Senior Scientist Dr. Megan (Meg) Devane is one of ESR's environmental microbiologists.
Meg has a Masters (with distinction) in Microbiology and a PhD in Water Resource Management from the University of Canterbury.
Meg specialises in the identification of the sources of faecal contamination in waterways and the environmental transmission routes of infectious disease.
Meg often works with local councils to help them meet their obligations under the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management. As part of this, she’s been at the cutting edge of developing microbial and chemical tools for evaluating water quality.
Recent research has identified E. coli-like bacteria that are not able to be distinguished from faecal E. coli using the standard water quality monitoring tests. These E. coli-like bacteria persist in soil and sediment, but are rarely found in faeces and are likely to confound water quality results using the current testing methods. Meg is collaborating with other research organisations on a project to investigate tools that discriminate between E. coli and the E. coli-like microbes. Implementation of these tools would assist regional councils, water managers and agricultural industries to more accurately undertake water quality health assessments and urban/agricultural mitigation strategies.
Some of her research work has also been focused on post-earthquake impacts on the Avon River in Christchurch and the transmission of pathogens in recreational water during and after sewage discharges.
Sampling sediment and water in the Avon River post the earthquakes in Christchurch.
For a rural aspect to her research, Meg has been studying the persistence of bacteria and faecal source tracking markers in cowpats decomposing in paddocks, and how those bacteria are transported to waterways from the cowpats.
Making simulated cowpats.
Meg is also involved in finding ways to keep our waterways clean.
"Right now ESR is working with the University of Canterbury and other researchers on a project to find ways to protect waterways on a number of Canterbury farms. The farmers have been extremely engaged on this project and we are seeing some good results that could eventually lead to changes in farm management practices around the country," she says.
With 20 years’ experience as an ESR scientist, Meg has also held scientific positions at the University of Canterbury, Christchurch Public Hospital and Lincoln University.