Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science in Coastal Marine and Wetland Studies


Coastal and Marine Systems Science

First Advisor

Susan M. Libes

Second Advisor

Robert Sheehan

Third Advisor

Dave Fuss


Microbial water quality is of significant concern in the two watersheds of the Grand Stand. Polluted runoff, malfunctioning septic tanks, and centralized sanitary sewer failures are common sources of fecal bacteria contamination in coastal areas and pose a threat to human health through recreational use of waterbodies and shellfish consumption. Volunteer water quality monitoring programs are crucial in expanding upon assessments of fecal bacteria contamination by regulatory monitoring. Bacteria monitoring data collected by volunteers and Coastal Carolina University’s Environmental Quality Laboratory has been used to identify sites to be investigated by microbial source tracking. Microbial source tracking has been used throughout the Grand Strand to identify nonpoint sources of fecal bacteria pollution. Findings from such studies have been used to develop management plans for reducing fecal pollution in the coastal region This thesis focuses on three projects aimed towards improving MST in the waters of the Grand Strand: (1) a cross comparison study between the Escherichia coli enumeration methods currently used by local monitoring programs, (2) a microbial source tracking study in Murrells Inlet Estuary to investigate fecal pollution sources at contaminated sites identified by the local volunteer water quality monitoring, and (3) synthesis of reports from local coastal MST studies conducted throughout the Grand Strand over the past two decades. The results from the three research projects presented in this thesis are intended to aid in selection of suitable management approaches and in optimization of future monitoring and microbial source tracking work in the waters of coastal northeastern South Carolina.