C-IMAGE II Consortium

The processes, mechanisms, and environmental consequences of marine oil spills

C-IMAGE to address the fate and impacts of oil in gulf


Kostka serves as a co-principal investigator in the Center for Integrated Modeling and Analysis of Gulf Ecosystems (C-IMAGE), a research consortium of 19 U.S. and international partners focused on effects of oil spills in marine environments. The C-IMAGE consortium is currently in their second installment of funding from the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative (GoMRI) in response to the Deepwater Horizon blowout of 2010.

C-IMAGE II seeks to advance understanding of the processes, mechanisms, and environmental consequences of marine oil blowouts through: 1) Controlled exposure studies of adult fish assessing the chronic vs. episodic oil pollution uptake, 2) Prediction of the long-term fate and degradation of oil on Gulf ecosystems using sediment cores from parallel Gulf spills, and 3) Establishment of fish and sediment baselines by conducting the first Gulf-wide assessment along the continental shelf.

The fate and transport of discharged oil is determined by a complex interplay between hydrocarbon chemistry and ambient oceanographic processes including dispersion, dilution, dissolution, advection by ocean currents, particle flocculation and aggregation, sedimentation, evaporation, and biodegradation. Biodegradation mediated by indigenous microbial communities is the ultimate fate of the majority of petroleum (oil and gas) that enters the marine environment. Local environmental conditions of temperature and the availability of oxygen and nutrients, which have been shown to limit the rate and extent of hydrocarbon degradation or weathering, are determined by physical processes and the exchange of water masses throughout the Gulf of Mexico. Although less data is available, pressure is also thought to limit degradation rates through effects on chemical solubility and/or the physiology of hydrocarbon-degrading bacteria. The majority of laboratory studies of hydrocarbon biodegradation have been performed under conditions that resemble the surface ocean, and relatively few studies have been conducted under high pressure and low temperature conditions that mimic deep-water conditions. This fundamental gap in the understanding of microbial hydrocarbon degradation is in contrast to the petroleum industry trend of increasing oil and gas production from ultradeep wells and the risk of another deepsea oil well blowout in the Gulf. In addition, application of chemical dispersants and their influence on biodegradation or weathering has yet to be interrogated across the full range of oceanographic conditions observed in the Gulf. This lack of knowledge of the impacts of oceanographic controls, especially in the deepsea, acts as a critical obstacle to the effective parameterization of oil plume models.

Thus, under C-IMAGE II, the Kostka lab is investigating the impacts of temperature, pressure, and nutrient availability on the rates and pathways of microbial hydrocarbon degradation. Hydrocarbon degrading bacteria are enriched from surface and deep water column environments in the Gulf of Mexico. Bacterial communities are interrogated using next generation sequencing and stable isotope probing approaches. The physiological pathways and controls of hydrocarbon degradation are then studied by exposing cultures to a range of temperature, pressure, and nutrient levels.

More information can be find at the C-IMAGE II website

From the Kostka Lab:

    • Jonathan Delgardio
    • Patrick Chanton
    • Xueju Lin


Recent Publications:

Brooks, G. R., Larson, R. A., Schwing, P. T., Romero, I., Moore, C., Reichart, G-J., Jilbert, T., Chanton, J.P., Hastings, D.W, Overholt, W.A., Marks, K.P., Kostka, J.E., Holmes, C.W., Hollander, D. 2015. Sedimentation Pulse in the NE Gulf of Mexico Following the 2010 DWH Blowout. PLOS One (in press).

Rodriguez-R, L.M., W.A. Overholt, C. Hagan, M. Huettel, J. E Kostka, and K.T. Konstantinidis. 2015. Microbial community successional patterns in beach sands impacted by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. ISME Journal doi: 10.1038/ismej.2015.5

Kostka, J.E., A.P.Teske, S. B. Joye and Ian M. Head. 2014. The metabolic pathways and environmental controls of hydrocarbon biodegradation in marine ecosystems. Frontiers in Microbiology 5: 471. doi: 10.3389/fmicb.2014.00471

Joye, S.B, A.P. Teske, and J.E. Kostka. 2014. Microbial Dynamics Following the Macondo Oil Well Blowout across Gulf of Mexico Environments. BioScience. 64 (9): 766-777. doi: 10.1093/biosci/biu121

Ruddy B.M., M. Huettel, J.E. Kostka, V.V. Lobodin, B.J. Bythell, A. M. McKenna, C. Aeppli, C.M. Reddy, R. K. Nelson, A. G. Marshall, and R. P. Rodgers. 2014. Targeted Petroleomics: Analytical Investigation of Macondo Well Oil Oxidation Products from Pensacola Beach. Energy Fuels 28: 4043-4050

W. A. Overholt, S. J. Green, K. P. Marks, R. Venkatramanan, O. Prakash, and J. E. Kostka. 2013. Draft Genome Sequences for Oil-Degrading Bacterial Strains from Beach Sands Impacted by the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill. Genome Announcements doi: 10.1128/genomeA.01015-13 Genome Announc. 1: e01015-13.

Joel E. Kostka, Om Prakash, Will A. Overholt, Stefan J. Green, Gina Freyer, Andy Canion, Jonathan Delgardio, Nikita Norton, Terry C. Hazen and Markus Huettel. 2011. Hydrocarbon-Degrading Bacteria and the Bacterial Community Response in Gulf of Mexico Beach Sands Impacted by the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill. Applied and Environmental Microbiology 77: 7962-7974.