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Shimadzu Lab’s Contributions to Rapid E.Coli Testing of Beachwater Detailed in Scholarly Publication


The Shimadzu Core Laboratory is a multidisciplinary science research center containing over 2000 square feet of presentation, research, and collaboration space housed in the College of Arts, Sciences and Education.

Ferris State University’s Shimadzu Core Laboratory for Academic and Research Excellence’s contributions to a multi-facility collaboration studying E.coli contamination of beach water are featured in Water Research, the journal of the International Water Association.

Shimadzu Lab Director Schuyler (Sky) Pike said the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE) supported the studies in cooperation with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The lab was one of seven university-based operations working with county and regional health departments and the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy.

“Before these studies, water quality analysis of beach water would require a full day. EGLE and the EPA wanted to see that turnaround time reduced to a portion of a day, to enhance public safety,” Pike said.

“Laboratories that participated in the study began their work in 2016 using quantitative Polymerase Chain Reaction (qPCR) findings to compare with traditional culture-based testing results.”

Pike said Ferris students helped with the three years of work needed to determine the qPCR beach notification value that corresponded with the regulatory standard for a level of fecal contamination in beach water, making it unsafe for swimming or other human exposure. 

“The new analytical method means an accurate finding can be achieved in six hours rather than a full day,” Pike said. “The first paper showing the significant correlation between the qPCR and standard response beach closure triggers was published in 2020.”

The latest article, “Validity assessment of Michigan’s proposed qPCR threshold value for rapid water-quality monitoring of E. coli contamination,” offers statistical analysis of the usefulness of this method, as approximately 75 percent of unsafe beaches can be identified in time to curtail recreational use on the day of sampling.

Pike said the 2020 published report and this latest work in Water Research make six publications unique to the Shimadzu Core Laboratory.

“I had a collaborative project with Jennifer Lamberts, of the College of Pharmacy,” Pike said. “Professor Tom Dowling, of the College of Pharmacy, has authored two research articles from findings completed in the lab, and Professor Eric Nybo had one with my predecessor, Sean McCormick. There are two more collaborative studies in the works with other universities and these raise the esteem of the Shimadzu Lab, along with the efforts of our faculty and their student employees in the greater community.”