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On December 18, our talk was given by Dr. Terry Hazen, and is entitled "Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill – How Resilient is Mother Nature?".
The biological effects and expected fate of the vast amount of oil in the Gulf of Mexico from the Deepwater Horizon blowout are unknown due to the extreme depth and magnitude of this event, but also the unprecedented quantity of oil dispersant released and injected directly at the wellhead (1,544 m). We found that the dispersed hydrocarbon plume stimulated deep-sea indigenous bacteria that are closely related to known petroleum-degraders. Hydrocarbon-degrading genes coincided with the concentration of various oil contaminants. Changes in hydrocarbon composition with distance from the source, environmental isolates, and microcosms demonstrate faster then expected hydrocarbon biodegradation rates even at 5°C. Intrinsic bioremediation of the oil plume in the deep-water column without substantial oxygen drawdown occurred after only 2-3 weeks of capping the Macondo well.
Dr. Hazen received his B.S. and M.S. degrees in Interdepartmental Biology from Michigan State University. His Ph.D. is from Wake Forest University in Microbial Ecology. Dr. Hazen was Professor, Chairman of Biology and Director of Graduate Studies at the University of Puerto Rico for 8 years. Currently he is Head of the Ecology Department, Center for Environmental Biotechnology, Microbial Communities Department of the Joint BioEnergy Institute, co-director of the Virtual Institute for Microbial Stress and Survival and the Microbial Enhanced Hydrocarbon Recovery Program of the Energy Biosciences Institute at E. O. Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. He is a fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology and has authored more than 232 scientific publications. He has patents on 5 bioremediation processes that are being used in 25 states and several countries in Europe and Asia. Prof. Hazen has supervised the graduate theses of 23 students and 16 postdoctoral fellows. He has obtained competitive research funding totaling more than $70 million, not including major institutional grants that he directed of more than $150 million. He received the R&D 100 award in 1995 and 1996 for bioremediation technologies, numerous other awards. Dr. Hazen received in 2005 the DOE BER Distinguished Scientist Award (one of only four ever given). His area of specialty is environmental microbiology, especially as it relates to bioremediation, water quality and bioenergy.
Technical issues prevented us from recording Dr. Hazen's talk. but you can see details of the next talk in the series, and the full calendar of talks.