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Graduate Student Defenses

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Gene Shinn served on the Ph.D. committee of Dale Griffin, USF-St. Petersburg, who successfully defended on June 25. His public health-oriented dissertation consisted of three separate investigations into the adequacy of the standard fecal coliform test as an indication of human contamination.

One study was a test of the Homassassa Springs State Park area where the major source of contamination is from birds and animals (especially the park hippopotamus!). The attention-getting part of Dale's dissertation was a study of canals and beaches in the Florida Keys.

Surprisingly, the most contaminated waters are along Key West beaches. Key West has an ancient sewage-collection system that leaks before reaching the treatment plant. Dale's study also revealed several human pathogenic viruses. (Viability of the viruses was not determined, but EPA is funding Dale's advisor, Dr. Joan Rose, to determine viability.)

The study focused so much attention on the problem (picked up by the press) that the Monroe County Health Department conducted independent tests leading to beach closure. The beaches of Key West have at this time been closed for more than a month, causing bad press and great concern among tourist industry leaders. The closed beaches are also focusing attention on the sewage problem, and local leaders are using the issue to attract federal dollars (millions) to rectify the situation. Dale's Florida Keys research is in press.

Throughout the study, the St. Pete Field Center provided logistical support and access to its network of groundwater-monitoring wells. Another important outcome of the study showed that the groundwater fecal coliform count reported in USGS Open-File Report 94-276 is not correct. There are other anaerobic bacteria living in the saline, anoxic, H2S-rich ground water that give a false positive with the standard public health testing procedure used in nearly all USGS contamination studies. Griffin concluded that public health departments should switch to other microbial tests that are more reliable indicators of human contamination.

(Reference: Shinn, E.A., Reese, R.S., and Reich, C.D., 1994, Fate and Pathways of Injection-Well Effluent in the Florida Keys, USGS Open-File Report 94-276, 116 p.)

Lisa Robbins served on the M.S. committee of Colin Ozanne, USF-Tampa, who successfully defended on July 21. His thesis was titled, "The role of predation, parasitism and disease in the extinction of the Inoceramids: An evaluation."

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