Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Microbe Ecology and Water Engineering (MEWE) Workshop Report

I am at DTW on my way back from MEWE in Ann Arbor, which was a very interesting meeting. http://www.mewe2013.org/ There are many areas where people study microbial ecology, including the ocean and the human gut, but also wastewater treatment plants (the “gut of the city”, Tong Zhang). It is interesting to see so many of the same problems (e.g. diversity) and tools (e.g. metagenomics) applied to these different environments. I participated in a session on antibiotic resistance and presented some of my modeling work on the Poudre River (see my post of June 16, 2013) and adaptation to the cost of resistance (see post of November 15, 2012). In this session, there were many very interesting data sets presented from treatment plants and ambient (“receiving”) water systems. Unfortunately they were all from different locations, which limits their utility for modeling. When I was developing my model I was able to take advantage of the large and comprehensive database developed for the Poudre River, and I think we need more of these concerted efforts - testbeds. It brings to mind a recent effort of the environmental engineering community to establish a network of testbed systems across the US (known initially as CLEANER, then WATERS). This effort did not succeed, maybe because it was too big, but it would have been really useful for developing models. Maybe a smaller-scale effort, focused on pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCPs) and antibiotic resistance, in one watershed could happen, and it should be pursued! Next stop: FEMS in Leipzig.

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