North Carolina Sea Grant

July 24, 2018 | Dave Shaw

Photo courtesy UNCG Research Magazine

From the next issue of Coastwatch.

A North Carolina Sea Grant/Water Resources Research Institute fellow has detected antibiotics in samples from groundwater and streams in three N.C. counties.

Austin Gray — a doctoral student in environmental health science at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro — sampled properties in Alamance, Randolph and Guilford counties. Mass spectrophotometry revealed antibiotics in the surface water of streams, in stream sediment and in the groundwater.

The results suggest that antibiotic pollution in these counties could affect human health. In a recent interview with UNCG Research Magazine, Gray explained that exposure could cause people to become resistant to antibiotics, rendering the drugs ineffective.

“There is also concern that antibiotics in the water can change microbial functions, which play key roles in the nitrogen cycle, carbon cycle and methane cycle,” said Gray, who presented his research in Europe earlier this year.

Gray was one of five recipients of the 2017 Sea Grant and WRRI joint research fellowship, which focuses on diverse audiences who have been underserved and underrepresented. This competitive funding opportunity is expected to open again in August to graduate students across the state.

“Research like Austin’s is exactly what we were striving for when we designed this joint fellowship,” says Nicole Wilkinson, WRRI’s coordinator for research and outreach. “We’re encouraged by the success of this funding in supporting students who are doing important work in often overlooked communities. I’m excited to see what the next round of applications brings.”

Read more about this and other funding opportunities at and

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