Grandfather and grandson strolling through Dutch countryside

Thesis subject

Climate change impacts on waterborne pathogens and disease

The Environmental Systems Analysis Group provides the possibility for students to do their thesis in collaboration with our group. This is one of many possible thesis subjects. Please feel free to contact dr. Hofstra (right) for more information.

In low-income countries diarrhea is the third leading cause of death and also in developing countries diarrhea may be transmitted through drinking, irrigation and recreation water. Waterborne pathogens in surface water are main causes for diarrhea. Global environmental change may impact on the concentration of waterborne pathogens in the surface water and on the risk of disease caused by these pathogens. 

Dr. Hofstra's research focuses on the distribution of waterborne pathogens and disease worldwide and changes due to global environmental change. She uses models for her research and uses other people’s data that are already available. Great opportunities exist for MSc students to study this emerging field of research in an MSc thesis. 

Below you find the general topic, but also some examples of more specific thesis topics. These topics could be worked out for the Netherlands, but also for other parts of the world or worldwide. Feel free to also suggest your own related topic.

General topics:

  • Water quality and human health
  • Climate and other environmental changes and human health
  • Waterborne pathogen concentrations now and in the future
  • Risk of diarrheal disease caused by these pathogens now and in the future
  • Process-based or statistical modelling
  • Risk assessment, scenario analysis

Examples of specific topics are:

  • Relationship between waterborne pathogen concentrations in surface water and climate variables (temperature and precipitation)
  • Relationship between cases of diarrhoea and climate variables (specifically interesting for students from developing countries)
  • Relationship between land use (for instance grazing land) and waterborne pathogen concentrations in surface water
  • Impact of the presence of waste water treatment plants on waterborne pathogen concentrations in surface water
  • The contribution of septic tanks to waterborne pathogen concentrations in surface water
  • Impact of sewer overflows on waterborne pathogen concentrations in surface water
  • Impact of farming management on waterborne pathogen concentrations in surface water
  • Downscaling waterborne pathogen concentrations and health risk in space and time
  • Urban water quality
  • Modelling of waterborne pathogen concentrations in river basins or worldwide for other pathogens that have been already studied or by improving model parts
  • Export of waterborne pathogens by rivers in relation to the concentrations of these pathogens in bivalves in estuaries (depending on data availability)
  • Quantitative microbial risk assessment – relating the concentrations of pathogens in surface water to the risk of disease – and how this QMRA changes due to climate and other environmental changes
  • Seasonality of food-borne pathogens prevalence/concentration in livestock
  • Modelling of food-borne pathogens prevalence/concentration in irrigation system for vegetables
  • Time series analysis and spatial correlation analysis of E. coli concentrations in Kabul river in Pakistan to understand peaks in relation with floods (together with statistics)
  • Development of comprehensive scenarios (including sanitation, waste water treatment development, agricultural management) to study future waterborne pathogen concentrations and related health risk.