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Speaker: Melanie Beazley, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Department of Chemistry
Using viral and microbial source biomarkers for tracking contaminants in wastewater and surface waters
Protection of our coastal waters from pollution is critical to maintaining healthy habitats for humans and aquatic organisms. Assessment of the sources of contamination to waterbodies is important for developing effective mitigation strategies to protect and/or cleanup these natural systems. Chemical, microbial, and viral indicators can be used to determine exposure of natural waters to human and animal contamination. For example, recalcitrant chemical compounds such as sucralose (an artificial sweetener) have been used as trackers for wastewater contamination in natural waters. DNA biomarkers for pathogenic bacteria indicative of human and animal waste are used to identify areas where urban and agricultural runoff along with leaky septic systems have impaired the water quality of surface and coastal waters. Viral RNA biomarkers are used to identify wastewater that contains signatures of human disease such as SARS-CoV-2 and other viruses and pathogens. This talk will highlight methods for identifying sources of water contamination using analytical and DNA/RNA biomarker techniques.
Dr. Melanie J. Beazley is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Chemistry and the National Center for Integrated Coastal Research at the University of Central Florida. Her research interests center on the fate and transport of contaminants in the environment. She studies both terrestrial and marine systems in order to understand how contaminants affect not only the biogeochemistry of an ecosystem but also the microbial ecology. Contaminants studied include heavy metals, hydrocarbons, fertilizers/pesticides, emerging contaminants, human and animal waste, and excess nutrients. Research activities include the study of phosphorus cycling in surface waters and agricultural systems, the impacts of pharmaceuticals and other emerging contaminants on Florida coastal and freshwater ecosystems, the effects of oil spills on coastal marshes, and using microbial source tracking to determine contaminant sources to local waters. She couples both chemical analytical techniques/instrumentation with microbiological methods (isolation, PCR, RT-PCR, high throughput sequencing) to study the effects of contaminants on terrestrial and coastal ecosystems.