Water Resources Research Act Program

Details for Project ID 2017NJ393B

Finding the source: towards quantitative methods for microbial sourcing tracking

Institute: New Jersey
Year Established: 2017 Start Date: 2017-03-01 End Date: 2018-02-28
Total Federal Funds: $5,000 Total Non-Federal Funds: $10,000

Principal Investigators: Sarah Phelan, Nicole Fahrenfeld

Abstract: Identifying sources of fecal pollution in public waterways is critical both for the management and remediation of the sources and for evaluating public health risks. In mixed land use areas, the presence of multiple sources and varied management practices can make it difficult to determine the sources and volume of fecal pollution released into the environment. Microbial communities are a well-established indicator of fecal contaminant sources and microbe specific molecular markers have been used successfully in identifying human and animal fecal pollution in waterways. Existing methods of microbial source tracking have limitations that establish a clear need for additional exploration of available technologies. Amplicon sequencing is a technology that is a viable alternative option to current source tracking techniques, because of a relatively low cost and fast analysis. In this study, amplicon sequencing (emerging technique not fully adapted for source tracking) is applied for microbial source tracking of spiked samples as well as field samples of impacted surface water. Results will be plotted using principal component analysis to identify microbial community fingerprints associated with different fecal sources within the samples, and field sampling results will be compared to quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR) results that are run concurrently on the same samples. The results will demonstrate amplicon sequencing as an effective fingerprinting method with great potential for future use in source tracking.