Research Impact


Safeguarding our waterways

Informing the science underpinning Australia’s sediment and water quality guidelines

A partnership between UOW and the CSIRO is influencing the way that environmental impact assessments and remediation targets are being established. The research spans geographical regions from tropical mining sites in New Caledonia through to the Antarctic.

Professor Dianne Jolley, from the UOW School of Chemistry, and CSIRO colleagues Dr Stuart Simpson and Dr Jenny Stauber, forged a collaboration based on shared research goals and complementary expertise beginning formally in 2001 with a partnership to co-supervise two honours students.

Since then, this team has made significant contributions to understanding the mobility and toxicity of contamination in waters and sediments, graduating 7 PhD and 20 honours students. Often, the research is performed in collaboration with government and industry, which have included organisations such as Rio Tinto, BlueScope, the Nickle Producers Environmental Research Association, the Australian Antarctic Division, the NSW Environmental Trust and government departments in both New South Wales and Queensland.

The collaboration has led to the development of evidence-based protocols and devices for monitoring and remediating environmental toxins. In addition, this has provided outstanding training opportunities for many students over the years, who now work in government and industry across the world.

The goal of the collaboration is to improve the ability to predict toxicity thresholds from contaminants in environmental systems, through exploring both applied and mechanistic aspects of analytical and environmental chemistry and ecotoxicology.

For example, the team are quantifying metal mobility in aquatic sediments following changes in water chemistry and physical disturbance; capping-metal contaminated sediments; ground-water efflux through contaminated sediments; and, natural redistribution and remobilisation of both clean and contaminated sediments.

They are producing recommendations to provide guidance on acceptable procedures for preparing metal-spiked sediments for use in evaluating the toxicity of metal contaminated sediments to aquatic organisms, and also have made significant advances in understanding of the biochemical mechanism that underpin the toxicity of metals within the cells, which will ultimately allow us to better predict when toxicity will occur.

By collaboratively exploring the challenges associated with the protection of aquatic systems from metal contamination, the collaboration will continue to thrive with the ultimate aim of securing safe environments for fisheries, recreation and sustainability of aquatic habitats.

Partner organisation

CSIRO Land and Water

UOW participants

Prof. Dianne Jolley