Dan Moser, October 30, 2023
Bartelt-Hunt to discuss connections between water, health on Nov. 9
Researchers and public health officials found they could monitor the prevalence of COVID-19 in a community by analyzing its wastewater. University of Nebraska–Lincoln engineer Shannon Bartelt-Hunt is now applying those lessons to tracking other health concerns.
The connection between water and environmental and human health long has fascinated Bartelt-Hunt, the Donald R. Voelte Jr. and Nancy A. Keegan Chair of Civil Engineering. The topic will be addressed in her virtual Nebraska Lecture at 3:30 p.m. Nov. 9. The lecture is part of Nebraska Research Days, Nov. 6-10.
In “Our Water, Our Health,” Bartelt-Hunt will discuss the many ways the water supply and human health are interconnected.
“There are these emerging contaminants in our water,” she said. “We also call them trace contaminants — things that are just present at really low levels in water but can potentially have some health impacts.”
For example, microplastics and other contaminants in water have been shown to contribute to antibiotic resistance and the occurrence of certain cancers, Bartelt-Hunt said.
“My interest is water quality and connecting that with human health or environmental health endpoints,” she said.
During the pandemic, officials 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, which he traces to his experience spraying chemicals.
“I think, somewhere in my brain, that connection got made between environment and health,” she said.
The lecture will be broadcast via Zoom. The Nebraska Lecture is open to the public, but registration is required at to receive the Zoom link. Viewers may submit questions for the live question-and-answer session to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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. 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.