The second round of QIAGEN’s Featured Young Scientist of the Month Contest has finished and we are happy to announce our winner: Mara Sagua from the Laboratory of Limnology (CITNOBA, CONICET-UNNOBA) in Argentina!
Mara impressed the judges with her research into the human impact on biodiversity, ecology and health in 4 shallow lakes, heavily used for recreational purposes. Aiming to protect the environment and people, she’s assessing changes and health risks in the lakes – located in the upper basin of the Salado River (Buenos Aires Province) – by studying microbial communities.
Farming, urbanization and recreation – the human factor
In the upper basin of the Salado River, there are several shallow lakes that are popular places for fishing and swimming. Located within the Pampa Plain next to fertile South American lowlands used for intensive farming, four shallow lakes (Mar Chiquita, Gómez, Carpincho and Rocha) have been highly impacted by local human activities and also climate change.
By studying composition, richness, abundance and dynamics of the microbial communities in the lakes, Mara is discovering different bacterial species that represent a risk to human health. Recognizing the ecological and sanitary aspects of changes in the lakes, she and her team are passing on this information to the local community, in order to protect the environments and the people who use the lakes.
Studying water composition and the dynamics of microbial communities
In their studies, Mara’s team use seasonal water samplings (summer, autumn, winter and spring), and measure environmental aspects in situ, such as pH value, conductivity, dissolved oxygen, Secchi depth, turbidity, or temperature. Later on, back in the lab, they measure the concentration of chlorophyll-a, ammonia, total nitrogen, dissolved phosphorus, total phosphorus and also dissolved organic matter.
For the bacterial community studies, the team takes several approaches, such as 16S rRNA sequencing for diversity studies (up to Phylum and Genus levels), traditional microbiology cultures to find the MPN of E.coli and total coliforms, and real-time PCR with specific primers to detect different bacterial species that pose a health risk or had been detected with sequencing in previous studies (for example, Aeromonas hydrophila, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Klebsiella pneumoniae, Salmonella sp., Legionella pneumophila, etc.).
Mara – Featured Young Scientist of the Month contest winner
“It is a huge step forward for our lab” Mara says, after learning she’s won the prize. With the prize, she was able to order several products including the mericon Quant Legionella spp Kit and the QuantiTect SYBR Green PCR Kits to continue her Ph.D studies. We wish Mara and her team good luck, and look forward to seeing her results.
If you’d like to keep up-to-date about our Young Scientist Winners, join and like our QIAGEN Life Sciences page on Facebook. That way you’ll make sure you’ll never miss a thing. Indeed, there might well be more contests, competitions and activities for Young Scientists in 2019!