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Earth Materials and Health: Research Priorities for Earth Science and Public Health
To determine the distribution, survival, and transfer of plant andhuman pathogens through soil with respect to the geological framework. The historical approach for evaluating pathogens in soil has been to describe the soil composition and structure in broad agricultural categories such as “sandy clay loam,” while the geological approach to a soil has been either to simplify the microbial biomass and community into the number of colony-forming units, or simply to characterize it all as soil organic matter. Earth scientists who have examined microbial communities are almost always interested in geochemically significant guilds that perform geological functions, rather than the pathogens that are present. Collaboration would involve earth scientists who would be responsible for characterizing the biogeochemical habitat, such as the mineralogy, exchangeable cations, mobile metal species, and/or reactive geochemical surfaces, including sources of nutrients or the presence of antagonistic and/or synergistic metal species. Microbiologists would characterize the microbial community that surrounds the pathogen and examine its viability in different biogeochemical habitats. Public health specialists would examine the incidence of human and plant disease from soil pathogens as a function of the biogeochemical framework, and the role of soils in long-term survival of pathogens and as reservoirs of pathogens. This should also be examined in a bio-security context with respect to food pathogens and food safety. Finally, there is a need to evaluate the potential for plant uptake of human pathogens introduced into soils.
To improve understanding of the relationship between diseaseand metal speciation and between disease and metal-metal interaction. In this research, earth scientists would characterize metal abundance and metal speciation in soils and the mobility and availability of these metals to the biosphere; microbiologists would characterize the microbial populations and mechanisms that are responsible for metal species transitions in soil environments; and public health specialists would use spatial information on the distribution of metal speciation to examine the incidence of specific disease