Two Villanova Science Professors Receive NOAA Sea Grant

amanda grannas

Grant will support research on triclosan levels in the Brandywine River Watershed

Villanova, Pa. – Triclosan, the active ingredient in many anti-bacterial products, has the potential to seriously damage the health of a watershed ecosystem.  In the United States, the use of the antibacterial agent is unregulated and currently there is not enough known about its environmental impact.  Now, a $72,000 National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Sea Grant has been awarded to an interdisciplinary project in Villanova University’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences that will examine levels of triclosan in the Brandywine River Watershed.

The project is a collaborative effort between Amanda Grannas, PhD, associate professor, Chemistry, and Steven Goldsmith, PhD, assistant professor, Geography and the Environment.  The two-year grant, along with partial matching funds from Villanova, will support the research entitled “Evaluating the Sources and Fate of Triclosan in a Watershed Traversing a Rural to Urban Gradient in Southeastern Pennsylvania.” Dr. Grannas is the principal investigator on the project.

“We’re finding that there are ‘hot spots’ of triclosan in stream water occurring in unexpected places,” said Dr. Grannas. “Typically triclosan is found downstream of a wastewater treatment plant. In this case, the chemical is being found upstream of a treatment plant, which means the source is possibly something other than municipal waste water. Our research is looking to evaluate these non-traditional sources of triclosan, such as septic tanks and agricultural runoff, in the watershed.”

NOAA Sea Grant’s mission is to provide integrated research, communication, education, extension and legal programs to coastal communities that lead to the responsible use of the nation’s ocean, coastal and Great Lakes resources through informed personal, policy and management decisions.

Dr. Goldsmith and his students are working in the field collecting samples and gathering data about the watershed. Dr. Grannas and her students are measuring the samples in the lab. Dr. Grannas and her students will also be performing chemical tests in the lab. The chemical tests will seek to mimic the degradation of triclosan that occurs in nature. The understanding of degradation is critical in that the triclosan molecule could potentially change into less toxic or more toxic substances. The anti-bacterial’s long-term fate in the ecosystem is unknown. The research could lead to changes in the regulation of triclosan and similar molecules.

The grant will support four undergraduate students’ involvement in the project. Additional undergraduate and graduate students are working on the project, which has already begun and has preliminary findings. Dr. Grannas points to the Villanova Center for Energy and Environmental Education (VCE3) as the catalyst for her collaboration with Dr. Goldsmith. VCE3 offers opportunities for Villanova scientists in different disciplines to discover and collaborate on overlapping research interests.

“This grant enables our students and faculty in both Chemistry and in Geography and the Environment to work together in the field and in the classroom to discover new findings that can impact the environment for years to come,” said Adele Lindenmeyr, PhD, Dean, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. “It is an outstanding faculty-mentored research opportunity and promotes important collaboration between these two different Science disciplines.” 

About Villanova University’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences:  Since its founding in 1842, Villanova University’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences has cultivated knowledge, understanding and intellectual courage for a purposeful life in a challenged and changing world.  With 39 majors across the humanities, social sciences and natural sciences, it is the oldest and largest of Villanova’s colleges, serving more than 4,500 undergraduate and graduate students each year. The College is committed to a teacher-scholar model, offering outstanding undergraduate and graduate research opportunities and a rigorous core curriculum that prepares students to become critical thinkers, strong communicators and ethical leaders with a truly global perspective.

Media Contact

Jennifer Schu

Director of Communications, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

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