Questions for ‘Beaches can be a germy playground’

Beaches are popular sites for picnics and play. But keep in mind that both the water and sand can host a lot of germs.

Henry Burrows / Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

To accompany feature “Beaches can be a germy playground” 


Before Reading:

1. This story is about beaches and germs. Where do you think the germs might come from that live on beaches?

2. What are germs? Name at least five diseases that they can cause.

During Reading

1.  What is a substrate?     

2.  What are biofilms and what is their role in microbial communities?

3.  Where do a beach’s germs tend to come from? Name at least four potential sources.

4.  What evidence did Joan Rose’s team uncover to suggest septic tanks are a possible threat to beaches?

5. Explain the idea of bioindicator microbes. Are they toxic? What makes health officials care about whether they are present?

6. Why does Helena Solo-Gabriele argue that measuring microbial contamination of beach sand is harder than measuring it in water?

7. What is wrack, based on the context of beaches?

8. What’s the role of wave action in affecting microbial contamination in coastal waters? Use the Florida data in the article to explain those impacts.

9. The beaches on which body of water in the Solo-Gabriele research tended to have more frequent spikes of high bacteria?

After Reading

1.  Now that you know a bit about how germs can enter beach sand and form a relatively long-lasting community there, consider what types of beaches are likely to be least hospitable to the germs. Use what you learned in the story to identify at least four features of an environment that will tend to lower the likelihood that a beach will host loads of disease-causing germs.

2.  After reading the story, which area(s) within a beach would you expect to be least likely to host bacteria? Describe the features of that site in terms of its landscape, distance from the shoreline and any wrack that collects.