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  • SCCWRP to begin testing suitcase-sized ddPCR instrument

    August 19, 2015:

    A suitcase-sized instrument that could revolutionize the speed at which beach ocean water is tested for microbial contamination is being prepared for an initial round of testing and calibration at SCCWRP after five years of research and development.

    The droplet digital PCR instrument was delivered to SCCWRP in early August by Arizona State University researchers, who collaborated with SCCWRP and the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute to conceptualize and build this portable water-quality testing device.

    Unlike traditional methods that require water samples to be analyzed in a lab – a process that can take up to 24 hours – the ddPCR machine can be used by a field technician on the beach, producing results within two hours.

    SCCWRP, a world leader in adapting ddPCR for environmental monitoring, is preparing to launch extensive laboratory testing of the device, using both cultures and environmental samples.

    Then, in the spring, SCCWRP will begin field testing, followed by beta-testing by local agencies, including SCCWRP’s member agencies.

    Over the past five years, SCCWRP and the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute have provided expertise and guidance to the Arizona researchers about the design of a reliable, field-deployable ddPCR instrument with an interface so simple that even a beach lifeguard will be able to operate it.

    About the size of a small suitcase, the ddPCR instrument will have the capability to detect and quantify microbial targets in the field within two hours of collection.

    Shortening the testing window means that public-health officials can warn beachgoers much faster about potentially dangerous levels of pathogens in the water.

    This technology also could help investigators follow sources of fecal bacteria and other aquatic contamination to their upstream origin.

    For more information about the portable ddPCR instrument, contact Dr. John Griffith.



    Dr. Joshua Steele calibrates a prototype portable microbial device in SCCWRP's
    microbiology laboratory. The droplet digital PCR instrument is designed to be used
    in the field to dramatically speed up how quickly beach ocean water is tested for
    microbial contamination.



    SCCWRP is planning to test the utility of a suitcase-sized droplet digital PCR instrument
    that could dramatically speed up how quickly beach ocean water can be tested for
    microbial contamination. This rendering shows the plastic housing (A), a tablet PC
    mounted inside (B), the sample injection port (C), the rapid-replace consumable reagent
    bay (D), and the target primer library (E).

  • XPRIZE-developed pH sensors being tested as Bight profilers by SCCWRP, member agencies

    August 12, 2015:

    SCCWRP and its four POTW member agencies have kicked off a year-long effort to evaluate whether ocean pH monitoring instruments developed through an international XPRIZE competition can be used effectively for nearshore regulatory monitoring in the Southern California Bight.

    SCCWRP – along with the Sanitation Districts of Los Angeles County, City of Los Angeles Sanitation, Orange County Sanitation District, and City of San Diego Public Utilities Department – completed a test deployment in early August during a training exercise in the nearshore waters off Crystal Cove. Next, the member agencies will deploy the XPRIZE sensors during their routine regulatory monitoring.

    All semifinalists in the XPRIZE’s $2 million Wendy Schmidt Ocean Health competition have been invited to compete in SCCWRP’s post-prize competition to assess the potential regulatory application of their devices.

    The main XPRIZE competition, which concluded in July, was a global contest that invited researchers to design and build next-generation pH sensor technologies that improve the ability to measure ocean chemistry and accurately track ocean acidification trends. The winner was Sunburst Sensors of Missoula, Mont.

    The goal of the SCCWRP-facilitated post-prize competition is to identify one or more viable XPRIZE technologies to replace glass electrodes, which are the standard pH profiling instrument used for nearshore regulatory monitoring.

    SCCWRP has previously demonstrated that glass electrodes cannot track changes at the level of precision required to address California’s Ocean Plan Standard, which mandates that ocean pH must not be changed by more than ± 0.2 pH units from that which occurs naturally.

    So far, three finalists from the XPRIZE competition have submitted their sensors for post-prize evaluation: the ANB sensor, a novel electrochemical system that can measure pH of low-ionic-strength solutions with no natural buffer; the Cross Strait sensor, a device built with micro solid ion selective electrodes (ISEs) and designed for resistance to ocean bio-fouling and chemo-fouling; and the SINDEN sensor, a non-glass in situ pH sensor that uses an ion sensitive field effect transistor (ISFET) as the pH electrode and a chloride ion selective electrode (Cl-ISE) as the reference electrode.

    SCCWRP also is pursuing other strategies for improving the precision of routine pH ocean profiling. As part of Bight ’13, SCCWRP and its member agencies are investigating use of discrete pH bottle measurements to improve in situ calibration with glass electrodes.

    For more information about the SCCWRP-facilitated regulatory evaluation phase of the XPRIZE prototype sensors, contact Dr. Karen McLaughlin.


    George Robertson of the Orange County Sanitation District, left, and Ashley Booth, center,
    and Erin Oderlin of the City of Los Angeles Sanitation calibrate and prepare an XPRIZE-developed
    ocean pH monitoring sensor for a test deployment in nearshore waters off Crystal Cove. All four
    of SCCWRP’s POTW member agencies participated in the training exercise in early August.


    Representatives from SCCWRP's four POTW agencies attach XPRIZE-developed pH sensors
    to a metal framework called a rosette that was then dropped into the water off Crystal Cove.

  • SCCWRP scientists co-author four Oceanography articles on management strategies for ocean acidification

    June 16, 2015:

    Four articles co-authored by SCCWRP scientists about management strategies for addressing ocean acidification have been published in a special issue of The Oceanography Society’s scientific magazine.

    The “Emerging Themes in Ocean Acidification Science” issue of Oceanography examines a number of pathways for effectively transitioning the science of ocean acidification into action plans for the end-user environmental management community. 

    The full text of these articles is available for free online.

    SCCWRP scientists co-authored articles focusing on the following topics:
    SCCWRP is studying the impacts of ocean acidification through a robust nutrients program that is examining the relative contributions of human-induced marine eutrophication on ocean acidification and hypoxia. SCCWRP also is involved in efforts to test and calibrate pH sensor technology to improve accuracy of coastal acidification monitoring.

    For more information on SCCWRP’s acidification research, contact Dr. Steve Weisberg. To read the full ocean acidification issue of Oceanography magazine, click here

    The June 2015 issue of Oceanography magazine is a special issue that focuses 
    on the nexus of ocean acidification science and management action. SCCWRP 
    scientists co-authored four articles in this issue.

  • SCCWRP’s mobile microbial testing technology featured in new Nature Methods article

    May 18, 2015:

    SCCWRP’s pioneering work to adapt mobile PCR technology to monitor microbial contaminants in beach ocean water is featured in a new overview article in the journal Nature Methods.

    The five-page article, headlined “PCR heads into the field” and published in the journal’s May issue, devotes an extensive write-up to SCCWRP’s ongoing efforts to develop a mobile, suitcase-style laboratory that can more rapidly detect microbial contaminants using droplet digital PCR. 

    Nature Methods is a publication of the prestigious journal Nature that focuses on laboratory techniques and practices.

    The journal article highlights the fact that current processing of ocean water samples can take up to 24 hours, while the ddPCR could yield results within two hours.

    The journal quotes Dr. John Griffith, head of the Microbiology Department, discussing the many potential applications of this mobile testing lab, including rapid detection of disease-causing pathogens in fishery waters and inclusion as a sensor on autonomous underwater vehicles. 

    The mobile testing lab is being developed in partnership with the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute and Arizona State University. A prototype is expected to be completed later this year, the journal notes.

    SCCWRP’s research on using ddPCR methods to develop rapid microbial monitoring methods also was featured last year in a magazine article and accompanying short documentary from the life sciences company Bio-Rad.

    For more information about SCCWRP’s ddPCR work and to request a copy of the Nature Methods article for personal use, contact John Griffith

    A new feature article in the journal Nature Methods highlights SCCWRP's
    pioneering work to adapt mobile PCR technology to monitor microbial
    contaminants in ocean water at the beach. 

  • SCCWRP hosts transcontinental stormwater management workshop in India

    May 11, 2015:

    Leading stormwater scientists from across three continents came together at a SCCWRP-facilitated forum in India in March to discuss more effective ways to capture and use rainfall runoff in drought-prone areas.

    The two-day workshop, which was fully funded through an external grant, brought together 16 scientists from the United States, India and Australia for an in-depth discussion on large-scale best practices for urban stormwater management. Five participants came from the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), two from the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), four from the University of California, Irvine, one from UCLA, and one from the University of Melbourne. All but five were able to attend in person.

    The workshop, titled “Transforming Stormwater into a Resource: Design, Risks, & Benefits,” took place March 16-17 at the Metropolitan Hotel in downtown New Dehli. It was organized by SCCWRP hydrogeologist Dr. Ashmita Sengupta and a counterpart at the Indian Institute of Technology, Dr. M.L. Kansal; the pair won a competitive grant from the nonprofit Indo-U.S. Science and Technology Forum to host the event. Dr. Eric Stein, head of SCCWRP’s Biology Department, also attended.

    Four review papers are being written that will explore various facets of using low-impact development (LID) strategies to reclaim stormwater in the U.S. and India. 
    The first paper will focus on the hydrological and ecological impacts of climate change on India and the U.S. The second will examine how different nations define and monitor environmental flows. The third will delve into governance issues associated with water management offsets. And the fourth will look at future demand for recycled stormwater and obstacles to implementation.

    The review papers are expected to be published by the end of 2015.

    The India stormwater workshop was one of seven proposals selected by the Indo-U.S. Science and Technology Forum to be funded for 2014-15. Grant winners were announced in July 2014. 

    The annual IUSSTF workshops take place in either India or the United States, and span a wide variety of science and technology disciplines. IUSSTF’s goal is to promote interaction and collaboration between U.S. and Indian researchers in academia, R&D laboratories, industry and government.

    For more information about the workshop, contact Dr. Ashmita Sengupta


    Leading stormwater scientists from three continents gather for a two-day
    stormwater management workshop in March in New Dehli, India. Top row,
    from left, Amir AghaKouchak (UCI), Sekhar Muddu (IISc), Ashok Keshari (IIT),
    M.L Kansal (IIT), Ashmita Sengupta (SCCWRP), Dhanya C.T. (IIT), and
    Pradeep Mujumdar (IISc). Bottom row, Richard Ambrose (UCLA), Eric Stein
    (SCCWRP), Jean-Daniel Saphores (UCI), and Cameron Patel (UCI).


    Pradeep Mujumdar of the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore discusses
    water demands in urban India during a two-day stormwater management
    workshop at a New Dehli hotel in March.

  • SCCWRP revises mission statement to reflect changing role, prominence

    April 28, 2015:

    SCCWRP has overhauled its mission statement and strategic vision document to more accurately reflect the agency’s central role as a scientific consensus-builder, a catalyst for translating science to action, and a respected source of research and knowledge within the water-quality management community.

    The page-long document, approved by the SCCWRP Commission at its March 5 meeting, marks the first update to the agency’s mission in 20 years, and underscores SCCWRP’s growing prominence and recognition at both the national and international levels. 

    The new mission statement reflects SCCWRP’s expanded focus from a primarily marine science organization two decades ago to an interdisciplinary environmental agency that comprehensively studies marine ecosystems, coastal freshwater ecosystems and associated aquatic resources. 

    Among the changes that were made: 
    • Whereas SCCWRP’s previous mission emphasized the agency’s role in communicating research findings and recommendations effectively to decision-makers and other stakeholders, the new mission declares that SCCWRP will develop scientific consensus for the management community and stimulate the conversion of science to action. 
    • Whereas SCCWRP’s previous mission emphasized the agency’s role in contributing to scientific understanding through developing and coordinating research programs, the new mission emphasizes that SCCWRP’s role is to be a respected source of unbiased water-quality science for the management community and to stimulate its scientists to be industry leaders.
    The revised mission statement was authored by a SCCWRP Commission subcommittee chaired by Commissioner Grace Hyde in consultation with SCCWRP staff.

    To read SCCWRP’s full mission statement, vision statement, goals and strategies, go to the About SCCWRP webpage. For more information about SCCWRP’s mission statement, contact Dr. Steve Weisberg.

    SCCWRP's new mission statement emphasizes the central role the agency plays 
    in developing scientific consensus. Above, Dr. Steve Weisberg leads a workshop
    that seeks to build consensus around water-quality science.