CANYON, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) — West Texas A&M University students are researching microbes and water quality at Lake Meredith to get a better scientific understanding of the reservoir.

According to WT officials, Dr. Maitreyee Mukherjee, an assistant professor of biology at the university, is leading the study along with Dr. Erik Crosman.

Dr. Mukherjee said the project looks at the microbial community structure and composition of Lake Meredith across several months, sampling six different sites monthly.

“There is not a lot of data on semi-arid, to arid reservoir systems such as here that we find on how microbial community and what kind of communities are present, specifically in unique locations such as here, and the changes in the physical, chemical factors that we see change across a year,” Dr. Mukherjee said.

She said students started taking samples in March and hope to continue until November. She noted they recently published a similar study on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.
“We are seeing very similar results to that, like with increased temperatures, obviously, the expected is that contamination levels will increase,” she said. “And with decreased temperatures and decreased conditions…the contamination levels will decrease.”

Robyn Cuthbert, a graduate student in biology, said they are still gathering and analyzing the data and learning about the microbial life there.

“This is a very important water source and so when you are having so many people involved with this water source, it’s important to study it, and to see if we can understand it, and to make sure that it is of acceptable quality,” Cuthbert said. “So we measure the abundance and the diversity, as well as taking into account the antibiotic resistance numbers in the water.”

Dr. Mukherjee said students use cutting-edge methods and techniques, which helps them in their fields of study and ultimately in their careers. It also provides an unprecedented scientific understanding of the lake’s microbial life.

“Lake Meredith is one of the premier sources of drinking water and recreational water in the panhandle,” she added. “So we feel like we need to keep this water as safe and secure as much as we can for the community.”

Once students complete the data set, Cuthbert said they will also send it to the Parks and Wildlife Department.

WT officials said Mukherjee and Crosman plan to incorporate the data into a proposal to the National Science Foundation.

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