Antibiotic resistance and foodborne disease present an escalating public health crisis, with agriculture production systems identified as a critical control point. However, antibiotic resistance and foodborne pathogens are increasing even in remote locations far from agricultural production, and our understanding of how human food waste from agricultural products may contribute to the movement of antibiotic resistance and foodborne pathogens across landscapes is meager. This project investigates how human food waste contributes to the movement of antibiotic resistance and foodborne pathogens and how we can manage these interactions across socioenvironmental systems. It will create new theoretical and practical knowledge regarding these issues and create new forecasting tools that can be used to manage the spread of agricultural-associated antibiotic resistant, foodborne pathogens. Project goals include: 1) Producing cross-scale, multisector longitudinal data sets, 2) Identifying key system processes, interactions, feedbacks, and control points, and 3) Developing new knowledge, theory, and tools that are generalizable and can be used to predict and forecast management needs in urban planning, waste management, sustainable development, public health, and land management. Tools evolving from this work will be useful for managing the retail sale and movement of agricultural products, human food waste, and scavenging wildlife across urban and protected landscapes. The educational and training activities associated with this project will support the development of a new generation of researchers focused on issues related to coupled natural-human systems.

Antibiotic resistance and foodborne disease outbreaks are a significant public health threat and growing environmental challenge in the United States and across the globe; however, we lack clear understanding of the non-linear processes that drive the dissemination of antibiotic resistant, foodborne pathogens across socio-environmental systems, including within remote landscapes without commercial agriculture. This project will advance understanding regarding: 1) if and how transportation of agricultural products and human food waste disposal drives novel antibiotic resistant, foodborne pathogen introduction and dispersal, and 2) if and how interactions and feedbacks at different spatial, temporal, and biological scales influence the health of human and animal communities and ecosystem function within and between integrated socio-environmental systems. Field data from aquatic and terrestrial landscapes will be integrated with laboratory studies that feed into a bioeconomic modeling framework to capture feedback loops among human decisions, animal community dynamics, environmental conditions, antibiotic resistance, foodborne pathogen transmission, and health impacts. This framework will be used to test hypotheses, characterize interactions and emergent phenomena, and identify critical leverage points to halt the transmission of food waste-associated antibiotic resistant foodborne pathogens through integrated socio-environmental systems. Overall, this research advances understanding of disease transmission and antibiotic resistance in coupled natural-human systems.

This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Behavioral and Cognitive Sciences (BCS)
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Wenda K. Bauchspies
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United States
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