Mahurin Honors College Capstone Experience/Thesis Projects


Geography and Geology

Additional Departmental Affiliation


Document Type



The overuse of antibiotics has led to an increase in antibiotic resistant bacteria since some antibiotics are sent into the wastewater system by waste produced by both humans and agriculture, making exposure to these bacteria more likely. The evolution of these bacteria in groundwater is of particular concern, as groundwater is used as a source of drinking water, and infections by these bacteria would be more difficult to treat. There are no policies in place to monitor or regulate antibiotic resistance bacteria in groundwater, leaving the threat to public health unknown. The study area of Crumps Cave in Smiths Grove, Kentucky, located beneath agricultural land, is useful for examining the bacteria in the groundwater to determine if agricultural waste (fertilizer use) has an impact on the antibiotic resistant gene presence in bacteria, particularly E. coli. DNA isolated from these bacteria is used to determine the presence of antibiotic resistant genes (ARGs) for common antibiotics, and the exact concentration of certain genes present, using polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and digital droplet PCR (ddPCR), respectively. Trends between the concentration of antibiotic resistant bacteria (ARB) in the groundwater and the disposal of manure can be determined and used to inform best management practices for amendment application in agricultural karst settings.

Advisor(s) or Committee Chair

Jason Polk, Ph.D.


Agriculture | Biogeochemistry | Biology | Hydrology