Michael Harris is a PhD candidate in the Emmett Interdisciplinary Program in Environment and Resources within the School of Earth Sciences. He is working to improve public health policies and reduce societal inequalities. During his PhD, he has focused on sanitation infrastructure policies and programs in sub-Saharan to understand the costs, benefits, and child health implications of sanitation choices made by households, governments, and non-governmental organizations.

Michael focused on environmental fluid mechanics and water resource management during his B.S. and M.S. degrees in Civil in Environmental Engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology. During this time, he worked for MACTEC Engineering and Consulting on analyzing flood plains and environmental fluid mechanics for influent and effluent designs and Yellowstone National Park on water conservation and hydroelectric power. After receiving his M.S. degree, Michael transitioned into working on a water and sanitation research project for Stanford University in Tanzania focusing on child health and behavior change education. Since then, he has worked on other water, sanitation, and hygiene studies in Kenya and Bangladesh.

Michael's work has been supported by the William C. and Jeanne M. Landreth Fellowship in E-IPER, the Ewing York Foundation E-IPER Fellowship, and an EPA STAR Graduate Research Fellowship.

Current Research and Scholarly Interests

Michael hopes to identify how ecosystem services and environmental health indicators are affected by sanitation infrastructure in development scenarios as a way to push the focus beyond that of household-level sanitation.

All Publications

  • Community-Level Sanitation Coverage More Strongly Associated with Child Growth and Household Drinking Water Quality than Access to a Private Toilet in Rural Mali. Environmental science & technology Harris, M., Alzua, M. L., Osbert, N., Pickering, A. 2017


    Sanitation access can provide positive externalities; for example, safe disposal of feces by one household prevents disease transmission to households nearby. However, little empirical evidence exists to characterize the potential health benefits from sanitation externalities. This study investigated the effect of community sanitation coverage versus individual household sanitation access on child health and drinking water quality. Using a census of 121 villages in rural Mali, we analyzed the association of community latrine coverage (defined by a 200 m radius surrounding a household) and individual household latrine ownership with child growth and household stored water quality. Child height-for-age had a significant and positive linear relationship with community latrine coverage, while child weight-for-age and household water quality had nonlinear relationships that leveled off above 60% coverage (p < 0.01; generalized additive models). Child growth and water quality were not associated with individual household latrine ownership. The relationship between community latrine coverage and child height was strongest among households without a latrine; for these households, each 10% increase in latrine coverage was associated with a 0.031 (p-value = 0.040) increase in height-for-age z-score. In this study, the level of sanitation access of surrounding households was more important than private latrine access for protecting water quality and child health.

    View details for DOI 10.1021/acs.est.7b00178

    View details for PubMedID 28514143

  • Ruminants Contribute Fecal Contamination to the Urban Household Environment in Dhaka, Bangladesh ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY Harris, A. R., Pickering, A. J., Harris, M., Doza, S., Islam, M. S., Unicomb, L., Luby, S., Davis, J., Boehm, A. B. 2016; 50 (9): 4642-4649


    In Dhaka, Bangladesh, the sensitivity and specificity of three human, three ruminant, and one avian source-associated QPCR microbial source tracking assays were evaluated using fecal samples collected on site. Ruminant-associated assays performed well, whereas the avian and human assays exhibited unacceptable cross-reactions with feces from other hosts. Subsequently, child hand rinses (n = 44) and floor sponge samples (n = 44) from low-income-households in Dhaka were assayed for fecal indicator bacteria (enterococci, Bacteroidales, and Escherichia coli) and a ruminant-associated bacterial target (BacR). Mean enterococci concentrations were of 100 most probable number (MPN)/2 hands and 1000 MPN/225 cm(2) floor. Mean concentrations of Bacteroidales were 10(6) copies/2 hands and 10(5) copies/225 cm(2) floor. E. coli were detected in a quarter of hand rinse and floor samples. BacR was detected in 18% of hand rinse and 27% of floor samples. Results suggest that effective household fecal management should account not only for human sources of contamination but also for animal sources. The poor performance of the human-associated assays in the study area calls into the question the feasibility of developing a human-associated marker in urban slum environments, where domestic animals are exposed to human feces that have been disposed in pits and open drains.

    View details for DOI 10.1021/acs.est.5b06282

    View details for Web of Science ID 000375521400007

    View details for PubMedID 27045990