Will A. Overholt

Georgia Institute of Technology

School of Biology, Bioinformatics

Will's website header image


I am a PhD student in Dr. Joel Kostka’s lab. I explore how the Deepwater Horizon oil spill affected environmental microorganisms, and the mechanisms by which the microbial community aided in removing contaminating oil.

I seek to determine how indigenous microbial communities responded to the oil spill, and how this response evolved overtime. My goal is to understand the mechanisms by which microbial metabolisms chemically transformed the oil, and what limited or controlled these mechanisms.

In order to understand how natural microbes in the environment responded to the Deepwater spill, we first need to know how these systems functioned before the spill. We began by collecting data on the biogeography of microbial populations in un-impacted deep sediments of the northern Gulf of Mexico and are using this data to predict which microbes were present before the spill. One of my ultimate goals is to provide data that would improve our methods of responding to oil spills and increase our ability to predict the effects of an oil spill to the environment.

Currently, I am fascinated in how microbes interact as part of a complex assemblage during a large scale disturbance. I want to discover why and how multiple, closely related populations can co-exist in a microbial ecosystem and how this diversity is maintained through time. Furthermore, I seek to explore the genetic mechanisms that exploit (or create) environmental niches, and the role of community interactions on maintaining these niches.

For more information, please check out the websites for the C-IMAGE, and Deep-C consortia.