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Howard I. Kator

Faculty Emeritus

Retired: 2013
Department: Aquatic Health Sciences
Email: [[kator]]
Interests: Environmental microbiology; public health risks.

  • B.S., Harpur College
  • Ph.D., Florida State University
Research Interests

My research interests involve various aspects of environmental microbiology.  A dominant interest is the ecology of autochthononus bacteria and virus in estuarine waters, especially indicators of fecal contamination.  This interest provides multiple research opportunities to examine the validity of selected microorganisms as indicators of sewage or fecal contamination, to evaluate their methods of detection, and to establish their applicability for regulatory use in the context of classifying waters for the harvesting of molluscan shellfish or recreational use.  Such studies focus on the effects of various biological, physical, and chemical factors on the detection, survival and persistence of these indicators as they interact in fresh and estuarine waters.  We have engaged in studies to evaluate sources of and ecological factors affecting the persistence of candidate bacteriophage indicators in estuarine waters.  Studies have evaluated the effects of light, temperature, salinity, and interactions with the autochthonous microbiota on viral persistence and recovery.  Bacteriophage indicators have been chosen for study because they possess characteristics that more closely parallel those of enteric viral pathogens.  Such information is needed by regulatory agencies to develop new indicators and standards to protect the public health from risk of enteric disease in waters used for recreational purposes and for shellfish harvesting.

Other efforts continue to focus on methods to differentiate sources of fecal contamination in shellfish growing water.  Proposed studies will now focus on the use of cultural/molecular methods to determine sources of fecal coliforms/Escherichia coli (bacterial source tracking or BST) in shellfish receiving waters and the application of new technologies to the TMDL process.

A second dominant research interest concerns the ecology of microorganisms causing diseases in fish.  Studies are now underway to understand the ecology of water molds, particularly Aphanomyces spp., that are pathogenic toward estuarine species such as menhaden.  We are also involved in collaborative research to identify and assess the pathogenicity of the so-called atypical environmental mycobacteria responsible for an ongoing epizootic of mycobacteriosis in striped bass of the Chesapeake Bay.  Other collaborative efforts now proceeding are directed toward the development and application of molecular methods for the detection and identification of these pathogens.

Current Projects
  • Mycobacteriosis in Striped Bass.  Funded by USGS, National Fish Health Laboratory.  Co-PI with Wolfgang Vogelbein.
  • Selection and testing of a oligonucleotide probe for identification of Streptococcus bovis as an animal fecal indicator and identification of sequence data for future ribotyping and PCR applications.  Co-PI with S. Kotob and M. Rhodes.  Funded by the Virginia Water Resources Research Center.
  • ECOHAB- Pfiesteria or fungus?  Etiology of lesions in menhaden.  Funded by the Ecology and Oceanography of Harmful Algal Blooms (ECOHAB) Joint Program.  Co-PI with J. Shields, W. Vogelbein, and L Haas.
  • Nutrient Reduction Tributary Strategy. Funded by the Va. Dept. of Environmental Quality.  Co-PI with I.C. Anderson, K. A. Moore, and L. Haas.
  • Categorization of shellfish TMDL sites.  Funded by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality/EPA.  Co-PI with Carl Hershner.
Selected Publications
  • Kator, H. and M. W. Rhodes.  2001.  Elimination of fecal coliforms and FRNA coliphage from oysters (Crassostrea virginica) relaid in floating containers.  J. Food Protect. (in press)
  • Rhodes. M. W., H. Kator, S. Kotob, P. van Berkum, I. Kaattari, W. Vogelbein, M. M. Floyd, W. Ray Butler, F. D. Quinn, C. Ottinger, and E. Shotts.  2001.  A unique Mycobacterium species isolated from an epizootic of striped bass.  Emerging Infectious Diseases (in press).
  • Rhodes, M. W. and H. Kator.  1999.  Sorbitol-fermenting bifidobacteria as indicators of diffuse human fecal pollution in estuarine watersheds.  J. Appl. Bact. 87:528-535.
  • Shabman, L., C. Hershner, H. Kator, E. Smith, L. Smock, T. Younos, S. Yu, and C. Zipper.  1998.  Report of the Water Quality Academic Advisory Committee.  Virginia Water Resources Research Center Special Report No. SR8-1998.
  • Vogelbein, W.,  D. E. Zwerner, H. Kator, M. Rhodes, S. Kotob and M. Faisal.  1998.  Mycobacteriosis in striped bass, Morone saxatilis, from Chesapeake Bay.  Third International Symposium on Aquatic Animal Health.  August 30-September 3, 1998, Baltimore, Maryland.
  • Rhodes, M. W. and H. Kator.  1997.  Enumeration of Enterococcus sp. using a modified mE method.  J. Appl. Microbiol. 83:120-126.
Courses Taught / Teaching
  • MS 573: Environmental Microbiology
  • MS 575: Aquatic Microbial Ecology
  • MS 655: Methods in Aquatic Microbial Ecology