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Source Tracking Coastal Groundwater and Runoff Contamination with Microbial Genomics and Dissolved Organic Fluorometry

Principal Investigator: Craig Nelson

Graduate Student: Kristina Remple

Contamination of Hawaiian coastal waters by human activities is widespread and threatens coastal ecosystems and water quality. The high density of cesspools in Hawaii is potentially a significant source of microbial and organic matter contamination to streams and coral reefs, but it is currently prohibitive to identify sources of contamination. Here, we propose to implement and advance modern methods of microbial and organic matter source tracking in four watersheds each on Oahu, Maui and Hawaii islands. This project will focus on new molecular DNA-based techniques of microbial source tracking and spectral characterization of fluorescent dissolved organic matter in developing these approaches, working in catchments where groundwater discharge is well-studied to further resolve groundwater contamination. Our goal is to develop rapid, cost-effective and accurate tools that can be used by the Hawaii Department of Health, Division of Aquatic Resources, and local watershed protection groups to monitor for sewage contamination of streams, groundwater and coastal ecosystems. In addition to training University undergraduate and graduate students, this project will directly implement new methods usable by state and local groups.