WT Leading New Study into Microbes, Water Quality at Lake Meredith

Chip Chandler Aug 14, 2023
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WT Leading New Study into Microbes, Water Quality at Lake Meredith

CONTACT: Chip Chandler, 806-651-2124,


CANYON, Texas —Following a summer of historic rainfalls that refilled Lake Meredith, West Texas A&M University students are taking part in new research that they hope will provide unprecedented scientific understanding of the reservoir.

The study—led by Dr. Maitreyee Mukherjee, assistant professor of biology, and Dr. Erik Crosman, assistant professor of environmental sciences, in the Department of Life, Earth and Environmental Sciences in the Paul Engler College of Agriculture and Natural Sciences—is examining variations in the microbiology and water quality of the lake, a key source of drinking, recreational and agricultural water sources in the region.

With funding from several Killgore research grants, the students are hoping to provide a better understanding of the diversity, composition and function of microscopic organisms present at Lake Meredith.

Students also are examining levels of microbial contamination variations across the lake over the course of several months.

Mukherjee and Crosman plan to incorporate the data collected into a proposal to the National Science Foundation.

“Using state-of-the-art microbiology equipment, the WT students in my lab are collecting data that will reveal for the first time in-depth seasonal variations of microscopic organisms in Lake Meredith,” Mukherjee said. “Very few studies have investigated these organisms in reservoirs like Lake Meredith, where the water level and lake water salinity change so rapidly.”

According to Water Data for Texas, Lake Meredith is about 47 percent full. In May, before the historic rains in June, the lake was only 29.6 percent full, and in August 2022, it was 31.7 percent full.

Dr. Evan Jones, a 2022 WT alumnus and Canyon native who earned his Ph.D. in genomics and bioinformatics at the Baylor College of Medicine, is assisting the team with his expertise in computational analysis of the biological data, or bioinformatics, collected from the lake.

Researchers also want to understand how the microscopic organisms in the lake are impacted by such physical characteristics as temperature, water level and salinity, providing an opportunity for biology and environmental science students and faculty to collaborate.

“No study has previously linked the impacts of variations in lake properties to microscopic organisms in a semi-arid reservoir, so this is an exciting interdisciplinary study between microbiology and environmental sciences,” Crosman said.

WT students taking part in the project include Robyn Cuthbert, a graduate student in biology from New Orleans; Cassie Dorsett, a Sweeney native about to pursue a master’s degree in biology; Abigail House, a May graduate in biology from Azle; Simon Mbanefo, a graduate student in environmental science from Akili Ozizor, Nigeria; Quincy Nakamura, a junior biology major from Renton, Washington; Heather Ogle, a junior environmental science major from Canyon; Afolarin Olatunbosun, a graduate student in environmental science from Ogbomoso, Nigeria; Grayson Pool, a senior environmental science major from Sherman; Kara Ramirez, a senior biology/pre-vet major from Andrews; and Bentli VeneKlasen, a May graduate in biology from Amarillo.

Meeting regional needs as a Regional Research University is a key component of the University’s long-range plan, WT 125: From the Panhandle to the World.

That plan is fueled by the historic, $125 million One West comprehensive fundraising campaign. To date, the campaign — which publicly launched in September 2021— has raised more than $125 million and will continue through 2025.



About West Texas A&M University

WT is located in Canyon, Texas, on a 342-acre residential campus. Established in 1910, the University has been part of The Texas A&M University System since 1990. WT, a Hispanic Serving Institution since 2016, boasts an enrollment of about 10,000 and offers 59 undergraduate degree programs and more than 40 graduate degrees, including two doctoral degrees. The University is also home to the Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum, the largest history museum in the state and the home of one of the Southwest’s finest art collections. The Buffaloes are a member of the NCAA Division II Lone Star Conference and offers 14 men’s and women’s athletics programs.


Photo: West Texas A&M University students Abigail House, from left, Cassie Dorsett, Robyn Cuthbert, Quincy Nakamura and Kara Ramirez are among the team researching water quality at Lake Meredith.