The goal of this project is to determine the source of fecal contamination in Pennington Creek. Dangerously high numbers of E. coli were recorded in the creek by the Morro Bay National Estuary Program (MBNEP) over the last 10 years. This is of particular concern because the creek runs directly through an outdoor school for K-12 education. One potential source of the contamination is the cattle in fields on either side of the creek for several miles, though they are supposedly kept out by fences. Another possibility is local wildlife—specifically wild turkeys, which roam around in flocks of over 100 and commonly roost directly over the creek. The Cal Poly Pyroprinting Project, housed in the Chevron Center for Applications in Biotechnology, is building a comprehensive database of genetic fingerprints (pyroprints) of E. coli from local wildlife and domestic animals for use in bacterial source tracking. Strain-specific pyroprints of E. coli isolates from the water body of interest are matched against wildlife pyroprints in the database. The two are matched up in a way similar to the matching of fingerprints, hence the term “pyroprints”. We will collect E. coli from two locations along Pennington Creek (labeled CPN and PEN) over a 16-month period, with additional bimonthly monitoring of overall E. coli counts. The two sites, along with an extended sampling period, will provide a good idea of the spatiotemporal fluctuations in concentration and sources of E. coli in the creek. The MBNEP has offered to help with the project by providing half of the supplies and reagents. The results of this project will be ultimately used by Cal Poly and the MBNEP to guide management decisions regarding Pennington Creek.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.