Annette Summers Engel
Jones Professor of Aqueous Geochemistry
University of Tennessee at Knoxville
Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences
Engel Lab Research - Coastal Waters Consortium
Effects of the Macondo Oil Spill on Coastal Ecosystems
Microbial oil degradation and diversity trajectories following disturbance due to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill 
This research project started immediately after the April 2010 blowout of the Macondo Canyon 252 well and explosion of the Deepwater Horizon (DWH) platform. The goal of the research was to understand what changes (if any) would occur at the microbial level in geochemically variable, shallow marine environments (e.g., sandy beaches, marshes, oyster beds) before and following the oil spill. Research was done in Louisiana and Alabama. In the years since, we have focused on Louisiana coastal salt marshes and on measuring changes in microbial diversity from sediments, soils, and water. Changes in microbial communities in marshes over the years correlate to hydrocarbon concentration and composition (e.g., among polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, PAHs), as well as changes in salinity and temperature over time. We also see changes in erosion rates where oiling was the greatest, and where there were the most changes in microbial community compositions and hydrocarbon degradation rates. We have quantified how microbial degradation of hydrocarbons lead to the buildup of residual sulfur and metals in the sediments, and even animal tissues (e.g., oysters, insects). Remediation efforts on the public beaches caused microbial ecosystem regime shifts, from communities associated with fecal contamination to those associated with hydrocarbon degradation. 
 
Our research at UTK includes characterizing microbial community changes in sediments offshore from the marshes, in marsh soils, in the water, and from experimental microcosm systems. We analyze the diveristy data in the context of vegetation changes, geochemical changes (including target hydrocarbon compounds), marsh erosion rates, and ecosystem-level changes (e.g., in fish and insect populations). We are responsible for the consortium's microbiological research, as well as sediment characterization (e.g., organic carbon, water content, isotopic analyses), and integration of the results. Future research involves metagenomics and metatranscriptomics of microbial communities from experimental plots to understand potential hydrocarbon incorporation into the food web.
 
 
Current Support: Coastal Waters Consortium through the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative (GoMRI)
 
 
Previous Support: National Science Foundation, LSU Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill Research Program ("Year 1 Block Grant" from GoMRI), Northern Gulf Institute ("Year 1 Block Grant"), Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill Research Program ("Year 1 Block Grant")
 
Collaborators: Coastal Waters Consortium

Coastal
Waters
Consortium

Related Publications from UTK Group

Engel, A.S., Liu, C. Paterson, A.T., Turner, R.E., Overton, E.B. (IN REVISION) Response of salt marsh bacterial communities to organic carbon source fluctuations related to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Frontiers in Microbiology
  
Engel, A.S. Gupta, A. (2014) Regime shift in sandy beach microbial communities following Deepwater Horizon oil spill remediation efforts. PLoS One. 9(7): e102934, DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0102934. 
 
Turner, R.E. Overton, E.B., Ashton, B.M., Miles, M.S., McClenachan, G., Hooper-Bui, L., Engel, A.S., Swenson, E.M., Lee, J.M., Milan, C.S., Gao, H. (2014) Distribution and recovery trajectory of Macondo (Mississippi Canyon 252) oil in Louisiana salt marshes. Marine Pollution Bulletin. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.marpolbul.2014.08.011.
 
Yin, J., Rekepalli, B., Patel, P. Drennen, C., Engel, A.S. (2014) Instrumenting genomic sequence analysis pipeline mothur on shared memory architecture. XSEDE ‘14 Proceedings of the 2014 Annual Conference on Extreme Science and Engineering Discovery Environment, ACM New York, NY, USA; Article No. 19, DOI:10.1145/2616498.2616505.
 
Hooper-Bui, L., Rabalais, N.N., Engel, A.S., Turner, R.E., McClenachan, G., Robert, B., Overton, E.B., Justic, D., Strudivant, K., Brown, K., Conover, J. (2014) Overview of Research into the coastal effects of the Macondo Blowout from the Coastal Waters Consortium: A GoMRI Consortium. International Oil Spill Conference Proceedings. American Petroleum Institute. 1:604-617. http://dx.doi.org/10.7901/2169-3358-2014.1.604
 
Engel, A.S. (2010) Incorporating the Deepwater Horizon oil spill into geomicrobiology courses. National Association of Geoscience Teachers e-News Magazine. Sept. 2010.

Related Conference Abstracts from UTK Group

Johnson, H.M., Engel, A.S., Paterson, A. (2016) Compositional changes for hydrocarbon-degrading microorganisms in marsh sediment from Grand Isle, Louisiana, 2011-2014. Geological Society of America Abstracts with Programs, Denver, CO. Vol. 48, No. 7. doi: 10.1130/abs/2016AM-286077.
  
Johnson H., Engel A.S., Paterson A.T. (2016) Diversity and abundance of alkane-degrading bacteria from Grand Isle, Louisiana, 2011-2014. 3rd annual Southeastern Biogeochemistry Symposium, p 22.  (poster presentation)

Bagley B., Paterson A.T., Engel A.S. (2016) Bacterial community responses to natural and anthropogenic stressors in Louisiana marsh soils, 2012-2014. 3rd annual Southeastern Biogeochemistry Symposium, p13.  (poster presentation)

Engel, A.S., Paterson, A.T., R.E. Turner, E. Overton (2016) Tracking changes in organic carbon sources for Louisiana marshes following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill and Ecosystem Science Conference, Tampa, Florida, February 1-4, 2016. (oral)
 
Bagley, B., Paterson, A.T., Engel, A.S. (2016) Homogeneity of microbial communities in marsh soils since the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill and Ecosystem Science Conference, Tampa, Florida, February 1-4, 2016. (poster)
 
Roberts, B.J., Chatelain, K., Fortin, S., Chelsky, A., Setta, S., Sullivan, H., Ceresnak, N., Baudoin, K., Scheuermann, R., Bernhard, A., Paterson, A.T., Engel, A.S., Giblin, A. (2016) Highly variable biogeochemical process rates across salt marsh soil subhabitats: implications for scaling-up plot level measurements. Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill and Ecosystem Science Conference, Tampa, Florida, February 1-4, 2016. (oral)
 
Engel, A.S. (2015) Response of bacterial communities to changes in alkaline sources and distribution in marsh sediments over time. 22nd International Symposium on Environmental Biogeochemistry, Sept 28 – Oct 2 2015, Piran, Slovenia. (poster)  
 
Engel, A.S., Paterson, A.T. (2015) Ecosystem responses to changing microbial community compositions as a function of natural and anthropogenic stressors in Louisiana coastal marshes. Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill and Ecosystem Science Conference, Houston, Texas, February 16-19, 2015. (talk)
 
Beeler, S., Paterson, A.T., Engel, A.S. (2015) Microbial community response to natural organic matter enrichments after being primed by Deepwater Horizon oiling. Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill and Ecosystem Science Conference, Houston, Texas, February 16-19, 2015. (poster)
  
Beeler, A., Paterson, A., Engel, A. (2014) Microbial degradation of organic matter and community response in coastal marshes. 2nd Midwest Geobiology Symposium, Chicago, IL, September 27, 2014 (poster).
 
Anderson, L.C., Roopnarine, P.D., Roopnarine, D., Fry, B., Engel, A.S. (2014) Coastal ecosystem changes associated with the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill and their implications for the fossil record. 4th International Palaeontological Congress, Mendoza, Argentina. Sept 28 – Oct 3, 2014 (talk).
 
Beeler, S., Paterson, A.T., Drennen, C., Engel, A.S. (2014) Microbial degradation of labile organic matter from Spartina alterniflora-dominated marshes. Goldschmidt, June 8-13, 2014. Sacramento, CA. (poster presentation)
   
Hooper-Bui, L.M., Turner, R.E., Overton, E., Engel, A.S., Rabalais, N., Parsons, M., Justic, D., Taylor, S., Kearney, M., Roberts, B.J., et al. (2014) Key insights into the coastal effects of the Macondo Blowout from the Coastal Waters Consortium: A GoMRI Consortium. International Oil Spill Conference, Savannah, Georgia, May 5-8, 2014.
 
Vishni, L., Paterson, A.T., Engel, A.S. (2014) Evaluating the effects of disturbance on microbial diversity from marsh sediment and water at Grand Isle, Louisiana. 1st Annual Southeastern Biogeochemistry Symposium, Atlanta, GA, April 5-6, 2014. (poster presentation)
   
Engel, A.S., Drennen, C., Paterson, A., Liu, C., Turner, R.E., Overton, E. (2014) Differences in petroleum hydrocarbon compounds from Louisiana coastal marshes correspond to specific changes in microbial community composition. 2nd Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill and Ecosystem Science Conference, Mobile, AL, Jan. 26-30, 2014. Invited oral presentation.
 
Drennen, C., Engel, A.S. (2014) Increased marsh deterioration associated with changes in microbial diversity following the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. 2nd Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill and Ecosystem Science Conference, Mobile, AL, Jan. 26-30. (poster presentation)
 
Turner, R., Overton, E.B., Meyer, B., Miles, M., McClenachan, G., Hopper-Bui, L, Engel, A.S., Lee, J., Milan, C., Gao, H. (2014) Trajectory of changing DWH oil in Louisiana marshes, 2010-2013. 2nd Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill and Ecosystem Science Conference, Mobile, AL, Jan. 26-30. (poster presentation)
 
Drennen, C., Engel, A.S., Turner, R.E. (2013) Response and recovery of microbial communities in Louisiana coastal marshes after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and possible implications for marsh erosion. 22nd Biennial Conference of the Coastal and Estuarine Research Federation, “Toward Resilient Coasts and Estuaries, Science for Sustainable Solutions,” 3-7 November 2013, San Diego, CA. (poster; 2nd best poster award)
 
Engel, A.S., Gupta, A. (2013) Impact of remediation efforts on the diversity of sandy beach microbial communities following the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. 22nd Biennial Conference of the Coastal and Estuarine Research Federation, “Toward Resilient Coasts and Estuaries, Science for Sustainable Solutions,” 3-7 November 2013, San Diego, CA. (oral presentation)
 
Engel, A.S., Liu, C., Anderson, L.A., Hooper-Bui, L., Turner, R.E. (2013) Multiple stressors impact marsh sediment bacterial diversity after the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill and Ecosystem Science Conference, New Orleans, Louisiana, Jan. 21-23. (oral presentation)
 
Drennen, C., Liu, C., Engel, A.S. (2013) Similarity among microbial communities from Louisiana coastal marshes reveals potential to respond to disturbance. Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill and Ecosystem Science Conference, New Orleans, Louisiana, Jan. 21-23. (poster presentation)
 
Duarte, D., Overton, E., Roy, A., Merchan, G., Lichtenberg, H., Ham, K., Morikawa, E., Kizilkaya, O., Gupta, A., Engel, A.S., Hormes, F.J., Kurtz, R. (2011) Synchrotron‐based methods for investigating degradation of BP Macondo oil. Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill Principal Investigator’s One Year Update Workshop, hosted by the National Science and Technology Council’s Sub-Committee on Ocean Science and Technology (NSTC SOST). St. Petersburg, Florida. October 25-26, 2011. (oral presentation)
 
Turner, R.E., Hooper-Bui, L.M., Anderson, L., DeLaune, R., Engel, A.S., Fry, B., Overton, E., Sen Gupta, B., Warny, S., White, J. (2011) Community-level stressors, Northern Gulf of Mexico. LSU Oil Spill Symposium, Baton Rouge, Louisiana. (poster presentation)
 
Duarte, D., Overton, E., Gupta, A., Merchan, G., Lichtenberg, H., Engel, A.S., Roy, A. (2011) Degradation of BP crude oil. LSU Oil Spill Symposium, Baton Rouge, Louisiana. (poster presentation)
      
Liu, C., Engel, A.S. (2011) Bacterial diversity and heterotrophic biodegradation rate from coastal marshes in the Gulf of Mexico. Geological Society of America Abstracts with Programs, vol. 43(5), p. 584. (poster presentation)
 
Gupta, A., Engel, A.S. (2011) Longitudinal assessment of shifting microbial community composition in sandy beaches following the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill and remediation efforts. Geological Society of America Abstracts with Programs, vol. 43(5), p. 584.  (poster)
  
 

Press and Social Media 

  2015
• Podcast interview about Deepwater Horizon research and high-performance computing, “NICS and XSEDE Advance an Investigation of the Gulf Coast Ecosystem” https://www.nics.tennessee.edu/gulf-coast-research  (includes photographs; reposed >12 other sites, including Tennessee Today)
• Deepwater Horizon research and high-performance computing highlighted by the magazine Inside HPC (reposted >12 other websites, including Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative) http://insidehpc.com/2015/02/podcast-supercomputing-the-impact-of-deepwater-horizon/
  
2013
• Oil spill research featured in April 28, 2013, Knoxville News Sentinel, including photography
http://www.knoxnews.com/news/2013/apr/28/ut-experts-bp-oil-spill-gone-from-deep-ocean-but/
  
2011
• Oil spill research feature in September 2011, based on Gulf Research Initiative funding announcement - Tennessee Today, Knoxville News Sentinel, Tennessee News Digest, EurekAlert! First Science NEW, Oil World 2011, AOL News, SiloBreaker, e! Science News, BioTechMashup, Chem Info, plus others
  
2010
• Research feature by the National Science Foundation, Press Release 10-142, August, 16, 2010 “Gulf Oil Spill: NSF Awards Grant to Study Effects of Oil and Dispersants on Louisiana Salt Marsh Ecosystem” , including photographs
• Interviewed for CNN, WKRG Mobile News, “Oil hits Alabama, Mississippi barrier islands, Tarballs on Dauphin Island;” Posted June 1, 2010 http://www.cnn.com/2010/US/06/01/oil.spill.alabama/index.html ; http://www.wkrg.com/gulf_oil_spill/article/tarballs-on-dauphin-island/892429/Jun-01-2010_10-51-pm/
  

Field Photographs

Geochemistry. Geomicrobiology. Geology. Ecology.

Interdisciplinary Research at the University of Tennessee