism, and an increase in metal loss was also observed. This study indicates that exposure to oil and dispersant could disrupt the composition and function of biofilms colonizing the hulls of historic shipwrecks, and potentially impact the preservation of these ecological and historical resources.
Below is a photo taken during the experiment, showing off our cold room fashion.