Spatial and Temporal Variability in Bacterial Communities in Surface and Groundwater at Lake Erie Beaches with Varying Water Quality
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Microbial pollution is a crucial issue in the Laurentian Great Lakes. Recreational water quality is assessed by culturing Fecal Indicator Bacteria (FIB), specifically E. coli and Enterococcus spp. If the concentration is above US EPA set criteria, the water body is closed to recreational use. However, these conventional water quality monitoring methods are limited, varying on temporal and spatial scales and providing no information about the fecal pollution source. Researchers have proposed microbial community analysis using Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) to identify sources of fecal pollution and their relative contributions in coastal surface waters. More research is needed on how to interpret NGS data and to better understand microbial community dynamics at beaches with impaired water quality. In addition, little to no research has investigated the microbial community in groundwater and how that influences coastal water quality. The present study focuses on Woodlawn Beach, a beach along eastern Lake Erie that is often closed over 50% of the swimming season. Microbial community analysis is used to (1) investigate the spatial and temporal variability in microbial communities at Woodlawn Beach and three nearby beaches, (2) examine the microbial communities in surface waters and groundwater at Woodlawn Beach to determine the dominant influence, and (3) investigate the influence of sewage at all sites using the microbial community signature of influent and effluent.