Professor Riveros-Iregui received a grant from the National Science Foundation, Division of Chemical, Bioengineering, Environmental, and Transport Systems. The project is titled “Assessing Chemical and Microbiological Contamination in Environmental Waters in Eastern North Carolina after Hurricane Florence.” This is a collaborative project across the Department of Geography, the Gillings School of Global Public Health, and North Carolina State University.
Abstract: The central aim of this work is to assess microbial and chemical contamination of the environment near livestock and industrial operations flooding caused by Hurricane Florence floodwaters. A secondary aim is to understand the relative impacts of different land-usage and livestock waste management practices on contaminant loading. To achieve these aims, this research project has the following objectives: (1) Collect samples to quantify spatiotemporal variability in molecular targets for microbial contamination (i.e., human-, poultry-, and swine-specific fecal microbial source tracking targets and antimicrobial resistance genes), nutrients (N and P), heavy metals, and chemical contaminants of emerging concern; (2) Identify spatial relationships between contamination, flooding extent, land-use (e.g., CAFO densities, industrial sites, urban areas) and manure management practices using satellite imagery and machine learning techniques; (3) Assess persistence of biological and chemical species in the natural environment post-flooding. To achieve these objectives, the research team will sample across 50 sites in multiple coastal plain river basins where intense flooding occurred after Hurricane Florence to map advanced chemical and biological water quality indicators in high spatial resolution. The team sampled within a week after the hurricane, and then will sample after ~1 month, ~2 months, and ~6 months. Knowledge gained from this study will directly inform improvements to emergency management protocols post-hurricane in landscapes with many contaminant sources. The work will have broader impact through the promulgation of waste management recommendations that account for the increasing likelihood and severity of extreme flooding events expected in the future as our climate changes.
For more information, visit Dr. Riveros-Iregui’s research site: http://diegori.web.unc.edu