Interdisciplinary research in Costa Rica: Beach water quality and management to protect public health

From left to right: Dr. Pablo Cesar Rivera Navarro, Abdiel Laureano-Rosario, Dr. Omar G. Lizano Rodriguez, Dr. Darner Mora Alvarado, Dr. Erin M. Symonds, Andrei Badilla Aguilar, Adriana Gonzalez, Jimena Orozco, and David Cambronero (not pictured).

The NSF funded MERA Investigation, named for its acronym in Spanish, stands for Environment, Ethnography, Risk Assessment, and Water Quality. This investigation looks to improve beach management and human health through interdisciplinary research that includes pathogen measurements and human behaviors related to the risk of illness from swimming in coastal waters. This investigation is led by Drs. Harwood (USF Integrative Biology), Breitbart (USF College of Marine Science), and USF Reclaim alumna, Dr. Maryann Cairns, who is currently an Assistant Professor in the Anthropology department from Southern Methodist University.

USF Reclaim alumna, Dr. Erin M. Symonds, is currently a USF postdoc working with the Instituto de Acueductos y Alcantarillados (AyA)’s National Water Lab in Costa Rica. Symonds, two USF Integrative Biology Ph.D. students (Adriana Gonzalez and Javier Gallard), and Marine Science Ph.D. candidate Abdiel Laureano-Rosario are investigating beach water quality and how it relates to pathogens and human health in Costa Rica.

From left to right: Javier Gallard, Dr. Erin M. Symonds, Adriana Gonzalez, and Abdiel Laureano-Rosario

As part of this research, Laureano-Rosario is assessing recreational water quality in Costa Rica by examining historical patterns of microbial water quality in the context of environmental changes. This work uses remote sensing techniques to assess how changes in water clarity and water temperature are related to environmental factors such as rainfall and air temperature, and whether these variables influence increased or decreased the microbial indicators used to identify fecal pollution and identify possible public health risks.  Laureano-Rosario recently visited Costa Rica to discuss the preliminary results with collaborators at the National Water Lab and the University of Costa Rica. This work is the first of its kind in a tropical setting, with the goal to recommend changes to promote safe coastal management, and potentially the development of early warning systems.

Click here if you would like to learn more about the MERA Investigation

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