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Community to get update on state of local beaches at public meeting

A public meeting Wednesday, April 5, at the Great Lakes Institute for Environmental Research will update the community on the progress of a project to monitor the sanitary conditions of Essex County’s recreational beaches.

A research team led by the institute’s director, Daniel Heath, and post-doctoral fellow Subba Rao Chaganti received a half-million dollar grant from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) last year to determine possible contamination sources, and identify environmental factors that could contribute to harmful bacteria outbreaks.

Using a new technique called next-generation DNA sequencing, the team has been analyzing DNA from water samples to precisely identify the presence of potentially harmful bacteria. DNA sequencing can filter for such pathogens as streptococcus, and identify the danger level to human health, which dictates beach closures. Pathogens are anything that can produce illness or spread disease.

The team is also studying environmental factors that can drive beach contamination variation from day to day, or even hour to hour, and is combining this information with spatial mapping to build a model for predicting and preventing future outbreaks.

The event will begin with lunch at noon before the presentation at 1 p.m. in the conference room of the London Life Great Lakes Environmental Research Centre, 2990 Riverside Drive West.

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