Our day started bright and early at 8:25 AM with a walk from the hotel to the UNICEF building where each group presented their project. The bulk of the workshop focused on low cost water quality methods with the intent to encourage others to learn and participate in the work being done. Also, our TA Aaron Bivins made a presentation on Dead End Ultra-filtration (DEUF) and its use in the field.
About 15-20 people attended the workshop with a mixture of ages and affiliations including representatives from the Ministerio de Salud, UNICEF, and EPSAS. Dr. Brown opened the workshop with a presentation of the Brown Water Research Group and areas in which they focus. Following this, Tyler Druhot and Arjun Bir began their presentation of the five low cost tests they will be using this week: Compact Dry, Low Cost Presence/Absence (LCPA), 3M Petrifilm, Colitag, and the Compartment Bag Test (CBT). Each testing method included a live demonstration on how to perform the test. Following these demonstrations were a presentation of pros and cons per test.
From this, people learned that several tests do not require laboratory equipment or skilled personal. Tyler and Arjun classified all tests to have at least a 3 out of 5 when considering ease of use and ease to learn. This is very important because it opens the door for Bolivians to be more knowledgeable on the quality of their water resources without a significant financial burden.These low cost water quality methods have the potential to change how water cleanliness is determined without jeopardizing the accuracy of the data, and the test used can be tailored to the need. For example, LCPA, Colitag, and CBT are presence/absence tests meaning they give a positive or negative reading for the presences of colonies at certain detection limits. If someone simply wanted to know this without necessarily having a colony count, then one of these methods may best suit their purposes.
At the end of presenting these tests, workshop attendees signed a list of possible days they would be able to support Arjun and Tyler’s efforts. Following this, Aaron talked about Dead End Ultra-filtration. This method is used for large volumes between 20-100 L where water with microbial pathogens pass through a kidney dialysis filter. The filter captures these microbes in order for them to later be back-washed for analysis using an assay. For the Choqueyapu water quality team, we will be using this method in conjunction with the Luminex xTAG GPP assay. Aaron went on to talk about his experiences with this method when studying river systems in India.
The workshop continued with a brief highlight of the mercury bioaccumulation, water quality, and bioaerosols teams. The last presentation of the day related to bio-indicators. After presentations concluded, a schedule of 6 sites to be visited tomorrow was made, and all of us began to gather for the afternoons first sampling site. To learn more about tomorrow see each group’s posts.
First Round of Sampling
“Practice is the hardest part of learning, and training is the essence of transformation.” Ann Voskamp
Finally the moment we’ve all been waiting for: SAMPLING! The majority of our time in this class so far has been organized around planning how we will apply particular methods in the field. After the UNICEF workshop, we each were energized to perform field work. As expected with this practice round, some things went well, other things went poorly, and the reality of the quality of the river to some was downright ugly.
Bioaerosols Team (Hannah Greenwald, Valeria Hernandez, Noor Shaikh)
The Good: Setting up was pretty simple. Fortunately Hannah, Valeria, and Noor were able to complete all of their tests! Noor also mentioned that “the scenery was beautiful”.
The Bad: The process for bioaersosols takes a little longer than the other water quality tests. Also, the bioaerosol team is truly breaking new ground by studying open sewage channels and performing these tests for the first time predictably took a considerable amount of time. There were also a few instances where particular items were not placed in the field bag, so a quick run back to the van resolved those problems.
The Ugly: The water was pretty disgusting with a nasty odor. Because the team was very close to the river, the wind played devil’s advocate by blowing mist occasionally.
Water Quality Team (Brittany Brown, Kelsey Eichbauer)
The Good: The practice of DEUF in the lab prior to our arrival in Bolivia was definitely helpful. We had a basic understanding of the process which Aaron reinforced with his demonstrations during the workshop. Sampling did not take a relatively long time due to the amount of waste present. We reached a point where the filter was no longer allowing any water to pass through because it was so full.
The Bad: We hadn’t thought much about how to prevent the tubing from floating, so we had to be creative in figuring out how to keep it submerged. Our resolution was to tie one end to a rock in order for the weight to keep the tubing below the surface. Also, we connected our flow meter backwards which required a few recalculations. Another problem that presented itself related to the packing of used materials. It didn’t occur to us to bring a plastic bag to place dirty tubing, fittings, and clamps into. Knowing this, we’ll be much more prepared for the next time.
The Ugly: In order to save tubing, we got pretty close to the river which as stated before had a terrible odor. Mud from the area got on our shoes and followed us back to our hotel.
Low Cost Methods Team (Arjun Bir, Tyler Druhot)
The Good: Both Arjun and Tyler were excited to try out capturing water by using rope tied to a bucket. The bucket is lowered into the river and pulled back up once full to be used for all of their samples. Also, Arjun said that putting their methods into practice in the field expanded their knowledge of these methods and how to be more efficient. Another positive from this experience was the “awesome view from the sampling site” according to Tyler.
The Bad: Most of their field protocol changed after this first field experience. Sampling exposed the impracticability of certain tests that hadn’t been thought of before.
The Ugly: Again, the river was pretty filthy. Catching feces in the bucket was definitely a possibility, and no one was eager to go for a swim.
Mercury Bioaccumulation (Harrison Aiken, Rainee Li, Renee Mei)
Because the mercury bioaccumulation team’s project focuses on fish samples which are not prevalent in the Choqueyapu River, they supported and observed the other teams while their plans continued to develop. According to Renee, the rest of the week looks promising:
Observing the water group collecting samples ignites our craving for the field. Today Dr.Brown brought us several good news regarding our study. Later this week, our team may welcome a new member Nayda, a Bolivian student interested in this study. She can help us navigate around La Paz region and collect fish samples. Starting tomorrow, we will also have a driver to take care of our transportation. Most excitingly, it is promising to organize a two-day trip to Lake Titicaca through La Paz on Foot, the program that led our excursion to Palca Canyon. They are familiar with the communities in Titicaca that suffer from mining activities and could take us to some potential sampling sites. We are looking forward to the precious opportunity to work with people knowledgeable of the surroundings and culture in Lake Titicaca!
Based on the information we have now, our plan for tomorrow is to revisit the fish market near the San Francisco Church and collect samples there. We are also hoping to gain some more information from the driver on other markets around La Paz, and possibly visit some of them as well. Looking forward to our first day of “fishing”!
Stay tuned to hear more about each team’s next sampling experience!!