Windsor

Citizen scientists needed to revolutionize beach water testing

A team of researchers need as many water samples as they can get from the region's beaches, so they can monitor them using a new technique called next-generation DNA sequencing.
Researchers at the University of Windsor want residents to help them collect water samples from Windsor and Essex County beaches this summer. (Stacey Janzer/CBC)

Scientists at the University of Windsor want residents to help them revolutionize the way they test water quality at beaches throughout Essex County this summer.

A team of researchers need as many water samples as they can get from the region's beaches, so they can monitor them using a new technique called next-generation DNA sequencing.

To get a variety of samples, researchers are asking citizens to scoop up water samples for the project.

New water-quality testing could mean beaches close less frequently.

Results are expected to improve the way water is tested for harmful bacteria, providing more accurate health readings that will determine when beaches are closed for swimming.

"We can be sure when we find human E. coli or other human pathogens, and when there are no human pathogens," said Dan Heath, professor of biology at the University of Windsor. "This could keep beaches open when previously they would close."

Help wanted

Heath is also the executive director of the Great Lakes Institute for Environmental Research. He and other members of the institute partnered with scientists from Environment Canada and several government agencies for the project.

The team has $500,000 in funding from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada.

In addition to needing the extra resources to collect water samples, Heath and his team hope to engage the community in the process.

"We've only got so many students and technicians to do this, so we need the help to generate the data," Heath said.

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