Despite the COVID lockdowns and lab shutdowns, the team at Lucas Heights has been getting down to business. Lisa Golding presented key messages on behalf of the Geological and Bioregional Assessments (GBA) team (Jason Kirby, Simon Apte, Dirk Mallants, Mike Williams) on the chemical risk assessment, water quality monitoring, direct toxicity assessment and contaminant groundwater modelling of shale gas flowback wastewaters as part of the GBA roadshow. Publications are in the flowback pipeline so look out for these!
During lockdown, David Spadaro was lead author on a risk assessment paper entitled ‘Probabilistic risk assessment of mine-derived copper in the Ok Tedi/Fly River, Papua New Guinea’ that has been accepted and is in pre-proof online view with Science of the Total Environment https://doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2021.151219. The manuscript uses 10 years of monitoring toxicity and chemistry data to assess the risk of chronic effects to the aquatic ecosystem in four spatial regions of the river system.
Returning to the lab after lockdown, there was a large back-log of samples to analyse from projects such as the Barrow Island Stygofauna project, Ok Tedi and Gove Harbour sediment. The latter required a field trip to Bonnet Bay to collect control sediments with David’s helper Stuart Simpson (see photo below). There was also a lot of lab organisms that required some extra attention post lock-down.
Stuart Simpson (Left) and David Spadaro (right) enjoying field work at Bonnet Bay post COVID lockdown
Our Deep-Sea Tailings Placement (DSTP) risk assessment framework project, led by Jenny Stauber and funded by the Metals Environmental Research Associations (MERA), is now complete. Both the final report and presentations were well received by our international stakeholders. Causal pathways for different pelagic and benthic zones, stressors, processes and receptors were consolidated into causal networks and then scored for risk and confidence. The framework will assist decision makers to better understand the likelihood, severity, spatial extent and duration of impacts associated with exposure to mine tailings in the marine environment. Jenny has also just completed her role on an external review panel chaired by Mary O’Kane assessing the quality and relevance of research in the Australian Antarctic Division’s (AAD) Science Branch. The panel’s report has just been publicly released and will hopefully enable a strong future for Australia’s Antarctic Science Program.
Our PhD students Sarah Stone and Gwil Price are getting close to finishing their theses and are in paper publication overdrive. Sarah has had a publication accepted with ET&C entitled “Pulse-exposure toxicity of ammonia and propoxur to the tropical copepod Acartia sinjiensis”. Sarah will be balancing finishing her PhD with her new role as Senior Science Projects Officer within the Chemicals Management Branch within the Department of Agriculture, Water and Environment with Glen Walker. She will be working on two broad projects related to the prioritisation and informed substitution of industrial chemicals. This ranking of chemicals should provide industry and consumers with a resource to rapidly identify chemicals of concern and chemicals of low concern regarding human health and environmental risks. Gwil has written several papers including for ET&C (https://doi.org/10.1002/etc.5177) on the effects of water chemistry parameters on zinc bioavailability and toxicity to freshwater algae, and has developed several Zn multiple linear regression models that will help ensure that our water quality guidelines will be bioavailability-based in future. The work is part of a larger program funded by the International Zinc Association (IZA). Gwil was also successful in being awarded a grant through the Australian Wildlife Society and UTS called the Wildlife Ecology Research Scholarship to study the influence of zinc on the microalgae proteome and metabolome.
In addition to his own PhD research Gwil, Jenny Stauber, Dianne Jolley and Aleicia Holland have co-supervised Anthony Evans (La Trobe University) in his honours research entitled “Application of bioavailability models to predict the toxicity of zinc to the cladoceran Ceriodaphnia dubia in Australian natural waters”. Anthony managed to complete his practical laboratory work in Sydney before a midnight dash for the NSW/Victorian border to avoid the Sydney COVID lockdown and was just in time for the Melbourne COVID lockdown. Congratulations to Anthony for submitting his honours thesis in time for the end of lockdown! He is enjoying a break before he starts a full-time job in Melbourne next year.
Tom Cresswell (firstname.lastname@example.org)
The team were well represented at the recent Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry Australasia (SETAC AU) conference with Amy MacIntosh presenting on the bioavailability of petroleum scale associated contaminants to juvenile tiger prawns; Danielle Hill presenting a review on the fate and sublethal effects of metals during amphibian metamorphosis; Sarah McDonald presenting on experimental design and statistical analysis in aquatic live animal radiotracing studies and urban stormwater runoff: metal forms and dynamics in a polluted urban creek system in Melbourne, Australia; and Tom Cresswell presenting on biomonitoring for dissolved metals and why you shouldn’t use gobies! Even though the meeting was completely virtual, there were some great opportunities for networking and all the presentations of the current state of the science were great.
Lab work continues to be delayed at ANSTO due to COVID lockdowns so the team are maintaining regular virtual meetings and looking into desktop-based opportunities to conduct modelling exercises. These include using the radiological dose modelling software ERICA Tool to predict doses from NORM scale to marine biota under a range of subsea pipeline decommissioning scenarios led by Amy MacIntosh and using a numerical model to predict the potential for marine sediment to methylate mercury, adapted to tropical Australian conditions led by Francesca Gissi. Danielle Hill is looking into combining the ERICA Tool with metal bioaccumulation models to predict the efficacy of different remediation options for radionuclide and metal impacted freshwater wetlands.
The team would like to congratulate Sarah McDonald for submitting her PhD thesis with the University of Melbourne and for securing a position in early 2022 with the TropWater Centre at James Cook University in Townsville, QLD. Sarah put a huge amount of effort into her PhD and has produced a series of great publications in high impact journals as a result.
New publications from the group:
Cresswell, T., Brown, S., Wong, H. and Apte, S. (2021). Assessing the impacts of scale residues from offshore oil and gas decommissioning on marine organisms. The APPEA Journal; 61(2): 379-383 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1071/AJ20024.
MacIntosh, A., Dafforn, K., Penrose, B., Chariton, A. and Cresswell, T. (2021). Ecotoxicological effects of decommissioning offshore petroleum infrastructure: A systematic review. Critical Reviews in Environmental Science and Technology: 1-39 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/10643389.2021.1917949.
McDonald, S., Cresswell, T., Hassell, K. and Keough, M. (2021). Experimental design and statistical analysis in aquatic live animal radiotracing studies: A systematic review. Critical Reviews in Environmental Science and Technology: 1-30 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/10643389.2021.1899551.
Since our posting to Endpoint last year the HDR students have shown fantastic resilience and perseverance in the still restricted circumstances. Sajanee Gunadasa was awarded her PhD on “Arsenic and cadmium co-contamination in agronomic soils: Risks and options for management” and she received the Chancellors medal. Her fieldwork paper in Exposure and Health was featured on Sri Lankan TV where exposure to As and Cd are thought to be possible contributors to chronic kidney disease in rural populations. Atefeh Esmaeili received her PhD on “Advancing the prediction of PAH bioaccumulation in earthworms and plants for historically contaminated soils using chemical in-vitro methodologies”, and also Roozbeh Ravansari on “Augmented Portable X-ray Fluorescence Technology for Application to Soils: Towards Modular Soil-Specific pXRF Instrumentation for SOC Quantification”, with Masters student Manuel de Simas also completing successfully. Some of the papers are published, others soon to come out!
Steven Doherty, finished his APR Intern with the Legacy Mines division of Department of Regional NSW understanding diffuse and point sources of metalloid contamination in Bakers Creek, worked through data from two grants at the Australian Synchrotron and is now writing up his PhD. Carolyn Sonter continued her work on PFAS effects on honey bee colonies and gave a well-received presentation at the fantastic SETAC-AU conference. Nicola Forster’s work on microplastics on recreational trails was also presented at SETAC-AU and is receiving good media coverage. She was pleased to receive the inaugural SETAC Asia Pacific student research grant. Other group members include Kirsten Hawking investigating glyphosate in high conservation soils and postdoc Martin Brummel working on sub-lethal pesticide impacts on pollinator foraging and nesting behaviour. It’s also been great to welcome Manisha Shakya from La Trobe into the UNE Aquatic Ecology Group to collaborate with Pollution Science.
Sue has taken up the role as senior editor with IEAM and presented in the EnviSmart Series on the group’s work on As and Sb in the Macleay River, and Matt has become an editor-in-chief with Geoderma. It’s been a busy year!
We have new PhD opportunities in a number of areas, including scholarships available for domestic students. Contact Sue or Matt for additional information.