Writer: Johnathan McGinty, firstname.lastname@example.org
Carrie Futch, Ph.D. '10, a post-doctoral researcher with the University of Georgia College of Public Health, has been named a recipient of a post-doctoral fellowship in infectious disease and public health microbiology through the American Society for Microbiology and Centers for Disease Control.
Beginning in November, Futch will spend two years working in the Division of Foodborne, Waterborne and Environmental Diseases at the CDC in Atlanta with Dr. Vincent Hill. Selected from a broad international pool of applicants, she is one of only eight individuals to be selected for the fellowship.
The fellowship with ASM/CDC will deal largely with water quality issues, primarily the detection of pathogens in the water. Tackling the numerous challenges on this front from a public health perspective, Futch will work to evaluate and determine the best ways to efficiently and quickly identify Vibrio cholerae in the environment in an effort to decrease the number of cholera outbreaks.
“Clean, fresh water is going to be a really important issue moving forward,” Futch said. “We take it for granted in the United States, because we have the appropriate plumbing and treatment capabilities. But if you look at Haiti—where they had such a devastating earthquake in 2010 and already lacked the necessary infrastructure—it was the perfect scenario for something such as a cholera outbreak.”
One particular area of research Futch hopes to continue exploring deals with the impact of human sewage pollution in the environment. By honing in on human enteric viruses, such as Norovirus and adenoviruses, Futch will be able to steadily track the encroachment of human pollution in bodies of water.
During her dissertation work, Futch had the opportunity to take part in the Oceans and Human Health Initiative, a program sponsored by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration that links public health to the aquatic environment. In this program, her studies centered on human enteric viruses in marine mammals, in particular dolphins. These mammals were researched as sentinel species of human pollution. When human viruses are detected in dolphin fecal samples, scientists are able to assume the waters are contaminated. This study was conducted in collaboration with a NOAA lab in Charleston, S.C.
“All this work leads back to public health because people are using marine water for recreation and food, and exposure to contaminated waters increases their chance of illness,” Futch said.
This is the latest opportunity for Futch, who will spend six weeks this fall interning with the World Health Organization in Geneva. There, she will focus on how climate change will impact several challenging public health issues, including a comprehensive review of existing literature on the use of early warning systems for infectious disease outbreaks. Her work could be of great benefit to developing countries, such as Haiti, that are susceptible to outbreaks of disease during times of crisis.
Futch earned her bachelor’s degree in Third World Studies from the University of the South, her Ph.D. in Ecology at UGA, and completed postdoctoral work in UGA’s College of Public Health.
Through Erin Lipp, an associate professor in Environmental Health Sciences, the Georgia Oceans and Health Initiative has guided Futch’s post-doctoral work, a training program offered by the College of Public Health. GOHI brings together various scientists from multiple disciplines to explore how changing marine ecosystems will affect human health, and it has ultimately brought Futch’s academic career full-circle by connecting her with the WHO.
“I had hoped to be able to get back to the point of working with issues that impact water quality in developing countries in my studies, but I was not sure how I was going to get there,” Futch said. “In reality, it was mentors like Dr. Erin Lipp who showed me that public health issues really encompass everything that I’m studying. So, while I didn’t have a plan to make it all fit together, I now realize that ecology, environmental health, and public health are almost inseparable.”
- Pressure Ridges
- Research Trip
- Water Quality
- Do the bacteria in the water make us sick?
Only a few of them. Bacteria are in every habitat on Earth, growing in soil, hot springs, radioactive waste, water, as well as in organic matter and the live bodies of plants and animals. Bacteria recycle nutrients, with many steps in nutrient cycles depending on these organisms, such as nitrogen fixation.
- Why don’t the bacteria die at such cold temperatures?
Psychrophiles or cryophiles are extremophilic organisms that are capable of growth and reproduction in cold temperatures, ranging from -15°C - +10°C. Temperatures as low as -15°C are found in pockets of very salty water (brine) surrounded by sea ice. The environments they inhabit are ubiquitous on Earth, as a large fraction of our planetary surface experiences temperatures lower than 15°C. They are present in alpine and arctic soils, high-latitude and deep ocean waters, polar ice, glaciers, and snowfields. They are of particular interest to geomicrobiology, the study of microbes active in geochemical processes.