Newswise — Two University of Alabama biology professors have received a National Science Foundation Rapid Response Research grant to research environmental clean-up solutions for the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

Dr. Behzad Mortazavi, assistant professor of biological sciences, and Dr. Patricia Sobecky, professor and chair of biological sciences, will use the grant for their project entitled “RAPID: Accelerating biodegradation of hydrocarbons from the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill in the Gulf of Mexico with Naturally Occurring Marine Substrates.”

They will focus on finding ways to accelerate the chemical breakdown of the hydrocarbons contained in the oil in the northern Gulf of Mexico coastal zone.

Among their objectives is to identify sources of naturally occurring marine organic matter in the affected areas that will speed up the rate of this breakdown and identify the bacteria involved in degrading the hydrocarbons.

The long-term goal of the project is to develop feasible engineering solutions to assist in mitigating the effects of oil contamination in coastal waters.

“This grant allows us to turn our frustrations into something useful,” Mortazavi said. “Now we feel like we can actively get involved right from the start, instead of having to wait a long time before we actually can do research.

"This is just the beginning, and we hope we will be able to come up with a feasible solution to this problem.”

The NSF Rapid Response Research Grants fund quick-response research on natural or anthropogenic disasters and similar unanticipated events.