Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department

Marine Science

Major Professor

Mya Breitbart, Ph.D.

Committee Member

John H. Paul, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Dale W. Griffin, Ph.D.


Water Quality, Fecal-Associated Pathogenic Viruses, Viral Diversity, Microbial Indicators, Picobirnaviruses


The presence of pathogenic viruses in coastal environments is an important tool in evaluating water quality and health risks. Millions of viruses are excreted in fecal matter and bacterial indicators do not correlate with the presence of pathogenic viruses. Enteroviruses have been used to identify fecal pollution in the environment; however, other viruses shed in fecal matter could be used to indicate fecal pollution. The purpose of this research is to develop a baseline understanding of the diversity of viruses found in raw sewage and to assess their presence in the marine environment. PCR was used to detect adenoviruses, herpesviruses, hepatitis B viruses, morbilliviruses, noroviruses, papillomaviruses, pepper mild mottle viruses, picobirnaviruses, reoviruses, rotaviruses, and sapporoviruses in raw sewage collected from throughout the United States and from five marine environments ranging in their proximity to dense human populations. Adenoviruses, noroviruses, pepper mild mottle viruses, and picobirnaviruses were detected in raw sewage but absent in the marine environment, making these viruses potential indicators of fecal pollution in marine environments. These viruses were also found in many of the final effluent samples. Pepper mild mottle viruses may be useful for source tracking fecal contamination since it was consistently found in human sewage and is not expected in the feces of other animals due to its dietary origin. Furthermore, this research uncovered previously unknown sequence diversity in human picobirnaviruses. This baseline understanding of viruses in raw sewage and the marine environment will enable educated decisions to be made regarding the use of viruses in water quality assessments.