Herrera won a $200k grant from the Washington Conservation Commission to conduct a Quantitative Microbial Source Tracking (MST) Demonstration Project. In the words of project manager Rob Zisette, “I am really excited about this project because it is really cool science that our state can use to solve water quality problems from fecal pollution.” Learn more about the project in this article from the Chinook Observer.
The project will identify sources of fecal pollution to shellfish protection areas of South Puget Sound in Pierce County that are closed or restricted for shellfish harvesting. Currently, Puget Sound counties are spending big bucks monitoring fecal bacteria concentrations in an effort to find and correct fecal sources. They often struggle because they don’t know if the high bacteria counts are due to septic systems, farm animals, or the birds. This project will use two types of DNA analysis (discrete source and community analysis) to find the culprits. Ultimately, we will use the results to write protocols for using MST to successfully open other shellfish areas and implement fecal TMDLs. We are teamed with Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department, Source Molecular, Washington State Department of Health, Squaxin Island Tribe, University of Minnesota BioTechnology Institute, and Centric Analytical Labs.