Macatawa Watershed Project: Fecal Contamination and Microbial Source Tracking

Student Author(s)

Katherine Genzink

Faculty Mentor(s)

Dr. Michael Pikkart

Document Type


Event Date



Beach closures have become a recurring problem in Ottawa County and the surrounding areas. The State of Michigan monitors water quality by measuring viable E. coli levels. However, current methods require at least 18-24 hours to yield results, delaying decision making regarding beach closures; this potentially increases public health risks. These methods also do not differentiate between various sources of fecal contamination. Microbial source tracking methods using molecular tools have recently been developed to give information regarding the source of the contamination. This project, involving the Lake Macatawa Watershed, uses dye-based and probe-based qPCR to test for host specificmarkers within the unidentified fecal contamination. Human-specific assays quantitatively revealed significant levels of human fecal contamination at DuntonPark and the surrounding areas. Further tracking of the source of contamination has been initiated for Dunton Park. Cow specific markers have also been used to qualitatively identify bovine fecal contamination. These results are to be investigated through further sampling and microbial source tracking.

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