GoMRI RFP-V: Genomic Responses to Deepwater Horizon and high-throughput biological assays (Thomas)

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Researcher W. Kelley Thomas

The Genomic Responses to the Deepwater Horizon event and development of high-throughput biological assays for oil spills project is lead by W. Kelley Thomas, University of New Hampshire.

Within the GoM, the benthic environment is biologically hyper-diverse, performing critical ecosystem functions that have consequences for the ecology of the entire GoM region. Benthic communities are strongly impacted by oil spills, which render them a valuable tool for assaying and monitoring the impacts of contamination. However, the characterization of these communities has been impractical for large- scale deployment due to the tedious and time-consuming nature of the taxonomy required to accurately describe these communities. This project leverages recent and dramatic advances in DNA sequencing technology that have transformed the process of rapid, accurate, and cheap assays of community biodiversity. To achieve these goals, the project team brings together the interdisciplinary expertise in marine biology, taxonomy, genomics and bioinformatics necessary for the development of a meaningful and robust technology and has formulated three objectives.

Objective 1: Use targeted sequencing of individual benthic eukaryotes to generate a representative sample of diverse genomes from which to select an expanded set of nuclear and mitochondrial loci for targeted mining of shotgun metagenomic data.

Objective 2: Assess eukaryotic community structure across space and time via high-throughput sequencing of environmental metagenomes using a new and expanded array of nuclear and mitochondrial marker genes.

Objective 3: Establish Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) and reproducible bioinformatic workflows for environmental monitoring of oil spills. This will include establishing a database for integration of taxonomic and molecular datasets, and dissemination of tools and educational resources.

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This project was funded by the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative (GoMRI) in the RFP-V funding program.

The Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative (GoMRI) is a 10-year independent research program established to study the effect, and the potential associated impact, of hydrocarbon releases on the environment and public health, as well as to develop improved spill mitigation, oil detection, characterization and remediation technologies. An independent and academic 20-member Research Board makes the funding and research direction decisions to ensure the intellectual quality, effectiveness and academic independence of the GoMRI research. All research data, findings and publications will be made publicly available. The program was established through a $500 million financial commitment from BP. For more information, visit http://gulfresearchinitiative.org/.