Development and Implementation of a Community Based qPCR Monitoring Program for Biological Hazards of Recreational Water

  • Author / Creator
    Rudko, Sydney
  • Recreational water is an economic and social asset to the public. Its' importance is underscored by the need to protect it, and ensure it is safe to use. There are numerous waterborne pathogens that cause illness each year, including bacteria, human infectious viruses, and parasites, and many of these species are not monitored for due to limited resources. Recreational water monitoring is challenging—to quote Heraclitus, “you cannot step in the same river twice.” This statement can be taken literally in the context of water monitoring. Infectious organisms move with the ebb and flow of the tide, and therefore a waterborne pathogen present yesterday, reported on today, is irrelevant to protecting public health. Additionally, there are a huge number of recreational sites (official and unofficial, private and public) which simply cannot all be monitored routinely using the current monitoring scheme in which samples are collected by technicians, shipped to a central laboratory, and analyzed within 48-72 hours of collection.
    Taken together, there are an enormous number of waterborne pathogen for which we could monitor, a large number of sites that are routinely used for recreation, and a monitoring scheme that reactively reports waterborne pathogens from days passed—public health is not being protected as effectively as it could be.
    Community based monitoring (CBM) has been hailed as a highly effective tool for environmental monitoring. Community based monitoring brings together partners from communities, industry, academia and government to answer research questions related to monitoring projects. As a methodology it enables data collection and analysis on a large scale (geographically and longitudinally), for less cost. Additionally CBM provides educational value to participants, and engages them in environmental protection. However, managing and implementing these projects can be highly complex, and there is a great deal of uncertainty in the integrity of the data collected.
    This thesis seeks to remedy these challenges by implementing a CBM water monitoring system using a molecular technique called quantitative polymerase chain reaction that can detect the DNA of a target organism with incredible specificity and sensitivity. The results herein demonstrate the reproducibility of CBM qPCR as a method of environmental monitoring across a variety of bacterial and avian schistosomes qPCR methods, with interclass correlation coefficients ranging from 0.6, to 0.9 suggesting high reproducibility between experts and CBM partners.
    Through the deployment of the CBM qPCR method, I also was able answer scientific and applied research question regarding avian schistosomes. Notably, that the infectious cercariae of these parasites move with wind direction, and have seasonal peaks in concentration which have important implications for managing swimmer’s itch risk. Additionally, I demonstrate that copper sulfate applied locally as a molluscicide is ineffective at reducing cercariae concentrations long-term at recreational beaches, and finally I demonstrate the utility of source-tracking assays to assess changes in parasite composition across four recreational lakes.
    The CBM qPCR program also was used to assess fecal indicator bacteria in recreational waters. These results were used to comprehensibly track human-associated Bacteroides contamination across an entire lakeshore. Additionally the same approach was used to assess Enterococcus spp. concentrations before and after rain events into four recreational lakes. This method was also used to capture increases in Pseudomonas aeruginosa concentration in a natural swimming pool environment, and to search for invasive zebra mussel (Dreissena polymorpha) veligers in reservoirs in southern Alberta. In summation, this thesis as a whole demonstrates the effectiveness of a community based approach to water monitoring in a wide variety of contexts.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    Spring 2020
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Doctor of Philosophy
  • DOI
  • License
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