A Study of the Microbial ecology of Storm Water Retention Ponds

Hello! I’m Jasmin Green, a rising Junior, Biology and Environmental Science major. I have been working in the Microbial Ecology lab under Dr. Williamson’s lab for the past year. The lab studies the interactions of microbial communities with each other and with their physical environment, with special focus on viral ecology in soil and freshwater systems.

Not only is it important to study microbial ecology in the wild, but also in a context of human development. An important impact of urbanization is increased storm water runoff. Storm water retention ponds are structures that create pools into which storm water is directed and form a system of contamination treatment before that water eventually continues through the watershed (ending up in a river or some such and eventually the Chesapeake Bay).  These ponds treat water mainly through natural processes such as sedimentation of particulate matter, biological uptake of nutrients, and UV radiation to degrade bacteria and viruses. However, no studies exist to determine whether these retention ponds are actually fulfilling their intended purpose.

An example of a storm water retention pond.

This summer project is an initial look into events and interactions going on in a storm water retention pond. We will be sampling a single pond over multiple time points right before and during a storm event. Water samples and sediment samples will be collected from the pond and the surrounding area before to get an idea of what the microbial community looks like before an event. During and after a significant storm event (about an inch of rainfall), water samples will be collected from inside the pond to see how the communities change. Will we see that storm water brings in bacteria and viruses from the surrounding environment? Will we see a total shift in the communities? If it does, will it return back to the original conditions by the end of our sampling time? The questions that this project seeks to answer, in addition to providing more insight into ecology of viruses and bacteria in a more anthropogenic setting, could have important implications to public health. Storm water retention ponds are open to the public. If we find human pathogens in our samples, this could have important impacts on the policy and use of retention ponds, which are an prevalent structure in developed areas.

Click the below links for more information!

More about the Williamson Lab
http://wmpeople.wm.edu/site/page/kewilliamson/background

About Storm Water Retention Ponds
http://water.epa.gov/scitech/wastetech/upload/2002_06_28_mtb_wetdtnpn.pdf