Adaptation and microevolution of marine microalgae in response to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons


​Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are a family of persistent organic chemicals which contaminate the environment, mainly present as oil spill contaminants. They elicit toxic responses in a wide range of aquatic organisms. Microalgae which form the base of several marine food webs are particularly susceptible to exposure to PAHs. Furthermore, as microalgae lack metabolic apparatus to eliminate PAHs from their systems, they could contribute to the transfer of these chemicals across the food chain. 

This research project will focus on the effects of PAHs on marine phytoplankton by studying their short term toxic responses and long term adaptation to the continuous presence of PAHs in their environment. By maintaining an experimental environment with persistent levels of PAHs, we will be studying processes involved in adaptation over longer periods of time. This leads to questions on how the fitness of the population is affected by continuous exposure. Another interesting aspect of this study will involve the revival of dormant phytoplankton cysts from sediment cores to study the responses to PAHs between different time periods in immediate history.

​Ananya Ashok