Next Generation Sequencing for Management of Surface Water/Groundwater Interaction and Water Quality

Monday, December 3, 2018: 10:20 a.m.
N107/108 (Las Vegas Convention Center)
Andrea Rocha, Ph.D. , Geosyntec Consultants, Knoxville, TN
Jacques Smith, Ph.D. , Geosyntec Consultants, Knoxville, TN
Duane Graves, Ph.D. , Geosyntec Consultants, Knoxville, TN

Environmental microbial diagnostics is a rapidly evolving field that enables understanding of causal relationships between the microbial community and their environment that would be too challenging to otherwise investigate. This practice area has a wide range of applications, including the development of predictive models, cleanup and monitoring strategies, and bioremediation and biogeochemistry. Examples where environmental microbial diagnostics may be beneficial to meeting regulatory requirements with greater fidelity than currently practiced methods include EPA’s Surface Water Treatment Rule, Total Coliform Rule, and Groundwater Rule. Microbial diagnostic approaches also function as both leading and lagging indicators of environmental perturbations such as acidification of groundwater. One example of a microbial diagnostic tool is next-generation sequencing (NGS), which enables identification of microbial community signatures which can be used to identify environmental changes that may affect water quality, remediation performance, and other operational parameters influenced by the biological community. Although NGS is extensively used to study environmental communities, its use as a diagnostics tool to characterize the environment is in the early stages of development. In this presentation we present practical examples of where the use of NGS provided diagnostic information to understand factors that influenced the DNA signature of specific environments. Specifically, we used NGS to investigate potable groundwater for indicators of potential surface water intrusion. Results demonstrated the ability of NGS to supplement established technologies, such as micro-particulate analysis, for the identification of key surface water bio-indicators indicative of surface water intrusion. We will present another study where NGS was used as a diagnostic tool to define microbial signatures that are linked to known metabolic end-products that could contribute to the acidification of groundwater. Overall, NGS is a valuable technology that provides in-depth biological signatures of the ambient environment that can be used to inform and improve current water management and remedial strategies.
Andrea Rocha, Ph.D., Geosyntec Consultants, Knoxville, TN
Andrea is a Senior Staff Scientist based in Tennessee with more than 10 years of experience focused on leading-edge research using an array of geochemical, microbial, computational, and genomics techniques within the areas of environmental microbiology, computational biology, and engineering science. She has proven success helping clients by spearheading projects; leading multi-disciplinary teams toward project completion; and establishing collaborations across organizations and the United States Department of Energy (DOE) National Laboratories. Andrea's specific areas of expertise include the application of molecular technologies for defining and managing environmental processes; the utilization of computational biology tools for characterization of potentially key microbial metabolic processes involved in bioremediation and bioenergy; and the implementation of newly developed biotechnology for microbial detection and assessment.


Jacques Smith, Ph.D., Geosyntec Consultants, Knoxville, TN
Dr. Smith manages Geosyntec’s Technology Evaluation Laboratory (TEL). His primary focus is objective testing and innovation of remedial solutions to generate an unbiased review of the proposed technology thereby highlighting potential shortcomings or unforeseen outcomes prior to full scale implementation. Specific areas of expertise include: biological waste reclamation of CCR for beneficial reuse; abiotic and biotic sorbent technologies to remove metals, nutrients and bacteria from storm water; evaluating various oxidation processes for water treatment; atmospheric conditions that may trigger eutrophication in lake sediment; and testing and data accumulation to support engineering designs for optimal CCR dewatering strategies. Dr. Smith also collaborates closely with Geosyntec’s wholly owned subsidiary laboratory SiREM ensuring preprocessing of groundwater samples for molecular analysis.


Duane Graves, Ph.D., Geosyntec Consultants, Knoxville, TN
Dr. Graves has over 20 years of experience in environmental microbiology and biotechnology; environmental forensics; in situ groundwater, soil, and sediment remediation; evaluation of airborne biological contaminants; and remediation of groundwater in karst formations. He specializes in the development, selection, feasibility evaluation, design, and deployment of remedial solutions for hazardous, radioactive, and mixed-waste contaminated soil, sediment, and groundwater; odors; and biological agents. Dr. Graves provides expert opinions and testimony regarding the transport and fate of organic, organochlorine, and inorganic chemicals and metals in sediment, soil, and groundwater; environmental forensics; and environmental biotechnology issues to support litigation.