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Harvest Speaker Series - Cherish Vance

On Friday, January 29, 2021 Cherish Vance continued the HARVEST speaker series with a discussion on modeling fecal microorganisms at the watershed level. Her presentation was entitled “Yes, that's in the water. Modeling fecal microorganisms at the watershed level using the Soil and Water Assessment Tool.” Below is a short bio on Cherish Vance and an abstract of her talk as well as a recording of the presentation.

Cherish Vance

Cherish Vance is a PhD candidate in Biological and Agricultural Engineering at Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas. Prior to embarking on her doctoral program, Cherish worked for engineering consulting firms conducting environmental studies and monitoring. More recently, she was a graduate design engineer (EIT) specializing in geotechnical engineering.

With an emphasis on environmental and natural resource engineering, her published research includes: assessment of water quality in both natural and engineering systems, biological waste treatment, water disinfection, and hydrologic and water quality modeling. These research efforts have been funded in part by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program. Her dissertation focuses on developing a prescriptive methodology for using the Soil and Water Assessment Tool to predict bacteria loads in agricultural watersheds.

“Yes, that's in the water. Modeling fecal microorganisms at the watershed level using the Soil and Water Assessment Tool.”

Fecal contamination of surface waters poses risk to human health and safety; exposure to harmful pathogens associated with fecal matter may result in disease outbreak. In watersheds dominated by non-urban land uses, non-point sources such as manure spreading from confined animal feeding operations are significant contributors of bacteria. Waters impaired by diffuse sources can be difficult to assess. Since water quality monitoring is time-consuming and often cost-prohibitive, modeling approaches are an attractive means for estimating bacterial loads.

The Soil and Water Assessment Tool (SWAT) is a widely-used program for simulating hydrologic scenarios based on land-use. SWAT is a process-based model that is very robust and used globally. The bacteria fate/transport subroutine was introduced relatively recently. However, the predictive performances for bacterial load are not comparable to the other simulated processes. This presentation will highlight the challenges inherent in modeling biological constituents in non-urban watersheds, review the current uses of SWAT to predict bacterial loads in agricultural watersheds, and suggest methodology refinements to SWAT practitioners.

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