Environmental Engineering Seminar -- Imperative Research in Health-Related Water Microbiology -- Dr. Joan B. Rose

McDonnell Douglas Engineering Auditorium


“Imperative Research in Health-Related Water Microbiology”

Dr. Joan B. Rose

Michigan State University

Contamination of drinking water and recreational waters remains the most significant issue throughout the world.  The global threats are immense and seem to be growing, including ancient diseases such as cholera and the thousands of new cases in Haiti (http://www.bt.cdc.gov/situationawareness/haiticholera/Flash/bt/atlas.html), as well as emerging new pathogens such as E.coli 0104  H4.  The link between water security and food security has also highlighted the need for better science at this interface. The major challenges that must be addressed if we are to achieve sustainable safe water include:

  • Emerging & Evolving Pathogens
  • Global & Social Change, Security, Population Growth & Urbanization
  • Climate Change (Extreme Events, Flooding, Disasters)
  • Land Use, Infrastructure Needs for Sanitation and Water
  • Coastal Pressures

Key challenges have specifically emerged as articulated by the global water microbiology community for future research. These include:

  • Emerging and Persistent Pathogens [eg. Cancer viruses:  Polyomaviruses; Zoonotic pathogens:  Mycobacterium paratuberculosis; Ecosystem risks: Legionella; Cyanobacteria.]
  • New Detection Technology [eg. biochips, genetic and immunological approaches]
  • Source Protection for Groundwater and Surface Waters [eg. role of HACCP; trans-boundary approaches; water recycling; transport and fate]
  • Disinfection and Control [eg. UV disinfection, bromine, nano-based treatment, ozone, chlorine; membranes; in the distribution system]
  •   Water Security [eg. biological weapons risks and response needs; disasters]

The imperative experiments in health-related water microbiology have yet to be undertaken and without this new knowledge an ominous future will continue to emerge.  There are four key areas where research initiatives are developing:

  • Exploring the Water Microbiome
  • Interfacing Mathematics with Microbes
  • Connecting Earth Systems and Microbial Distributions
  •   Engineering Innovations for Microbial Water Safety

Advances in genomics research, technologies, mathematics and earth sciences all point to the way forward.  To address the major challenges in protecting and managing water resources we will need to invest in characterization of our water microbiological communities, understand risk and address resilience under global change.


Joan B. Rose, Homer Nowlin Chair in Water Research, Michigan State University

Joan joined MSU in 2003 as the Homer Nowlin Chair and is co-director of both the Center for Water Sciences and the Center for Advancing Microbial Risk Assessment.  Sheis an international expert in water microbiology, water quality and public health safety publishing more than 300 manuscripts.  She has been involved in the investigation of numerous waterborne outbreaks world-wide.  Her work addresses the use of new molecular tools for surveying and mapping water pollution for recreational and drinking water; assessment of innovative water treatment technology for the developed and developing world and use of quantitative microbial risk assessment.