Microbial Diversity of Yellowstone Hydrocarbon Seeps

Grant Details


Project Summary

The goal of this Minority Research Planning Grant is to use non-cultivation based methods to

characterize the microbial populations associated with natural hydrocarbon seeps in Yellowstone

National Park. In addition to its well-known hot springs, Yellowstone has a few documented

areas that contain hydrocarbon seeps. These seeps are typically associated with thermal vents and

the best characterized ones occur in terrestrial areas. The proposed research will focus on soil

samples to be taken from the Calcite Springs area, where several hydrocarbon seeps exist. The

specific objectives of this planning grant are:

1. Evaluate soil microbial diversity in Calcite Springs soil containing naturally occurring


2. Examine functional gene diversity and evolutionary relatedness to characterized genes

encoding hydrocarbon-degrading enzymes (PAH dioxygenases).

3. Characterize the abundance and types of hydrocarbons present in Calcite Springs soil

adjacent to hydrocarbon seeps.

Clone libraries of 16S rRNA genes and PAH dioxygenase gene fragments will be constructed

and sequenced to identify microorganisms and catabolic pathways present in hydrocarbon-

impacted soil. A thorough chemical analysis of soil samples (GC-MS) will also be performed to

identify and quantify the major hydrocarbons present. This study will provide the first

investigation into the phylogenetic diversity of soil microbial populations associated with

terrestrial hydrocarbon seeps in Yellowstone National Park. This information is of interest

primarily due the extended exposure to hydrocarbons that these microbial populations have

received. As such, novel microorganisms and/or metabolic pathways may have evolved in this

setting. As a planning grant targeting underrepresented minorities in science, this award will help

to increase the participation of a minority scientist in NSF-funded research. Furthermore, this

planning grant will be used to generate sufficient preliminary data for an NSF CAREER proposal

to combine research and teaching efforts focused on the microbial ecology of hydrocarbon seeps

in Yellowstone National Park.

Effective start/end date09/15/0208/31/05


  • National Science Foundation: $30,997.00


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