• UCSBgauchos twitter avatar
    Softball: Hawai'i Tops UCSB 5-1 in Gauchos' Final Road Series Opener https://t.co/ejf0MWM1g0
    3 hours 42 min ago
  • UCSBgauchos twitter avatar
    Gauchos Sweep Past UCI 4-0 https://t.co/WFwbxDV8eA
    6 hours 18 min ago
  • ucsantabarbara twitter avatar
    We're happy to see you back, alumni! Don't miss the great events we have this weekend. #AllGauchoReunion… https://t.co/Sbz4iirr7i
    9 hours 56 min ago
  • UCSBgauchos twitter avatar
    Women's Tennis: Cal Poly 0, UC Santa Barb. 4 (Final) No.2 UCSB blanks No.7 Cal Poly in Big West Quarterfinal 4-0 https://t.co/m4kdACQFo5
    9 hours 58 min ago
  • UCSBgauchos twitter avatar
    .@UCSB_Baseball vs. UC Riverside on @ESPN3 is live now! Watch here >>> https://t.co/QJMvNLa0mQ
    10 hours 17 min ago
  • UCSBgauchos twitter avatar
    WWP: Defending Big West Champs Defeated by No. 12 LBSU in Another Overtime Match https://t.co/XIO3RJdo9p
    10 hours 36 min ago
  • UCSBgauchos twitter avatar
    Top-Seeded UCSB Set to Host Big West Golf Championship at Sandpiper GC https://t.co/SyXPKB2Ur5
    12 hours 10 min ago
  • UCSBLibrary twitter avatar
    RT @ForestSways: CEMA poster preservation for primary source research. #Chicanohertiage @Marikhasmanyan @UCSBLibrary #sca17 https://t.co/M…
    14 hours 12 min ago
  • UCSBLibrary twitter avatar
    @AmldavisAnn We're glad you're interested in using, please contact (805) 893-3062 or @library.ucsb.edu">special@library.ucsb.edu for m… https://t.co/fwAVOMoWyB
    14 hours 12 min ago
  • UCSB_GradPost twitter avatar
    CPT F-1 Visa workshop for international students on May 11 https://t.co/l6xZEndRVl #UCSB #ucsbgradpost
    14 hours 28 min ago
  • UCSB_GradPost twitter avatar
    Two open postdoc positions on Verification of Quantum Cryptography https://t.co/ZRA2iro7Ym #UCSB #ucsbgradpost
    14 hours 28 min ago
  • UCSB_GradPost twitter avatar
    Professor Micaela J. Díaz-Sánchez to speak about bomba on May 2 https://t.co/D4g84xVXkD #UCSB #ucsbgradpost
    14 hours 28 min ago
  • ArtsandLectures twitter avatar
    #DavidSedaris talks to the @SBIndpndnt about his new book Theft By Finding: "You might say he’s stolen our hearts."… https://t.co/fR3WFw02CL
    15 hours 23 min ago
  • brenucsb twitter avatar
    Is it possible to have negative GHG emissions? #UK launches national initiative to find negative emissions tech https://t.co/gHHHQHJLf1
    15 hours 25 min ago
  • UCSBengineering twitter avatar
    Photo gallery is up for our 50th Anniversary Alumni Reception! Can't wait to see everyone at 4pm #UCSBCOE50 https://t.co/d7TtlRJ2PM
    15 hours 51 min ago

A Living Laboratory

Supported by a grant from the Simons Foundation, UCSB researchers get the chance of a lifetime to study the effects of the Refugio oil spill over the coming year
Wednesday, August 12, 2015 - 10:00
Santa Barbara, CA

On May 19, 2015, near Refugio State Beach, thousands of gallons of oil leaked from a pipeline fed by offshore platforms in the Santa Barbara Channel. Within hours, UC Santa Barbara’s David Valentine and volunteers from his lab were on site collecting samples. They came back twice the next day and have returned many times over the past three months.

Valentine, a professor in UCSB’s Department of Earth Science, and several colleagues who have long used Refugio as a living laboratory, see the oil spill as an opportunity to understand how marine ecosystems respond to disturbance. Mark Brzezinski, director of UCSB’s Marine Science Institute, suggested the researchers apply to the Simons Foundation, which awarded them a  $588,000 grant to continue their study of the area for the next year.

“The discharge of heavy oil at Refugio presents a unique opportunity to discover novel metabolic, genomic and ecological feedbacks among marine microbial communities, heavy oil and ecosystem response,” Valentine said. “We have the opportunity to study ecosystem changes and microbial reactions from the very early stages through an entire year. It’s really rare for scientists to get day zero access to any sort of event like this.”

The oil discharged at Refugio inundated marine microbes. UCSB scientists seek to understand not only how the spill impacted microbes in the context of ecosystem disturbance but also how microbial survivors adapted to the oil and subsequently affected the oil’s behavior and fate.

Capitalizing on the unique aspects of this event as well as the proximity of the site — Refugio is only 10 miles from campus — the investigators will focus on three areas involving microbial populations, each with different ecological roles. The Valentine Lab will examine metabolic and ecological feedback among oil, microbes and ecosystems.

Debora Inglesias-Rodriguez, a professor in UCSB’s Department of Ecology, Evolution and Marine Biology, and Uta Passow, a research oceanographer at the campus’s Marine Science Institute (MSI), will study the biophysical interactions between oil and microbes and their ecological implications.

“The Simons Award is a great opportunity to use the Santa Barbara Channel as a natural laboratory to test whether and how oil changes the fate of the planktonic community and its functional properties,” Iglesias-Rodriguez said. “We will verify field observations with a number of laboratory manipulation experiments, using state-of-the-art genomic tools to investigate alterations in diversity.” 

Phytoplankton are also important in transferring matter to the ocean floor — for example through the formation of aggregates, a type of microbial oil-snow, which is Passow’s area of expertise. “Many microbes respond to the presence of oil by producing mucus,” Passow said. “This sticky mucus can cause the formation of marine snow, the dust bunnies of the ocean.

“After the spill in the Gulf of Mexico, oil-associated marine snow carried oil to the seafloor, but we have no idea if the heavy oil from the Refugio accident will cause the same biological response,” she added. “This grant will allow us to analyze and expand on preliminary experiments we conducted with water samples taken from Refugio in May to evaluate if marine snow formation was an important response to this spill as well.”

MSI research biologist Robert Miller, along with Valentine, will investigate the adaptation of marine invertebrate microbiomes to hydrocarbon exposure. “All animals have a community of microbes living in their gut that can be vital for digestion of food and other functions,” Miller explained. “We know very little about the gut microbiome in marine animals, how it relates to their food supply and how adaptable it is to the animal’s environment. These are some of the topics we will be exploring in this project.”

All three projects will be able to compare information gathered post-spill to previously collected data. A variety of UCSB researchers, including members of the Santa Barbara Coastal Long Term Ecological Research network, have explored the area from a variety of perspectives.

“We’ve been studying the seepage and the hydrocarbon cycling for some time,” Valentine said. “Now we have this singular event for which we have baseline information so we’ll be able to keep track of the changes imparted by the oil spill.” 

Contact Info: 

Julie Cohen
(805) 893-7220
julie.cohen@ucsb.edu

Topics: