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Ocean Observation using Microbial Genomics: A new Baseline tool for Environmental Effects Monitoring

This project takes advantage of the revolution in molecular biology and nucleic acid sequencing to advance a new approach for Environmental Effects Monitoring (EEM) using microbial genomics.

Baseline data for marine observation is critical for assessing the response and resilience of ecosystems to pollution.

The objective of this project is to integrate microbial biodiversity measurements through genomics into standard Environmental Effects Monitoring (EEM) strategies and baseline determinations. In Nova Scotia the oil industry is at the beginning stages of oil exploration, making it the perfect moment to launch a new approach. Since oil companies are already taking marine samples for oil exploration, they could simultaneously measure microbial biodiversity using genomics. This baseline data, using a highly sensitive genomic sciences, will monitor future conditions in oil exploration regions that are, by definition, higher risk areas for experiencing oil pollution.

Progress to date in characterizing Scotian Slope marine sediments in hydrocarbon prospective areas have been successful, and indicative of variability in areas suspected to have hydrocarbon seeps. This suggests that the presence of hydrocarbons exerts selective pressure on benthic microbial biodiversity that can be routinely and diagnostically detected using genomics. In related work, the effect of varying the 16S rRNA gene primers on Arctic samples is being tested for method development. This is important towards developing SOP related to environmental baseline determinations.

This project is one of nine research projects funded through MEOPAR's partnership with Irving Shipbuilding Inc.  Read More

This baseline data, using a highly sensitive genomic sciences, will monitor future conditions in oil exploration regions that are, by definition, higher risk areas for experiencing oil pollution.