Modeling Fecal Indicator Bacteria and Antibiotic Resistance in Diverse Aquatic Environments

dc.contributor.authorHouse, Gregory Richarden
dc.contributor.committeechairVikesland, Peter J.en
dc.contributor.committeememberSridhar, Venkataramanaen
dc.contributor.committeememberPruden, Amyen
dc.contributor.departmentCivil and Environmental Engineeringen
dc.description.abstractThe detrimental influence of humans on the environment is of increasing concern. Humans, their livestock, and their pets have caused fecal contamination of waterways throughout the United States. Understanding the sources of fecal indicator bacteria (FIB) and the environmental processes that affect them can be crucial to reducing the number of impaired streams and limiting the negative impacts on the environment. Antibiotic resistance is an emerging issue facing human health in the United States and across the world. Antibiotic resistant bacteria (ARB) have antibiotic resistance genes (ARGs) that prevent antibiotics from killing them. Limited research has been done on the role of the environment in the propagation of antibiotic resistance. As the use of antibiotics increases, it is critical to examine how this impacts human health through the environment. Models of watersheds in Patillas, Puerto Rico and Christiansburg, Virginia were created using the Soil and Water Assessment Tool (SWAT) to compare how the differences in spatial and temporal sampling of FIB, climate, and population affect FIB movement. The performances of the calibrated bacteria models were comparable to other published studies. A primary challenge faced in this study was the use of grab samples taken months apart as monthly averages of FIB. The high precipitation and constant warm climate made the model for Patillas more difficult to fit because of the high variability in the observed data. While the Patillas watershed had a lower population of people and livestock, the Christiansburg watershed had more available data on wildlife. The lack of spatial variance of data and the use of data from 1993-2018, hindered the ability for the model for Patillas to model FIB. Additionally, the model's performance was limited due to the strong hurricanes that affect land use, soils, and populations of humans and animals in the watershed. Using open-source data needs to be explored further as a faster and more cost-effective way of developing SWAT FIB models. The feasibility to use data collected in the Christiansburg and Patillas watershed to calibrate a SWAT-ARB model was determined based on available ARG data. The results indicate that the bacteria models need to be improved before an effective SWAT-ARB model can be calibrated. One limitation in the available ARG data for the two watersheds was that they were only sampled once. Out of the ARGs sampled, sul1 was the best modeled in both watersheds because it has the highest normalized values and correlated with the amount of developed land.en
dc.description.abstractgeneralHumans negatively impact the environment. Humans and animals contribute to the bacteria contamination of waterways. Investigation into where the contamination sources are and environmental processes that contribute can help researchers limit the impact on the environment. Bacteria can build resistance to antibiotics, which can be especially dangerous to humans and livestock when exposed. Little research has been done on how the environment has contributed to the spread of antibiotic resistance in bacteria. The Soil and Water Assessment Tool (SWAT) was used to investigate bacteria in the Patillas, Puerto Rico and Christiansburg, Virginia watershed. These models used data published by the United States Geological Survey (USGS) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to improve performance. When comparing simulated data to observed data, the performances of the models were comparable to other published studies. The Patillas watershed was particularly difficult to model because of the warm climate and high precipitation that caused high variability in bacteria concentrations. Strong weather events including hurricanes and a lack of available data on wildlife were other hinderances to the Patillas model. In comparison, more published data on wildlife was available in the Christiansburg watershed and it had a more temperate climate. The SWAT-ARB model was reviewed and recommendations were made to improve the model. Using the previously collected antibiotic resistance bacteria data in the Christiansburg and Patillas watersheds, it would be impossible to create accurate models. More antibiotic resistance data needs to be taken across as a greater time period before the performance of the models can be assessed.en
dc.description.degreeMaster of Scienceen
dc.publisherVirginia Techen
dc.rightsIn Copyrighten
dc.subjectWatershed modelen
dc.subjectenvironmental modelen
dc.titleModeling Fecal Indicator Bacteria and Antibiotic Resistance in Diverse Aquatic Environmentsen
dc.typeThesisen Engineeringen Polytechnic Institute and State Universityen of Scienceen


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