Microbial Pollution in Lake Erie: Using Next-Generation Sequencing to Examine Microbial Community Interactions and their Relationship to Flow Patterns

Lake Erie provides drinking water to the region, habitat for wildlife, and it’s a mecca for fishing and recreation. However, microbial pollution in the lake threatens human and ecosystem health, as well as local economies and future economic development.

Key to mitigating this problem is identifying the sources, transport and fate of microbial pollutants. The project will investigate microbial pollution at Woodlawn Beach, a popular spot on Lake Erie that was closed roughly half of the 2015 summer due to microbial pollution. The goals of the research are to:

·         Characterize the bacterial and protist communities in sand, surface water, groundwater and wastewater effluent using next generation sequencing (NGS).

·         Quantify the fluxes, flow patterns and connectivity between surface and groundwater flows.

·         Identify potential sources or processes contributing to microbial pollution.

The proposed research will provide a model for using interdisciplinary tools and next generation technologies to investigate microbial pollution issues in the Great Lakes region and ultimately protect freshwater coastal ecosystems and human health.

The project’s principal investigator is Lauren Sassoubre, PhD, assistant professor in the Department of Civil, Structural and Environmental Engineering. Co-principal investigators are Gerald Koudelka, PhD, professor and chair of the Department of Biological Sciences; and Christopher Lowry, PhD, assistant professor in the Department of Geology.