Date of Award

Fall 2012

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MSc)




Herb E. Schellhorn


Tom A. Edge



Committee Member

Richard A. Morton


Recreational beaches are important local resources for attracting tourists. It is critical to keep tracking recreational water quality to prevent public health issues. Waterborne pathogens are one of the main elements that could cause recreational water related diseases. Fecal pollution is the primary source of waterborne pathogens. Therefore, it is important to quantify the amount of fecal pollution indicators that are present in the water, particular the human fecal indicator. The primary objective of this thesis is to develop an integrative microbial quality monitoring system to better understand water quality. The first part of this thesis examined the presence of a general fecal pollution indicator (E. coli) and a human fecal pollution indicator (human-specific Bacteroidales). The correlations between pollution sources and beach water quality were also studied to identify the impact of pollution sources. The results revealed the highly localized correlations at individual beaches depended on the impact from pollution sources. The weak correlations suggested some previous assumed pollution sources may only weakly impacted beach water quality.

Because E. coli strains differ enormously in pathogenic potential, it is possible that environmental E. coli have different genetic compositions and differential gene expression in genes such as the global stress regulator rpoD and rpoS. Thus, the second part of this thesis examined genetic composition and gene expression in E. coli environmental strains to study how global gene expression is altered in the natural environment. The results revealed differential RpoSexpression levels in environmental E. coli strains, suggesting that genes regulated by rpoD and rpoS may have differential expression levels in environmental strains, compared to commonly studied laboratory strains.

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