The Japan Ministry of Education established a Center of Excellence (COE) program in 1995 to develop international academic centers in specific research fields. Under this program, The Department of Urban and Environmental Engineering, University of Tokyo was awarded a five-year grant to establish a COE for the Establishment and Evaluation of Advanced Water Treatment Technology Systems using Functions of Complex Microbial Communities. The aim of this program is to understand microbial structures and functions in biological water and wastewater treatment processes, and to integrate engineering and microbiology for the development of efficient and safe water management systems.
This program has entered its fifth year and each year there is a symposium to review the results of the program and to invite selected experts working on related issues. Besides making presentations, the experts are asked to critique the results. The COE symposium for 2000 was held at the University of Tokyo from March 6-8, 2000. Approximately 200 people attended. Most of the attendees were from the Tokyo area however, all presentations were in English. Many of the graduate students who atttended came from other countries (eg. China, Korea, Thailand, Phillipines, India, Bangladesh, Europe) and English served as the common language of communication. Seven experts were invited to make presentations at this year's symposium. The travel and living expenses of the invited speakers were covered by the COE program. The invited speakers came from the University of Hong Kong, National Central University of Taiwan, University of Osaka, University of the Netherlands and three from the US (James Tiedje, Michigan State University, Charles Gerba, University of Arizona, and Roger Fujioka, University of Hawaii).
Dr. Fujioka presented the results of a USEPA funded project which served as the Ph.D. research topic for Murulee Byappanahalli. The presentation was entitled, Microbial Ecology Controls the Establishment of Fecal Bacteria in Tropical Soil Environment. Dr. Fujioka was the featured speaker on the special symposium topic of Water and Wastewater Issues in Tropical and Subtropical Countries. This paper presented a theoretical basis for the multiplication of fecal indicator bacteria (E. coli, enterococci) in tropical soils which has been documented in Hawaii and Guam. The significance of this study is two-fold. First, it predicts that multiplication of fecal indicators occurs in soil in many warm and humid tropical environments. Second, if this is true, current water quality standards may not be useful in these environments.