Water Security Series - COVID-19 wastewater surveillance

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Join us for an online panel discussion on 'COVID-19 wastewater surveillance'.

The COVID-19 pandemic currently causing great upheaval to society is anticipated to continue for many months. Our efforts to reduce the spread of the disease are hampered by difficulties in tracking community outbreaks, especially considering some people are asymptomatic or infectious prior to showing symptoms. Complete testing of the entire Australian populace is not possible. While it’s difficult to get accuracy from testing alone, the panel will explore a different option for virus monitoring; pathogens found in wastewater from toilet flushing and teeth brushing. As such, it may be possible to determine hotspots of viral outbreaks from analysis of wastewater and the specific pathogens it contains. Experience overseas would suggest this analysis is a possible surveillance tool, as proven with other pathogenic viruses, bacteria and protozoa. The chance COVID-19 is ‘discoverable’ in wastewater is low (i.e. a low “shedding rate”) and getting quantitative feedback from our sewers may be harder than we think. The panel will collectively investigate which pathogens can be detected in our wastewater treatment system and the success this approach has had in the past.

We hope you can join us for the COVID-19 wastewater surveillance discussion.

Introducing our May webinar panellists and chair:

Professor Linda Blackall - Director Environmental Microbiology Research Initiative, The University of Melbourne

Linda Blackall is a microbiologist who has pioneered and championed procedures that reveal microbes and their functions in many natural and engineered systems. She has been instrumental in discovering microbial contributions to practical aspects of water, wastewater and solid-waste treatment, leading to improvements in treatment and energy savings. Her work with host associated microbes has substantially explained animal conditions including equine and ruminant gut upsets and microbes involved coral larval settlement and bleaching. She has extensively trained non-microbial professionals in new microbial procedures to facilitate industry up-skilling. Linda founded collaborations with arts-science experts to disseminate microbial knowledge via children’s books.

Nick Crosbie - Recycled Water & IWM Research Manager, Melbourne Water

Nick Crosbie is the Recycled Water & IWM Research Manager for Melbourne Water. He completed a BSc(Hons) with the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Monash University, and then a PhD in marine botany with the Department of Tropical Plant Science. Nick was then employed as a post-doctoral researcher at the Institute for Limnology (Austrian Academy of Sciences), and subsequently as a senior research associate at the Ocean Genome Legacy Foundation (New England Biolabs), now a centre within Northeastern University, Massachusetts. Nick worked for Inivai Technologies as their Chief Technology Officer, and now working for Melbourne Water specialising in water-quality risk assessment and mitigation. His research interests include harmful and nuisance algae, emerging water pollutants, waterborne pathogens and water-related illness.

Dan Deere - Water Quality Specialist, Water Futures

Dan Deere is a consulting water microbiologist. He provides independent specialist support to water services providers and environmental health departments on water quality science, management, assessment and certification. Prior roles included: Program Manager for Cooperative Research Centre for Water Quality and Treatment (Australia); Principal Scientist and Manager of Science and Research at Sydney Catchment Authority; Water Quality Branch Manager at South East Water (Melbourne); Post-doctoral Research Fellow (Macquarie University; Royal Society; Wain Foundation); Water-for-Injection Validation Scientist at Evans Medical (UK) and PhD Student at University of Liverpool and Institute of Freshwater Ecology (UK). Dan provides technical support to various guideline committees covering health-related aspects of drinking, recycled and recreational water in Australia and internationally.


Dr Sharon Davis - The University of Melbourne

Sharon is a Senior Enterprise Fellow at the University of Melbourne. She has more than 20 years’ experience in the public sector, at both the state and federal levels, leading water and natural resource management policy, technical and R&D programs. Throughout her career she has focussed on bridging science and policy to inform decision making. In 2011 Sharon was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to Harvard University to work with the Harvard Water Security Initiative. She is one of 80 women from around the world selected as part of the 2020 Homeward Bound women in STEMM leadership program. She has a PhD in Catchment Hydrology and is a Director of Water Practice Consulting.

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Organiser The University of Melbourne

Organiser of Water Security Series - COVID-19 wastewater surveillance

For more information, contact: industry-events@unimelb.edu.au

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