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2004 Emilia Sogin

Outstanding Marine Science Project Falmouth High School Science Fair

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Title of project: "Bioremediation: The microbial breakdown of diesel fuel in seawater."
The research was conducted in order to find out how bacteria, already exisitng in Vineyard Sound could degrade oil. However, before I started by project, I knew that there needs to be some influence on the microbes because they were so dormant from the cold weather. Therefore, I used a nutrient solution to stimulate the microbes in one set of my samples. Thus I was comparing how efficient the bacteria would degrade diesel. This has some very promising results, because this information may be a new lead in the development of the clean up of oil spills. In order to measure my results, I used a gas chromatograph, which is a machine that measures how much of certain compounds are still present in the sample. This information would then lead me to the answer of my question, whether or not there was bioremediation taking place or not.

My results gave me several different answers. First of all, nutrients are necessary in order for the bacteria to start munching on the diesel compounds. Furthermore, I learned that bacteria eat in specific order of compounds, first the n-alkenes, then the branched alkenes and finally the UCM compounds. The more complex compounds, such as the UCM compounds are eaten last because their structural shape dictates the eating rate of the bacteria. In conclusion, I learned that an oil spill may be able to be cleaned up through the use of bioremediation, however it is necessary to have some sort of stimulants to jump start the degrading process.

Last updated: March 4, 2010

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