FGCU students study bacteria in Estero River to benefit community

Researchers have been taking samples from the Estero River to figure out what is happening. However, that isn’t a one-person job.

“You can’t do it alone. You have a lot of equipment that needs to be used. You have single tasks that need a few hands-on,” said Samuel Ebert, an environmental studies student at FGCU.

While Ebert, other students and professor Don Duke work together to test things like temperature, salinity and PH, they are really checking on fecal indicator bacteria.

Luke Roides, another FGCU environmental studies student said, “We are testing for bacteria concentrations that could be coming from human waste or animal waste.”

But professor Duke says it’s not easy to spot the difference. “It comes from many sources,” he said.

The results of studying the samples can help the Estero community decide how best to protect their environment and themselves.

“The village would like to know that the waters are safe for boating, for occasional contact swimming, and we’re doing some samples just to see whether these waters are routinely high in bacteria or not,” Duke said.

To alleviate this problem, The Village of Estero is in talks to move some of its citizens from septic tanks to a sewer system, since septic leaks could contribute to higher bacteria levels in the river.

Not only are these students helping the community, but they’re getting some valuable experience along the way. “This is a great experience for our students. We learn as we go and we produce valuable results as they learn,” Luke said.

The crews plan to come out and sample a few more times before their final report is released to The Village of Estero in December or January.

They have already gathered samples during the dry seasons, so the next goal is to gather water samples during the wet season.

Reporter:Stephanie Byrne
Writer:Drew Hill
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