6 Benefits of Using Microbial Source Tracking in Environmental Studies

Microbial source tracking refers to a variety of techniques that analyze microbes to identify the source of biological contamination in the environment. That information is most often used for the benefit of public health, but it can also be valuable to researchers who are studying the environment.

Finding Contamination

The goal of all microbial source tracking is to find the cause of contamination in a body of water. This can be useful for identifying the cause of disease in local animal populations, predicting future outbreaks, and identifying possible problems. That often forms the basis of an environmental survey, since it can provide enough information to direct researchers to other things that require investigation.

Causes Of Decline

Source tracking can help to identify cause of a collapsing population. If disease is the most likely culprit, it can determine which species are spreading it through the ecosystem. If the cause is unknown, it can help researchers discover if disease or water contamination are at fault, or if they need to look for other possible causes.

Identifying Local Species

The method can be useful even in the absence of a known problem. Researchers often need to determine which species are present in a region, and microbial source tracking is an easy way to do so. It can’t prove the presence of every species, since the microbes need to be compared to libraries that don’t include every species, but it can determine the presence or absence of many common species. It’s not a foolproof method, but it’s much easier than setting up cameras and can be just as accurate.

Planning Intervention

Researchers cannot solve a problem until they identify it. The information that comes from microbial source tracking can be enough to do that identification. That allows researchers to plan their response to an environmental problem and be reasonably sure that they can solve it.

Low Cost

Practical concerns, such as budgets, are always a factor for scientists. Microbial source tracking is a fairly cheap and reliable method. Researchers can even outsource it to a specialized company instead of buying their own tools if they are not equipped to do the work on their own. That makes it very appealing, since it opens up research opportunities that are otherwise impossible to afford.

Familiar Methods

Researchers occasionally make mistakes, which can lead to bad data and false conclusions. The odds are lower when they work with methods that they understand. Most environmental researchers are familiar with microbial source tracking, which makes it easy for them to plan experiments that rely on it and interpret the data. The increased accuracy is a huge asset, which makes microbial source tracking into the method of choice for many scientists.

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