HCNSO Student Theses and Dissertations

Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

M.S. Marine Biology

First Advisor

Jose V Lopez

Second Advisor

Rebecca Bell

Third Advisor

Robert Smith


Salmonellosis or “food poisoning” is a foodborne infection brought on by the pathogen Salmonella from the ingestion of the bacterium on contaminated foods such as vegetables. Infection from Salmonella leads to the highest incidence of hospitalizations and deaths each year, compared to any other bacterial foodborne illness. South Florida is the second largest agricultural winter vegetable producer in the United States, and contamination of vegetables is often observed in preharvest practices. A hardy bacterium, Salmonella, has been shown to live up to 6 weeks in soil and water up to 42°C without a host.

The Florida Everglades is a tropical wetland that plays a large role in South Florida’s watershed. It can be divided into agricultural, conservation, and urban areas that connect Lake Okeechobee to Florida Bay by canals, swamps, and rivers. Inland canals tightly regulate water levels in South Florida as a means of flood control for residential and agricultural land. With the influences of anthropomorphic run off from agricultural and urban use, we hypothesized that microbial communities would significantly differ between three select sites in western (Collier county) versus three sites in more urban eastern Florida (Broward county): natural standing water, manmade drainage canal in agricultural areas, and manmade drainage canals in urban areas. We also hypothesized that pathogenic like Salmonella would be present in these habitats. Deep sequencing and ecological genetics analyses of the 16s rRNA V4 region yielded a total of 163,320 unique bacterial OTUs from a total of 139 samples collected monthly for one year in 2015 and part of 2016. Salmonella is not considered an abundant taxon within the microbial population.

With the knowledge that Salmonella resides within the microbial population isolates were cultured from soil and water samples that were taken monthly from each site using a modified version of the Food and Drug Administration Bacterial Analytical Methods manual (FDA-BAM). The culturing resulted in 234 isolates obtained and 31 different serovars of Salmonella. Culturing showed that Salmonella favored months with high standing water and high-water temperatures that would lead to the ideal environment for survival. The most commonly occurring isolates within the sample set are those associated with agricultural animals. Though Salmonella may be a rare taxon within the microbial population given the correct environmental conditions such as warm temperatures it is possible to observe Salmonella year round within the South Florida environment.