Gaillard Subproject for SP0054700

Project: Research project

Project Details


The overarching goals of this proposal are to (i) transition a new synthetic biology platform for rapid water quality monitoring from the laboratory to field use; and (ii) collect and preserve a benchmark set of water samples for future platform development. This will be done in the context of the Paradise, CA wildfires, which have resulted in the catastrophic contamination of the California Central Valley watershed. Water quality is central to every human activity. Yet, water quality is being increasingly threatened by environmental forces and disasters such as hurricanes, floods, droughts, and most recently, by the wild fires of California. The latter have resulted in the potential release of massive amounts of toxic metals and compounds into groundwater supplies. Successful remediation and safe human relocation require large environmental monitoring efforts to test water supply safety. However, these efforts are hampered by current state-of-the-art water quality assessment technologies which are costly, centralized, slow and laborious. As such, there is a critical need for rapid, cost effective and field-deployable water quality monitoring technologies. Towards addressing this need, the Lucks Laboratory recently developed a rapid, low-cost synthetic biology platform using regulated in vitro transcriptional sensors (RIViTS) that can detect a range of toxic compounds in water samples. Here the proposal aims to transition RIViTS from the laboratory to the field by performing field use studies for the detection of toxic metals in water samples from Paradise, CA. Field water samples at known contamination zones will be tested with RIViTS and collected for independent validation using gold-standard environmental water analysis. Comparison of field and lab validation data will be used to develop statistical measures of RIViTS performance, uncover factors affecting field performance, and study how RIViTS performance is dependent on metal ion complexation. Furthermore, RIViTS kits will be distributed to undergraduate students to test the ability of non-experts to operate the platform. This work will be pursued in collaboration with California State University, Chico located near Paradise, CA. This project is ideally suited for the RAPID mechanism now that cleanup efforts are underway in Paradise, making these ideal model test sites and water samples transient.
Effective start/end date5/1/194/30/21


  • National Science Foundation (MCB‐1929912)


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