Biologists are using a computer model designed by Michael Rutter, associate professor of statistics, to test water quality at Presque Isle State Park.
“It’s completely automated,” said Michael Rutter, associate professor of statistics, who developed the model and wrote the program to retrieve the data. “Which is good. I don’t want to have to wake up at 6 a.m. and go on the Internet.”
Rutter’s weather model tells other researchers when conditions are right for E. coli contamination. “When the model says there’s a good chance, they go out and check,” Rutter said.
Contact with E. coli bacteria can cause intestinal illness and skin infection. When E. coli levels are elevated – 235 or more colonies per 100 milliliters of water – swimmers are advised to stay out of the water. When more than 1,000 colonies are present, swimming is banned.
Biologists from Mercyhurst University and the Regional Science Consortium use Rutter’s model to determine when, and where, to test the water. They share the results, which generally are available in two hours, with the Presque Isle State Park office, which determines when a beach warning is warranted.