Microbiological Monitoring of Copeland Creek

Supervised by Dr. Michael Cohen
SSU Department of Biology

Dr. Michael Cohen

Description of Project: What?

In spring 2011, students in Dr. Michael Cohen's Environmental Microbiology and Biotechnology class (Biology 338) assessed the microbiological community in the following Copeland Creek locations:

  1. Near the headwaters of Fairfield Osborn Preserve
  2. At the bridge by the Green Music Center on the east side of campus
  3. Downstream from the campus outflow pipe on the west side of campus

Students studied bacteria, protozoa, and fungi at these locations and also tested for the presence of the coliform bacteria Escherichia coli (E. coli) to determine whether the SSU campus was negatively impacting the Creek. Although the students found "no significant change" in these different microbial populations across the campus, they did find elevated levels of E. coli bacteria in the cattle range land between Fairfield Osborn Preserve and the SSU campus.

Description of Project: So What?

Course learning objectives mapped directly to the service and included the following:

  1. Become adept in field sampling procedures and standard microbiological laboratory practices, including microscopy, cell staining, aseptic technique, and serial dilution.
  2. Gain experience in interpreting and presenting scientific data.

To become more "adept in field sampling procedures," students sampled water with help from sealed IDEXX 2000 trays. Students also gained "experience in interpreting and presenting scientific data" when they produced scientific reports at project's end. The reports compiled and analyzed data and then drew conclusions about the microbiological status of Copeland Creek.

Description of Project: Now What?

More monitoring of the existing project is still needed. If Dr. Cohen can obtain requisite supplies, he would like his students to begin monitoring additional Creek sites to better understand microbes in the Creek and pinpoint where they are entering.

The project's scope is also likely to continue to grow. As Dr. Cohen points out, the project "has legs and keeps moving." He has recently applied for a grant to use the Copeland Creek Watershed as a centerpiece for training junior college students who will be transferring to SSU. Dr. Cohen also anticipates that his students will become interns working with county water agencies in the future.

Dr. Cohen believes the 2011 project made an impact on students planning to pursue a number of career paths. He says students are definitely more conscious of the importance of the watershed after having been involved in this service work.