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Open-File Report 2011–1151

A Preliminary Report to the U.S. Coast Guard, Part 2

A Survey of Microbial Community Diversity in Marine Sediments Impacted by Petroleum Hydrocarbons from the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Shorelines, Texas to Florida

By John T. Lisle and Sarah H. Stellick

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Microbial community genomic DNA was extracted from sediment samples collected along the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic coasts from Texas to Florida. Sample sites were identified as being ecologically sensitive and (or) as having high potential of being impacted by Macondo-1 (M-1) well oil from the Deepwater Horizon blowout. The diversity within the microbial communities associated with the collected sediments provides a baseline dataset to which microbial community-diversity data from impacted sites could be compared. To determine the microbial community diversity in the samples, genetic fingerprints were generated and compared. Specific sequences within the community genomic DNA were first amplified using the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) with a primer set that provides possible resolution to the species level. A second nested PCR was performed on the primary PCR products using a primer set on which a GC-clamp was attached to one of the primers. The nested PCR products were separated using denaturing-gradient gel electrophoresis (DGGE) that resolves the nested PCR products based on sequence dissimilarities (or similarities), forming a genomic fingerprint of the microbial diversity within the respective samples. Samples with similar fingerprints were grouped and compared to oil-fingerprint data from the same sites (Rosenbauer and others, 2011). The microbial community fingerprints were generally grouped into sites that had been shown to contain background concentrations of non-Deepwater Horizon oil. However, these groupings also included sites where no oil signature was detected. This report represents some of the first information on naturally occurring microbial communities in sediment from shorelines along the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic coasts from Texas to Florida.

First posted October 24, 2011

For additional information contact:
John T. Lisle
U.S. Geological Survey
St. Petersburg Coastal and Marine Science Center
600 4th Street South
St. Petersburg, FL 33701

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Suggested citation:

Lisle, J.T., and Stellick, S.H., 2011, A survey of microbial community diversity in marine sediments impacted by petroleum hydrocarbons from the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic shorelines, Texas to Florida: U.S. Geological Survey Open File-Report 2011–1151, 20 p., available at






Sampling Analyses




References Cited

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