MAREK KIRSAssociate Researcher, WRRC

Office: Holmes Hall 281
Phone: (808) 956-8272
Fax: (808) 956-5044

MAREK KIRSAssociate Researcher, WRRC

Marek update headshot

PHONE: (808) 956-8272
FAX: (808) 956-5044


  • PhD, University of Rhode Island
  • MS, University of Edinburgh
  • BS, University of Tartu, Estonia


  • Environmental microbiology
  • Microbial source tracking
  • Quantitative PCR
  • Recreational water quality
  • Rapid methods for the quantification of enterococci

Marek Kirs is an Asscociate Researcher at Water Resources Research Center. His academic and research areas of expertise include water microbiology, ecology, public health, microbial source tracking, and taxonomy and systematics.

Dr. Kirs’s research focuses on microbiology and related public health issues with the overarching goal of improving water environments and public health. His research projects cover a wide range of aquatic environments and issues and are typically guided by the State of Hawaiʻi’s needs and interests. He is currently working on projects ranging in topics from biological and sediment monitoring, application of a qPCR based test for enterococci as a rapid beach management tool in Hawaiʻi, and microbial communities and sources of bacteria in Honolulu’s drinking water supply.

Dr. Kirs earned his Ph.D. in Biological Sciences from the University of Rhode Island in Kingston, Rhode Island. He earned an M.S. with distinction in Taxonomy and Biodiversity from the University of Edinburgh in Edinburgh, Scotland and a B.S. in Biological Sciences from the University of Tartu in Estonia.

Click here for Marek Kirs Faculty Spotlight


The Biological and Sediment Study on Marine Communities Near the City’s Ocean Sewer Outfalls

Annual biological and sediment studies (benthic organisms, coral reefs and fishes) determine the impact of ocean outfall discharges, if any, on the marine environment. Also, annual fish liver histopathology studies are used to determine the effects of treated wastewater discharge on fish caught near the outfall diffusers.

Fecal Indicators and Their Associated Health Risk in American Samoa’s Watersheds

The goal of this project is to improve surface water monitoring programs in American Samoa by validating methods capable of discriminating between contaminations sources and investigating the health risk association of pathogen indicators in selected watersheds on Tutuila island.

The Microbiological Water Quality of Oahu Beaches

Sampling at Ala Moana Beach
This project evaluates O‘ahu’s microbial coastal water quality. Nine hundred eighty (980) water samples will be collected over a twelve-month period. These samples will be analyzed for the indicator bacteria enterococci and Clostridium perfringens. Molecular tests will be used to identify sources of microbial contaminants when the water quality is compromised.

Evaluation of Pepper Mild Mottle Viruses as a Sewage Marker in Hawai‘i

Watershed and sampling site locations
The goal of this study is to evaluate whether pepper mild mottle viruses (PMMV) can be used to track sewage contamination in Hawai‘i water environments.

Fecal Indicators and Associated Health Risk in Hawai‘i’s Recreational Waters: A Quantitative Microbial Risk Assessment Study

Processing samples
The goal of this project is to assess human health risk associated with the current and alternative fecal indicator levels in Hawai‘i’s coastal waters, and potentially support development of an alternative recreational water quality criteria in Hawai‘i, if warranted.

The Microbiological Water Quality of Ko Olina Lagoons

Water samples collected from the four lagoons at the Ko Olina resort.
Good water quality, based on fecal indicator bacteria and nutrient analyses, was observed in all four Ko Olina lagoons over the study period (01/14/19–11/12/19). Dinoflagellate (cf. Gymnodinium) blooms were detected in two of the lagoons. Saxitoxin levels were low in all four lagoons and not associated with the blooms.

Rapid Response: Application of a qPCR-based Test for Enterococci as a Rapid Beach Management Tool in HawaiiRapid Response: Application of a qPCR-based Test for Enterococci as a Rapid Beach Management Tool in Hawaii

Over eight million tourists visit Hawaii every year. Hawaii is ranked third in the US for number of beach visitors and Hawaii’s beaches see heavy use year round.

Addressing Sewage Contamination of Nawiliwili Streams and Kalapaki Beach

SPONSOR: National Institute for Water Resources, Water Resources Research Institute Program PROJECT PERIOD: 3/1/2011 – 2/28/2013 ABSTRACT: The first objective of this project was to train the Center’s new microbiologist and familiarize him with Hawaiian conditions following the 2009 retirement…

Evaluation of Rapid QPCR Method for Enterococci with Correlative Assessment for Molecular Markers for Sewage Contamination in Selected Environmental Water Samples from Hawaii

SPONSOR: National Institute for Water Resources, Water Resources Research Institute Program PROJECT PERIOD: 6/1/2012 – 2/29/2013 ABSTRACT: This project evaluated rapid qPCR test for enterococci and microbial source tracking technology in Hawaii. Tests for current and alternative microbial indicators were conducted in…

Evaluation of Next-Generation Sequencing Technologies for Environmental Monitoring: Characterization of Microbial Communities from Wastewater Plants and Selected Beaches of Hawaii Using a Metagenomics Approach

SPONSOR: National Institute for Water Resources, Water Resources Research Institute Program PROJECT PERIOD: 3/1/2013 – 2/28/2014 ABSTRACT: Microbes are the most abundant and diverse group of organisms on Earth and the major drivers of biogeochemical cycles in all environments. Hence…