Mailed 2/28/97


Upton, NY-- Rita R. Colwell, a microbiologist and marine scientist who is President of the University of Maryland Biotechnology Institute, will give a lecture on "Tracking Global Epidemics: Cholera as a Paradigm," at the U.S. Department of Energy's Brookhaven National Laboratory on Thursday, March 20, at 4 p.m. in the Laboratory's Berkner Hall. The lecture is the third in the BNL 50th Anniversary Distinguished Lecture Series, which features talks on various topics throughout 1997 to celebrate Brookhaven's beginning a half-century ago. The talks are open to the public free of charge.

Cholera is an infectious disease, epidemics of which were described in Asia and have occurred in other continents. Caused by the bacterium Vibrio cholerae, the gastrointestinal illness has led to thousands of deaths in outbreaks mostly in underdeveloped countries. The disease is spread by contaminated water, and linkage of the bacterium with plankton, or tiny aquatic plants and animals, has been discovered.

Recently, remote sensing by satellite and computer processing have been used to confirm the relationship of the cholera bacterium with plankton, as well as sea surface temperature, ocean height and currents. Data for Bangladesh indicate that cholera cases are numerous when the ocean height is high and the sea surface temperature is elevated. On the other hand, when the height of the ocean and its surface temperature are low, little or no cholera is recorded.

Dr. Colwell will describe how the relationship between global climate and cholera was discovered and how this may lead to predicting conditions conducive to disease outbreaks. Ultimately, research in this area may lead to prevention of cholera epidemics.

Rita R. Colwell received a B.S. and an M.S. both degrees in genetics from Purdue University in 1956 and 1958, respectively. After receiving a Ph.D. in marine microbiology from the University of Washington in 1961, she joined the faculty of that university. In 1964, she went to Georgetown University, where she was on the faculty until she joined the University of Maryland in 1972 as a microbiology professor. Under her leadership, the University's Sea Grant Program was designated a National Sea Grant College in 1983. She assumed her current position in 1991.

Awarded many honorary degrees and scientific awards, including the International Institute of Biotechnology Gold Medal in 1990, and, most recently, Barnard College's Medal of Distinction in 1996, Dr. Colwell has also served numerous times as a consultant to government, universities and industry. From 1984-1990, she was a Presidential Appointee to the National Science Board. She was President of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 1995-96, as well as former President of both the American Society for Microbiology and the International Union of Microbiological Societies. Dr. Colwell is the author of 16 books and more than 450 scientific papers.

For more information on the lecture, call Brookhaven's Public Affairs Office at (516)344-2345. The Laboratory is located on William Floyd Parkway (County Road 46), one-and-a-half miles north of Exit 68 on the Long Island Expressway.

Brookhaven National Laboratory carries out basic and applied research in physical, biomedical and environmental sciences and in selected energy technologies. Associated Universities, Inc., a nonprofit research management organization, operates the Laboratory under contract with the U.S. Department of Energy.