Georgia Southern researchers receive major grant, aim to improve water quality monitoring on Georgia beaches
Georgia Southern University researchers Asli Aslan, Ph.D., and Haresh Rochani, DrPH, of the Jiann-Ping Hsu College of Public Health (JPHCOPH) and Risa Cohen, Ph.D., of the College of Science and Mathematics, received a grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Georgia Department of Natural Resources (GA DNR) for a new research project at the Georgia Coast.
The one-year, $80,000 project will investigate the feasibility of adopting a rapid molecular method to replace the existing culture-based method used for statewide beach water quality monitoring. The current method to detect bacteria in beach water requires days to post a beach advisory after initial sampling. This delay in reporting causes misinformation on the actual water quality of a beach at a given time. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency suggests that the results from the new method are better predictors of the occurrence of gastrointestinal illness among swimmers at beaches.
The interdisciplinary team from Georgia Southern will include undergraduate and graduate students, and will partner with the scientists at the GA DNR Water Quality Laboratory throughout the project.
“This is a great opportunity for Georgia Southern students to network with professionals and improve their skills at the field and the laboratory while practicing their research communication skills,” said Aslan.
The project is expected to advance statewide water quality monitoring, fulfilling a major need for the coastal Georgia economy, which is heavily dependent on tourism. If the state of Georgia decides to adopt the rapid molecular method as their statewide monitoring method, same-day reporting to inform the public on current water quality would be possible and offer a more precise method to prevent exposure to waterborne diseases among swimmers. There are currently only a few states nationwide that have adopted the rapid molecular method to their beach monitoring programs.
The mission of JPHCOPH is to improve health, eliminate health disparities and health inequities of rural communities and underserved populations globally through excellence in teaching, public health workforce development, research, scholarship, professional service and community engagement.
Georgia Southern University, a public Carnegie Doctoral/R2 institution founded in 1906, offers 141 degree programs serving nearly 26,500 students through nine colleges on three campuses in Statesboro, Savannah, Hinesville and online instruction. A leader in higher education in southeast Georgia, the University provides a diverse student population with expert faculty, world-class scholarship and hands-on learning opportunities. Georgia Southern creates lifelong learners who serve as responsible scholars, leaders and stewards in their communities. Visit GeorgiaSouthern.edu.