Professor's Research Leads City to Divert Tainted Water

Trish Holden

A recent article in the Santa Barbara News-Press (reprinted here with permission from the paper) documented the real-world relevance of research being conducted by Bren professor of environmental microbiology Trish Holden.

Since 1998, Holden has been engaged in water-quality research and outreach, and since 2004, she has worked with the City of Santa Barbara on research involving the use of DNA sampling to detect and track fecal matter in local creeks and ocean waters. Recently, Holden was able to demonstrate that human fecal matter was entering the creeks.

The News-Press article described the city’s response, which involved diverting creek water to the local sewer system for treatment to prevent pollutants from reaching the ocean.

Creek and coastal pollution are issues Holden cares strongly about, for several reasons.

“Degraded water quality is a serious environmental problem in this region, and this is a way to contribute knowledge for solutions,” she says, adding, “The problem of coastal pollution is inherently interdisciplinary, with health and economic consequences, and the research spills over into my teaching. That includes advising group projects, which contributes to developing the next generation of scientific stewards of coastal water quality.

“This research is particularly important to me because it matters to the community I inhabit, and it demonstrates something academics can do that is really wonderful: perform valuable, transferable research that leads directly to management decisions having an immediate impact on their local community.”

For more on Holden's research, visit the site for her lab at the Bren School.