Group Leader: Caroline Gaus
Senior collaborators: Jochen Mueller, Beate Escher

Objective

To understand contaminant formation, transport and fate processes, and to quantify how these influence human and wildlife exposure and associated risks across different spatial, climatic and temporal scales.

Research Framework  

 

Long-term Objectives

  • To inform anthropogenic contaminant management strategies that protect the environment and human health, using strategic and applied research.
  • To improve predictions on contaminant behaviour and risks, founded on innovative field and laboratory studies, state-of-the-art analytical and modelling approaches.
  • To investigate impacts of chemical stressors on wildlife populations within a multidisciplinary framework.

Goals 2012-2016

  • To advance qualitative and quantitative understanding of how source release pathways, co-contaminants, and environmental factors impact the distribution and fate of chemicals, with focus on tropical agricultural regions, marine and groundwater resources.
  • To develop suitable approaches for evaluating wildlife exposure and sensitivity to organic and inorganic contaminants.
  • To quantify the contribution of environmental transformation/formation processes to global POP releases.
  • To expand our capabilities in state-of-the-art modelling techniques regarding chemical fate, processes and risks.
  • To enhance our analytical capabilities for non-target and emerging contaminants in low contaminated and complex matrices.


Some recent highlights

The Rivers to Reef to Turtles Project …

Green turtles (Chelonia mydas) are an iconic species found on the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) that play an important role in maintaining healthy ecosystems. Because green turtles forage and breed in concentrated areas where marine and terrestrial systems are closely linked, coastal populations are exposed to the potential impacts of land-based activity.
 
Land adjacent to the GBR has experienced many changes since the early 20th century, leading to extensive clearing (mostly for agriculture and urban development). This activity has greatly increased the sediment and nutrient load entering coastal waters, along with pollutants like pesticides, heavy metals and hydrocarbons from agricultural, urban and industrial development. We don’t yet fully understand the effect of these contaminants on local turtle populations.
 
The Rivers to Reefs to Turtles project is working to identify correlations between green turtle health and marine water quality. In this way, we hope to improve our understanding of potential consequences of coastal pollution and work to better protect these magnificent marine creatures and their habitats.
 
The Rivers to Reefs to Turtles project is supported by Banrock Station Environmental Trust and is a collaborative partnership between, WWF-Australia, ENTOX and VetMARTI (The University of Queensland), TropWATER (James Cook University), Queensland Governments, and the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority.

 For more information and project updates visit: WWF

To view the latest internet sensation - an endangered green turtle swimming on the Great Barrier Reef Turtle Cam.  Filmed via a Go Pro camera attached to her back by suction cup.

 

ARC Discovery grant on “Unintentional surfactant facilitated solubilisation and transport of apparently immobile chemicals” (2012-2014)


This research investigates poorly understood mechanisms by
which apparently immobile contaminants can migrate through soil to groundwater (Figure 1). Such transport can be facilitated by surfactants, which find widespread application in industrial, urban and agricultural products. Surfactants can fundamentally change the behaviour of chemicals, allowing the least mobile to rapidly reach groundwater. Field evidence indicates that surfactant facilitated transport may occur across a variety of land-use areas, posing risks for human and environmental exposure. In collaboration with Dr Michael Finkel at the University of Tübingen and Prof Beate Escher at Entox, The University of Queensland, we propose an integrated experimental and modelling approach to understand, quantify and predict the extent of this phenomenon relevant to conditions under which surfactants are commonly released.


ARC International Collaboration Award with Dr Michael Finkel, University of Tübingen (2012)

Michael is the developer of the mathematical model SMART for simulating the coupled transport of organic contaminants and surfactants. SMART (Streamtube Model for Advective and Reactive Transport) is a multicomponent transport model that builds on a Lagrangian method and allows separate treatment of conservative transport and reactive processes. It accounts for the hydraulic as well as physico-chemical heterogeneity of porous media. This ICA facilitates collaboration with Michael to develop and validate a mechanistic model that describes surfactant facilitated transport of superhydrophobic organic compounds. For more information on Michael’s research, visit http://www.d-site.uni-tuebingen.de/pages/dsite.htm

 

 

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