Paul Bierman's Environmental Perspective of 26 Cuban Rivers

May 3rd, 2019

Today, Paul Bierman ’85 of the geology department at University of Vermont gave a Log Lunch talk on his work on 26 of Cuba’s rivers.

Paul Bierman (left) with his daughter Marika, a student at Williams

With a small cohort of Cubans and American scientists and college students (including his daughter, Marika), the group navigated geopolitical tensions to administer basic water quality tests to a region in central Cuba over the course of a week. They found E. Coli to be the most prominent water quality issue in the rivers sampled, which they traced back to Ungulates. This makes sense, because horses and other farm animals are often in the area’s rivers and probably excreting waste. Surprisingly, locals swim and interact with the water in other ways, suggesting that their biota have adapted to these conditions.

95% of Cuba’s water isn’t treated, but Cubans haven’t been showing obvious signs of negative impact from levels of E. Coli that are considered very hazardous in the US.

There was a lot to be learned from the trip–in terms of science as well as culture, teamwork, and togetherness in equal measure.



—Jane Tekin ’19