Bartelt-Hunt to discuss connections between water, health in Nov. 9 Nebraska Lecture

Nebraska Lectures

Dan Moser, September 28, 2023

Bartelt-Hunt to discuss connections between water, health in Nov. 9 Nebraska Lecture

Researchers and public health officials found they could monitor the prevalence of COVID-19 in a community by analyzing wastewater. They’re now applying those lessons to tracking other health concerns.  

The connection between water and environmental and human health long has fascinated Shannon Bartelt-Hunt, Donald R. Voelte Jr. and Nancy A. Keegan Chair of civil engineering.  The topic will be addressed in her Nebraska Lecture Nov. 9 at 3:30 p.m. 

In her lecture, titled “Our Water, Our Health,” Bartelt-Hunt will discuss the many ways our water supply and health are interconnected. 

“There are these emerging contaminants in our water. We also call them trace contaminants — things that are just present at really low levels in water but can potentially have some health impacts,” Bartelt-Hunt said. 

For example, microplastics and other contaminants in water have been shown to contribute to antibiotic resistance and the occurrence of certain cancers, she added.  

“My interest is water quality and connecting that with human health or environmental health endpoints,” Bartelt-Hunt said.  

During the pandemic, officials have used communities’ wastewater management systems to monitor traces of the virus causing COVID-19. They’re now transitioning that knowledge to monitoring other illnesses, including RSV and the flu. The goal is to identify areas in which illness may be prevalent. 

“I think that’s really exciting, because we’re just using our existing engineering infrastructure and kind of layering on public health,” she said. 

Bartelt-Hunt said her interest in the subject stems from her father’s experience with illness that he traces to his experience spraying chemicals.  

“I think somewhere in my brain that connection got made between environment and health.” 

The lecture will be broadcast via Zoom. The Nebraska Lecture is open to the public, but registration is required to receive the Zoom link. Viewers may submit questions for the live Q&A session to The lecture is part of Nebraska Research Days, Nov. 6-10.      

The Nebraska Lectures are offered twice a year and feature high-profile presentations by distinguished Husker faculty who address topics of broad interest in an engaging, accessible format. All talks are free and open to the public. The talks are streamed online. Regular updates, as well as archived videos from each lecture, are available on the event website.   

The Nebraska Lectures: The Chancellor’s Distinguished Speaker Series is sponsored by the Research Council, Office of the Chancellor, Office of Research and Economic Development and Osher Lifelong Learning Institute.   

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