Early Career: The hazards of Extreme Climatic Events: Predicting Impacts

EPA Grant Number: R835188
Title: Early Career: The hazards of Extreme Climatic Events: Predicting Impacts
Investigators: Rohr, Jason R.
Institution: University of South Florida
EPA Project Officer: Hiscock, Michael
Project Period: June 1, 2012 through May 31, 2016
Project Amount: $374,936
RFA: Extreme Event Impacts on Air Quality and Water Quality with a Changing Global Climate (2011) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Air Quality and Air Toxics , Global Climate Change , Water and Watersheds , Climate Change , Air , Water


One of the greatest threats to water quality is water-borne pathogens, which are more common now than they have been historically. A factor implicated in the emergence of water-borne diseases is climate change-driven increases in extreme climatic events. Although climatic extremes have regularly been linked to changes in water quality and disease outbreaks, few generalities have materialized for how temperature variability/extremes affect water quality. We hypothesize that the faster metabolism and smaller size of parasites than hosts allows them to acclimate more quickly to unpredictable temperature shifts and extremes, providing parasites with an advantage in a more climatically variable environment. My colleagues and I have gathered considerable preliminary evidence in support of this hypothesis, suggesting that we are approaching a general and predictive mechanistic theory for how temperature variability and extremes affect host-pathogen interactions and thus water quality. In this grant, I propose to more thoroughly evaluate the generality of our findings by testing the hypothesis across spatial and temporal scales and host and pathogen types. I subsequently will enhance water quality models by incorporating approaches to predict when and where climate change-induced extreme events will affect disease risk and water quality.


The goal of this grant is to develop tools to predict how climatic variability and extremes which are increasing with global climate change, will affect water quality by altering water-borne disease risk for wildlife and humans. The specific objectives are to:

  1. Characterize climatic extremes and probabilities of extreme events occurring together.
  2. Determine the generality of the hypothesis that extreme events will increase water-borne pathogens by testing for associations between these factors across spatial and temporal scales and host and pathogen types, including zoonotic pathogens that infect humans.
  3. Quantify how extreme climatic events that occur together affect disease risk (temperature and precipitation interactions).
  4. Develop predictive models to identify locations and times where water quality and disease risk are impacted so that mitigating measures can be appropriately targeted and sustainable systems can be developed.

Expected Results:

By identifying how, when, and where climate change will compromise water quality by increasing wildlife and human exposure to pathogens, this proposal is directly relevant to Goal 4 of the US EPA's Strategic Plan and to the US EPA's responsibility to uphold the Safe Drinking Water and Clean Water Acts.

Publications and Presentations:

Publications have been submitted on this project: View all 57 publications for this project

Journal Articles:

Journal Articles have been submitted on this project: View all 57 journal articles for this project

Supplemental Keywords:

Aeromonas hydrophila, amphibians, Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, climate change, conservation, E. coli 0157:H7, Salmonella enterica

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 2012 Progress Report
  • 2013 Progress Report
  • 2014 Progress Report
  • Final Report