Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Civil and Environmental Engineering

Document Type



Norovirus outbreaks can cause the closure of oyster harvesting waters and acute gastroenteritis in humans associated with consumption of contaminated raw oysters. The overall goal of this study was to develop a satellite-assisted forecasting system for oyster norovirus outbreaks. The forecasting system is comprised of three components: (1) satellite algorithms for retrieval of environmental variables, including salinity, temperature, and gage height, (2) an Artificial Neural Network (ANN) based model, called NORF model, for predicting relative risk levels of oyster norovirus outbreaks, and (3) a mapping method for visualizing spatial distributions of norovirus outbreak risks in oyster harvest areas along Louisiana coast. The new satellite algorithms, characterized with linear correlation coefficient ranging from 0.7898 to 0.9076, make it possible to produce spatially distributed daily data with a high resolution (1 kilometer) for salinity, temperature, and gage height in coastal waters. Findings from this study suggest that oyster norovirus outbreaks are predictable, and in Louisiana oyster harvest areas, the NORF model predicted historical outbreaks from 1994 - 2014 without any confirmed false positive or false negative predictions when the estimated relative risk level was > 0.6, while no outbreak occurred when the risk level was < 0.5. However, more outbreak data are needed to confirm the threshold for norovirus outbreaks. Gage height and temperature were the most important environmental predictors of oyster norovirus outbreaks while wind, rainfall, and salinity also predicted norovirus outbreaks. The ability to predict oyster norovirus outbreaks at their onset makes it possible to prevent or at least reduce the risk of norovirus outbreaks by closing potentially affected oyster beds. By combining the NORF model with the remote sensing algorithms created in this dissertation, it is possible to map oyster norovirus outbreak risks in all oyster growing waters and particularly in the areas without direct measurements of relevant environmental variables, greatly expanding the coverage and enhancing the effectiveness of oyster monitoring programs. The hot spot (risk) maps, constructed using the methods developed in this dissertation, make it possible for oyster monitoring programs to manage oyster harvest waters more efficiently by focusing on hot spot areas with limited resources.



Document Availability at the Time of Submission

Release the entire work immediately for access worldwide.

Committee Chair

Deng, Zhiqiang