Date Available


Year of Publication


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Document Type



Arts and Sciences


Earth and Environmental Sciences (Geology)

First Advisor

Dr. Alan E. Fryar


A novel tracer method has used 15N to label Escherichia coli and track the transport of bacteria, a common contaminant, through karst aquifers. Use of this method could provide valuable insight into the movement of bacteria in aquifers, which would help improve remediation methods and strategies. A wild strain of E. coli was isolated from the Cane Run/Royal Spring basin in the Inner Bluegrass region of Kentucky. The strain was serotyped O-:H- and virulence testing showed the strain did not have virulence factors of E. coli commonly pathogenic to humans. Five karst microcosms were filled with sterilized water collected from Royal Spring in Georgetown, Kentucky. Each microcosm was inoculated with wild-type E. coli, enriched in 15N, and incubated at 14° C for 130 days. The microcosms were periodically sampled for the concentration and nitrogen isotope composition of E. coli over 130 days. The E. coli survived at concentrations within one log of the average initial value of 5.62×1010 for the duration of the study. Statistical modeling showed no significant difference in δ15N values from day 1 and day 130. This strain is therefore recommended for traces in the Cane Run/Royal Spring basin.