Jeffrey W. Turner

Contact Information
Jeffrey W. Turner
Postdoctoral Scientist
206.860.3420 office
206.860.3467 fax

Ph.D., University of Georgia, Odum School of Ecology, 2010. Thesis adviser: Erin K. Lipp. Thesis title: Environmental factors and reservoir shifts contribute to the seasonality of pathogenic Vibrio species.

B.S., Mercer University, Chemistry, 1998.

Research Interests
If you've eaten raw seafood, especially bivalve mollusks such as oysters, or dipped a toe into the ocean, you've likely encountered Vibrio parahaemolyticus (Vp). Vp is a Gram-stain negative bacterium indigenous to coastal marine waters and the leading cause of seafood-borne bacterial gastroenteritis worldwide. Central to safeguarding the public from Vp is the ability to distinguish between virulent and avirulent strains of this bacterium. This distinction is based on the presence or absence of genes and or genetic elements, which are known to be associated with virulence. Seemingly straightforward, the control and prevention of this Vp is largely based on the screening of water and seafood for the presence or absence of a single virulence factor – the thermostable direct hemolysin (TDH). Unfortunately, not all clinical isolates elaborate TDH and additional virulence-associated factors, such as the thermostable related hemolysin (TRH) and proteins related to the type III secretion system (T3SS), can also contribute to pathogenesis.

In the Pacific Northwest (USA), traditional Vp virulence markers, such as TDH, are especially poor determinants of virulence. In a unique collaboration between Ginger Armbrust (UW’s Center for Environmental Genomics) and Mark Strom [NOAA’s West Coast Center for Oceans and Human Health (WCCOHH) at NOAA’s Northwest Fisheries Science Center], I am using sequencing by oligonucleotide ligation and detection (SOLiD) to sequence the genomes of 20 Vp strains. These strains originate from the Pacific Northwest and represent a diversity of environmental sources and include several clinical isolates. Genome – genome comparisons will aid in the identification of genes and genetic elements unique to pathogenic strains, which are locally endemic to the PNW. Once genetic features of pathogenesis are determined, future work can focus on the development of gene-specific assays to identify potentially virulent strains in environmental samples. These improved virulence assays will then be deployed onboard a marine biosensor (Environmental Sampling Processor, ESP), which will be integrated within a network of tools focused on the realization of a Vibrio early warning system.

Electron scanning microscopy of V. parahaemolyticus cells attached
to the shell of a crab. Photo courtesy of Carla Ster and Rohinee Paranjpye.

Environmental Sampling Processor (ESP) (minus instrument housing) for environmental monitoring of microbial pathogens and harmful algal blooms (HABs). The ESP was developed by the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) and manufactured by SpyGlass Biosecurity.

Please follow these links below to learn more about NOAA's West Coast Center for Oceans and Human Health (WCCOHH) and NOAA's Oceans and Human Health Initiative (OHHI).

This research is funded by NOAA's Oceans and Human Health Initiative's (OHHI) Postdoctoral Traineeship, the National Research Council's (NRC) Research Associateship Program and NOAA's Marine Biosensor Program (see NOAA's Integrated Ocean Observing System, IOOS).

Turner, J. W., L. Malayil, D. Guadognoli, D. C. Cole and E. K. Lipp (2013). Detection of Vibrio parahaemolyticus, Vibrio vulnificus and Vibrio cholerae with respect to seasonal fluctuations in temperature and plankton abundance. Environmental Microbiology doi:10.1111/1462-2920.12246.

Turner, J. W., R. N. Paranjpye, E. Landis, N. Gonzales-Escalona, W. B. Nilsson, S. V. Biryukov and M. S. Strom (2013). Population Structure of Clinical and Environmental Vibrio parahaemolyticus from the Pacific Northwest Coast of the United States. PLoS ONE 8 (2): e55726. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0055726.

Strom, M. S., R. N. Paranjpye, W. B. Nilsson, J. W. Turner, and G. K. Yanagida (2013). Pathogen update: Vibrio species. In Advances in Microbial Food Safety. 1: 97-113. J Sofos (ed), Woodhead publishink, Cambridge, U.K.

Xu, J., J. W. Turner, M. Idso, S. V. Biryukov, L. Rognstad, H. Gong, M. S. Strom and Q. Yu (2013). In situ strain level distinction of Vibrio parahaemolyticus using surface enhanced Raman spectroscopy. Analytical Chemistry 85 (5): 2630–2637.

Mote, B. L., J. W. Turner and E. K. Lipp (2012). Persistence and growth of the fecal indicator bacteria, enterococci, in detritus and natural estuarine plankton communities. Applied and Environmental Microbiology 78: 2569-2577.

Malayil, L., J. W. Turner, B. L. Mote, K. Howe and E. K. Lipp (2011). Evaluation of enrichment media for improved detection of V. cholerae and V. vulnificus from estuarine water and plankton. Journal of Applied Microbiology 110 (6): 1470-1475.

Sutherland, K. P., J. W. Porter, J. W. Turner, M. K. Meyers, M. L. Griffith, J. C. Futch and E. K. Lipp (2010). Human sewage identified as likely source of white pox disease of the threatened Caribbean elkhorn coral, Acropora palmata. Environmental Microbiology 12 (3): 112-1131

Turner, J. W., B. Good, D. Cole and E. K. Lipp (2009). Plankton composition and environmental factors contribute to Vibrio seasonality. International Society of Microbial Ecology 3:1082-1092.

Tobin-D’Angelo, M., S. Thomas, D. Cole and J. W. Turner (2007). Vibrio in Georgia. Georgia Epidemiology Report 23: 1-4.

Research Background
My diversity of research interests is unified by a central concept in that the status and health of our oceans is inextricably connected to human health. This central concept allows me to integrate my education as a chemist and an ecologist and work experience as an aquatic toxicologist with my research as a microbial ecologist. A common objective of my work has been to characterize the ecology of microorganisms in the marine environment, which adversely affect human health. Pathogenic species of the Vibrio genus, such as V. cholerae, V. parahaemolyticus and V. vulnificus, are often the focus of my research; however, my experience includes work with microbial indicators (Escherichia coli and Enterococcus faecalis) and microbial pathogens of corals (Serratia marcescens).

My dissertation research was primarily focused on describing how fluctuations in environmental factors (such as temperature and salinity) and shifts in the composition of the plankton reservoir affect the prevalence and seasonality of pathogenic Vibrio species. Results show that fluctuations in environmental factors alone were unable to account for the seasonal variation encountered in our field studies. Shifts in the abundance of plankton taxa were strong Vibrio drivers. In particular, seasonal variation in the abundance of diatoms, copepods and decapods appear to play a temperature-independent role in the observed Vibrio seasonality. In sum, this research suggests that future Vibrio predictive models could be improved through characterizing Vibrio prevalence in the context of environmental factors as well as bloom formation and shifts in the abundance and life history of specific plankton taxa.

Turner.dissertation.pdf1.44 MB
Turner.CV_.09272013.pdf117.82 KB