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Alexander Danladi Mutshow

Effect of weathering and biodegradation on markers used in oil fingerprinting.


Project supervisors

Project description

I am investigating the effects of weathering on biomarkers and molecular marker compounds. These include polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). We use the crude oils in fingerprinting oils for oil-source and oil-oil correlation. These are used for environmental forensic purposes.

The research will assist in settling disputes about liability for oil pollution. It will provide spill source identification and thus contribute to blame apportionment.

I will carry out physical weathering experiments such as evaporation and water washing.

I will also conduct biological weathering experiments. These will include aerobic and anaerobic biodegradation of microcosms of three different sediments. I will spike these with three different crude oil samples with appropriate mineral media and analyses. Gas chromatography often uses a flame ionisation detector (GS-FID). Gas chromatography–mass spectrometry (GC-MS) combines gas chromatography and mass spectrometry to identify different substances in a sample. I will use both GC-FID and GC-MS in my experiments. I will analyse DNA samples using 16S RNA sequencing for community profiling. I will also investigate the biodegradation of fatty acids methyl esters using GC-MS and GC-MS/MS.


Environmental forensics, fate of pollutants in the environment, environmental restoration