Science Serving Maryland's Coasts

Christopher Belnap, Hartwick College

Class Year: 

Project Title: 

Bacterial Mediation of Dissolved Organic Matter and Protein Degradation in Estuarine Waters


Bacteria incubations carried out using samples collected from chlorophyll max., oxic/anoxic interface, and marsh sites in the Delaware and Chesapeake Bays were run to examine breakdown and consumption of the protein BSA, as well as total DOC consumption. Experimental and control incubations were run simultaneously, and 20.0mg of BSA was added to experimental incubations. Protein measurements were made using NanoOrange Protein Assay (Molecular Probes; Eugene, Oregon). Station 1 incubations (chlorophyll max.) were found to consume the most protein at the fastest rate. Station 2 (oxic/anoxic) incubations showed lower rates and total consumption, and station 3 (marsh) was observed to have the slowest rate of degradation. Bacteria populations in experimental incubations were higher than in controls. Overall, rates of BSA degradation were similar for all three sites (~ 4% h-1), and may indicate excessive run times. Station 3 (marsh) samples were found to have high DOC content which could represent an abundance of terrigenous compounds such as humic substances, and may have affected results. The use of NanoOrange as a seawater protein assay reinforced expected trends found in this study. However as a relatively new protein assay, its abilities to accurately measure small amounts of protein using the method we employed is still uncertain.