Regional Reports December 2023

Category: Our People

  12 Dec 2023

New South Wales

Susan Wilson NSW Regional Representative

ANSTO Environmental Toxicology and Radioecology team; Tom Cresswell (


Tom Cresswell recently attended the Australasian Radiation Protection Society (ARPS) conference in the Gold Coast.  While the conference was primarily focussed on protecting humans from ionising radiation, there were some great presentations about potential impacts to the environment, aligned with ANSTO’s research into ionising radiation impacts to Australian marine biota from NORM scale within offshore oil and gas infrastructure.  We are excited to be welcoming two new Honours students in early 2024 to the Offshore Infrastructure Decommissioning Project.  One will be determining background concentrations of NORM and mercury (including mercury speciation) in a commercially important fish species (Lutjanus sebae; Red Emperor) collected from NW Australia in collaboration with AIMS.  The other student will be determining the potential impacts of ionizing radiation exposure on the growth rate and photosynthetic ability of Australian marine algal species.  Tom is working with Darren Koppel from AIMS to document a framework for establishing interim guideline levels for NORM and mercury in subsea petroleum pipelines to assist with decommissioning planning. 

Francesca Gissi and Alexandra Boyd have completed a dietary mercury exposure to the tropical marine snail Nassarius dorsatus. Following the successful in-house synthesis of 203HgS (metacinnabar) snail food was dosed with either the 203HgS or 203HgCl2 to compare the dietary uptake and assimilation of two different inorganic forms of Hg. Snails were fed a single pellet of contaminated food, then monitored (using the radioactivity of the food) over a 7-day period to determine depuration and assimilation. As expected, >95% of the 203HgS was lost by the organisms, whereas snails fed the 203HgCl2 retained >25% of the Hg after 7 days. A second experiment will be conducted before the end of the year to verify results and will include more replicate snails which will be euthanised for autoradiography to understand more about the uptake and distribution of Hg in these creatures. Our new PSA instruments (HPLC and CVAFS) will be used to verify Hg concentrations in food and snail tissues (more below).

Asides from lab work, Francesca participated in ANSTO’s Women in STEM program in October. This involved a presentation to a group of bright and enthusiastic female high school students.

Danielle Hill has recently wrapped up the last experiment for her PhD. This involved the exposure of tadpoles to radiotracers of Hg or Se, via diet or aqueous exposure, to determine changes in biokinetics and biodistribution as the tadpoles went through metamorphosis. The project also looked at the effect combined Hg and Se exposure had on the kinetics and distribution with an increased retention of Se in the presence of Hg. She is now working on writing up her thesis part-time as she recently joined the NSW Department of Planning and Environment’s Ecotoxicology team as Scientist, which will become a full-time role once her PhD is completed.

Amy MacIntosh is nearing the end of her PhD and is continuing to write up her final thesis chapters. She has been applying for jobs in the interim, focused in the policy and environmental radiological protection space and hopes to apply her knowledge in radioecology in her career pathway. Amy recently attended the 2023 Symposium of the International Commission of Radiological Protection (ICRP) conference in Tokyo, Japan. Most conference presentations were focused on human protection and managing occupational exposure to ionising radiation, with some presentations on the refinement of guidance levels for protecting flora and fauna. Amy was one of four finalists for the 2023 Claire Cousins Award and gave a presentation on her PhD research, in addition to providing context on ANSTO’s research into ionising impacts to Australian marine biota from NORM scale. Her talk was met with very positive and supportive feedback, with many attendees congratulating her on tackling an emerging environmental issue and setting the path for future students to consider radiological contaminants from mining extraction processes. Her presentation will contribute to a conference proceedings series that will become her concluding chapter where she will provide a summary of her findings, but also provide recommendations for future research priorities and specific guidance for ICRP.

Caitlin Younis has recently been developing a toxicology profile of selenium on the sea anemone, Exaiptasia diaphana. Selenium is required by all living organisms and although well studied for its toxicant effects on humans and other animals, very little is known about what role essential nutrients, like selenium, play in the delicate cnidarian/algae symbiosis. These sea anemones share the same symbiotic associations with stony corals. Results so far suggest these anemones can survive an acute 96 hr exposure of selenium concentrations much greater than what would naturally be present in the environment today (595 µg/L). Caitlin is now working to assess the toxicology profile of another Cnidarian, coral. Collectively, this data is providing the foundation information on what concentrations should be applied for bioaccumulation and biodistribution of selenium under various heat treatments early in the new year at ANSTO.  This next study can only be made possible with the use of 75Se radiotracer produced by ANSTO and by using state of the art gamma counting instruments.


The group are keen to collaborate with other SETAC-AU members on novel studies assessing the risk of various forms of mercury and naturally occurring radioactive materials (NORMs) from subsea oil and gas pipelines to marine organisms.  The team are having regular discussions with regulators of offshore oil and gas operations in Australia, who urgently need data on the potential effects of chronic exposure to low radiological doses (from NORMs) and mercury to marine organisms, especially benthic organisms.  We have a range of projects available for Honours, Masters and PhD projects. Please contact Tom to discuss further.

Further details:

For further details on ANSTO’s research into risk assessing contaminants associated with offshore oil and gas infrastructure decommissioning, please check out our website.

School of Environmental and Rural Science, University of New England 

Contacts Susan Wilson ( or Matt Tighe (

Recent Highlights:

We’ve recently welcomed new PhD student Nivetha Sivarajah from Sri Lanka to the group. She’ll be working on microplastics in agricultural soils.  Others in the group have been busy! Postdoc Steven Doherty has been successful with 3 proposals to the Australian Synchrotron working with Ed Burton at Southern Cross University on arsenic, antimony and tungsten mineralogy; PhD student Carolyn Sonter is just back from presenting her work about PFOS effects on honey bees at the 48th Apimondia Congress in Chile; Sue attended SETAC-AU and followed that by organising a successful session on antimony at ICOBTE in Germany; and Honours student Caitlyn George is about to submit her thesis examining transfer and persistence of antimicrobial resistance from animal composts to soils. We were pleased to host Professor Sally Gaw from University of Canterbury in late November, and a highlight has been that PhD student Nicola Forster, studying microplastics in wilderness areas, successfully submitted her thesis and graduated this weekend. Six papers are published from her PhD work!  Congratulations Nicola!

Recent publications from the group:

  • Nicola A. Forster, Susan C. Wilson, Matthew K. Tighe. (2023). Weathering alters the profile of trace metals and organic compounds in leachates and bioavailability extracts from microplastics of trail running shoe. Environmental Pollution, 336, 122431.
  • Wilson S.C. 2023. Raging fires, wild storms: Is the rate of global climate change outpacing our progress in the assessment and management of chemical stressors to effectively protect humans and the environment for extreme climate conditions? Integrated Environmental Assessment and Management, 19(6), 1409-1410.

Check out our webpage at We have PhD opportunities, including scholarships. Contact Susan Wilson ( or Matt Tighe (

Nicola (left) and Nivetha at UNE Graduation December 2023

CSIRO Environment, Lucas Heights, Contaminant Effects and Risk Assessment Team (Lisa Golding

Our contaminants research group was well represented at SETAC-AU in Townsville and we all really enjoyed the face-to-face conference format again.  A special thank you to Francessca Gissi, Michael Warne, Ross Smith and Anu Kumar for the very touching and surprise tribute to our group at Lucas Heights and awarding our group with the inaugural Ripple Award which demonstrates the positive impact of our research on the scientific community, stakeholders and students.

Later in August, Jenny Stauber presented on several topics including risks of deep-sea mining and emerging ecotox issues, at the annual Ecotoxicity Technical Advisory Panel meeting for the international metals associations.  Everyone was together in Ghent in Belgium, except Jenny who had to present on-line during the evenings from Sydney.  We also wanted to alert SETACers to a series of five papers soon to come out in IEAM on incorporating climate change into environmental risk assessments.  These papers, together with a SETAC podcast in October, are the outputs from the Pellston workshop held in Oslo, Norway in June 2022 which Jenny co-chaired. Further presentations from the workshop will be given at SETAC Europe next year.

Monique Binet has been working with the CSIRO-initiated Minimising Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) Mission in a part-time role since August 2022. The Mission has a strong One Health focus for combatting AMR, with recent activities in the water/wastewater sector that Monique is helping to coordinate. In October, the Minimising AMR Mission, together with Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF), Cooperative Research Centre for Solving Antimicrobial Resistance in Agribusiness, Food and Environments (SAAFE-CRC), the Australian Antimicrobial Resistance Network (AAMRNet) and Shawview Consulting co-produced a White Paper, ‘Measuring, Managing, Mitigating: gaining a One Health perspective on removing antimicrobial residues from water’. This document synthesises rigorous discussions held during a government and industry roundtable in Canberra earlier in the year and identifies where Australia should focus efforts to remove antimicrobials (e.g., pharmaceuticals, disinfectants, personal care products) from wastewater and waterways to have the greatest impact on minimising the emergence, spread and impact of antimicrobial resistance in the aquatic environment.

Lisa Golding has continued to lead the marine water quality monitoring program and derivation of site-specific guidelines for Norfolk Island. She has also become more involved with contaminant risk assessments of hydrogen production in Australia as energy demands pivot from non-renewable to renewable sources and the different risks associated with them. She is working with a team to develop a causal network on the risks of hydrogen production that will be publicly available mid-2024.

And for our most exciting news, Gwil Price has submitted his PhD thesis on: “One Size Doesn’t Fit all: Developing Bioavailability-Based Models for Zinc Toxicity to Microalgae”.  Gwil has already published 6 papers on his research and has done a stellar job of writing up while employed full time at the Australian Antarctic Division in Hobart.

The team continues to be highly productive with publications since the last Endpoint listed below for your interest:

  • Besley, C.H., Batley, G.E., Cassidy, M. (2023). Tracking contaminants of concern in wet-weather sanitary sewer overflows. Environmental Science and Pollution Research 30, 96763-96781.
  • Binet MT, Golding LA, Adams MS, Robertson T and Elsdon TS (2023). Advantages of model-averaging of species sensitivity distributions used for regulating produced water discharges. Integrated environmental assessment and management. DOI:
  • Binet M, Patterson K, Angwin C, Bowskill A, Donner E, Shaw B, Warr B, Trowman R, Cooper B, Crase L, Kacker A, Brock J and Morgan B (2023). Measuring, Managing, Mitigating: gaining a One Health perspective on removing antimicrobial residues from water. Shawview Consulting Agency, Sydney, 32 pp.
  • Fox, D., van Dam, R., Batley, G., Fisher, R. and Thorley, J. (2023).  Improved SSD software coming soon for ANZG guidelines. Australasian Bulletin of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry, 9, 1-3.
  • Golding LA, Binet MT, Adams MS, Hochen J, Humphrey CA, Price GAV, Reichelt-Brushett AJ, Salmon M and Stauber JL (2023). Acute and chronic toxicity of manganese to tropical adult coral (Acropora millepora) to support the derivation of marine manganese water quality guideline values. Marine Pollution Bulletin 194, 115242. DOI:
  • Mentzel, S., Nathan, R., Noyes, P. D., Moe, S. J., Brix, K., Rohr, J., Verheyen, J., Van den Brink, P. and Stauber, J. (2023) Evaluating the effects of climate change and chemical, physical and biological stressors on nearshore coral reefs: A case study in the Great Barrier Reef, Australia. Integr Environ Assess Manag. DOI:
  • Merrington G, Gensemer R, Stauber J, Golding L, Smith R, Azizishirazi A, Schlekat C, Garman E, Ryan A, Cooper C, DeForest D and Peters A (2023). Implementing approaches to account for metal bioavailability in freshwaters: Current status and future directions. Integrated environmental assessment and management 19(4), 1147-1151. DOI:
  • Moe, S.J., Brix, K., Landis, W.G., Stauber, J.L., Carriger, J.F., van den Brink, P.J, Hader, J., Kunimitsu, T., Mentzel, S., Nathan, R., Noyes, P.D., Oldenkamp, R., Rohr, J.R., Verheyen, J. and Benestad, R.E. (2023)  Integrating climate model projections into environmental risk assessment: a probabilistic modeling approach Integr Environ Assess Manag.  (accepted 4/12/23)
  • Mortimer, M. and Batley, G. (2023). Metal contaminants of emerging concern. In: Marine Pollution—Monitoring, Management and Mitigation, Reichelt-Brushett, A. (Ed), Chapter 13, Springer, Berlin, Germany
  • Price GAV, Stauber JL, Jolley DF, Koppel DJ, Van Genderen EJ, Ryan AC and Holland A (2023). Natural organic matter source, concentration, and pH influences the toxicity of zinc to a freshwater microalga. Environmental Pollution 318. DOI:
  • Price, G.A.V., Stauber, J.L., Jolley, D.F., Koppel, D.J.,Van Genderen, E.J., Ryan, A.C. and Holland, A (2023) Development and Validation of Multiple Linear Regression Models for Predicting Chronic Zinc Toxicity to Freshwater Microalgae. Environ Toxicol Chem. DOI:
  • Reichelt-Brushett, A. and Batley, G. (2023). Metals and metalloids. In: Marine Pollution—Monitoring, Management and Mitigation, Reichelt-Brushett, A. (Ed), Chapter 5, Springer, Berlin, Germany
  • Stauber JL, Gadd J, Price GAV, Evans A, Holland A, Albert A, Batley GE, Binet MT, Golding LA, Hickey C, Harford A, Jolley D, Koppel D, McKnight KS, Morais LG, Ryan A, Thompson K, Van Genderen E, Van Dam RA and Warne MSJ (2023). Applicability of Chronic Multiple Linear Regression Models for Predicting Zinc Toxicity in Australian and New Zealand Freshwaters. Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry 42(12), 2614-2629. DOI:
  • Stahl, R.G., Jr., Boxall, A. , Brix, K., Landis, W. G., Stauber, J.L. and Moe, S.J. (2023) Incorporating climate change model projections into ecological risk assessments to help inform adaptive risk management strategies: synthesis of a SETAC Pellston Workshop.®  Integr Environ Assess Manag (accepted 11/12/2023)


Mikaela Nordborg North QLD Regional Representative

Jason Van De Merwe South QLD Regional Representative


First of all, a huge thank you to the conference committee for organising the 2023 SETAC AU conference in Townsville! Secondly, following on from the decision to split the QLD membership in two (north and south, further details to come), I’d like to introduce Jason Van De Merwe. Jason will be joining me as a QLD regional rep and will be focusing on the south QLD SETACers while I continue holding the fort in FNQ. So without further ado, here is a brief introduction:

Dr Jason van de Merwe is a marine ecologist and ecotoxicologist, with expertise in marine turtle ecology, the fate and effects of chemical contaminants in the aquatic environment and human impacts in the coastal zone. Jason's research is currently focused on ethical alternatives to assessing the accumulation and effects of chemical contaminants in the environment, particularly in marine wildlife species such as marine turtles, dugong, whales and dolphins. In addition, he is currently involved in the development of a suite of cell-based bioassays for more ethical and high throughput assessment of the toxicity of wastewater release. Jason has also been working with sea turtles for many years, investigating various aspects of their biology and ecology.

Reef Catchments Science Partnership at the University of Queensland

This year we had three honours students and one PhD student working on ecotoxicology projects:

Hannah Mitchel – derived proposed default guideline values for ecosystem protection for 4-hydroxychlorothalonil, carbendazim, dimethoate and methoxyfenozide and then determined the hazard and risk that they pose in waterways that discharge to the Great Barrier Reef lagoon.

Heinrich Rass –assessed the temporal trends of imidacloprid and diuron in 14 waterways that discharge to the Great Barrier Reef lagoon.

Bryan Lat Ng –used multivariate statistics and a number of machine learning methods to determine if the hyperspectral output of nitrate probes could be used to predict the concentrations of phosphate and imidacloprid.

Cath Neelamraju –is expanding the pesticide risk metric (a method for estimating the combined toxicity of pesticide mixtures) from covering 22 pesticides to covering at least 60 pesticides and also doing some very interesting work on the irreversible binding of imidacloprid and its effects on toxicity after different exposure periods and developing temporally adjusted species sensitivity distributions.

Hopefully, you all attended the SETAC AU conference in Townsville as they all presented there. Unfortunately, at this time we have not received their grades, but we are hoping for the good results. We expect to publish a paper from each honours student. In 2024 we have another three honours students, but we will tell you about them next year.

Meanwhile Michael Warne and Peta Neale having been expanding the Pesticide Decision Support Tool (PDST) which provides guidance so that those involved with deciding on which pesticides to apply to sugar cane and its rotation crops can select pesticides that pose a lower risk to aquatic ecosystems. The PDST originally only include 47 pesticide active ingredients but has this year it been expanded to 96. We are working with Truii Pty Ltd and the Queensland Departments of Agriculture and Fisheries (DAF) and of Environment and Science (DES) to develop an app version of the tool. This is nearing completion and it will be released in the first half of 2024 and we will conduct information and training sessions throughout the sugar cane growing regions of Queensland. New Zealand has expressed interest in adopting the PDST and Michael is presenting to them about it.

Australian Institute of Marine Science

Tropical Ecotoxicology and Risk Assessment team

The Tropical Ecotoxicology & Risk Assessment team (TERA) has been busy communicating results from projects on petroleum hydrocarbons, both through publications and various presentations (including at SETAC AU 2023!). A paper lead by Dr Diane Brinkman and Florita Flores provided the first ever critical target lipid burdens (CTLBB) for a Pacific reefbuilding coral species and explored the use of oil toxicity modelling for tropical corals ( In a paper lead by Dr Mikaela Nordborg the team also published the first ever CTLBB for coral larvae, and showed that ecologically relevant ultraviolet radiation significantly increases the toxicity of aromatic hydrocarbons towards coral larvae and that oil toxicity modelling which accounts for ultraviolet radiation can be protective for coral larvae ( TERA team student Marie Thomas also showcased the teams’ work on using microbial communities in seawater for deriving threshold concentrations that can be used in water quality guideline derivation. Marie also won the MERA presentation award at the SETAC AU 2023 conference (and published a paper on copper toxicity! Dr Rebecca Fisher has also been busy this year, publishing multiple papers on toxicity threshold derivation, including the introduction of a new threshold concept: the no-significant-effect-concentration, or NSEC (,

Microplastics team

The AIMS Microplastics team was out in force at the SETAC AU biennial conference in Townsville earlier this year with research scientists, postdocs and students all giving excellent presentations. The team has also been busy across a number of research projects, including collaborations with other teams at AIMS (e.g. work on biopolymers with the Reef Restoration & Adaptation Program) as well as hosting international students. For example, visiting PhD candidate Beatriz Zachello from the Federal University of Rio Grande (Brazil) is with the team for a 6-month exchange, supported by the sanduich scholarship grant she received from the Program of Institutional Internationalization (CAPES PrInt) to come to Australia and learn more about Australian MPAs and good practices applied by Australian environmental managers to protect Australian biodiversity. Beatriz’s project focuses on whether marine protected areas (MPAs) actually provides the protection needed to prevent biodiversity loss through the lens of microplastics. She is using the presence (or absence) of microplastics, through the Agenda 2030 framework, as an environmental monitoring tool to assess the protectiveness of MPAs.

Beatriz will be sampling wild Australian oysters within and outside MPAs in the Townsville region and assess microplastic concentrations as a parameter of the local ecosystem health. This information will allow a comparison of the strategies and effectiveness of Australian and Brazilian MPAs and will inform and provide guidance to Brazilian environmental managers. The pictures show recent fieldwork performed by the Microplastics group (including Beatriz!) sampling at Horseshoe Bay, West Point and Nelly Bay at Magnetic Island, Pallarenda beach, the mangrove area next to Cleveland Bay water treatment plant and near the port entry in the Townsville region, in and outside of MPAs.

Global Green Tag International

David Baggs, CEO of Global Green Tag International (an Australian certification company), is excited to share that they have now certified the first product with the new NaturePositive+ Standard. This first product is a nest box that painted the vision of what a nature positive product can bring to the future.  A product encompassing circular resources resulting in giving back to nature. The Victorian manufacturer Bird Habitats says: “Thermal Haven Nest Boxes have emerged as a beautiful example of a product declared under the NaturePositive+ Standard.” One of its many benefits, includes the use of completely non-toxic waste materials from existing manufacturing processes, however, the best part is that it is already working to support the lives and continuation of species of wild birds and mammals in pockets of Australia where it is being trialled – assisting species whose natural habitats have been decimated by the encroachment of urban development and natural disasters.  It uses world leading thermal design concepts to deliver a constructed bird and mammal habitat box that mimics the thermal performance of natural log hollows. The product recently won the "Landscape and Urban" Best Product Category Award at the Sustainability Awards. For more details on the NaturePositive+ Standard and the Thermal Haven Nest box refer to the Global Green Tag International website.

TropWATER ecotoxicology team at James Cook University

It seems we skipped our ‘quiet dry season’ this year – the past six months have been incredibly busy for the team. Work during July and August were geared towards preparing and organising the SETAC AU conference – it was all hands on deck while our usual work took a backseat in the weeks leading up to and during the conference. Again, a very big thank you to all who helped make the conference so special. You can read more about our reflections on the SETAC AU conference here.

Post conference we all took some time off to rest and recuperate in our own ways before getting stuck back into our day jobs. Shelley Templeman was busy running her aquatic environmental monitoring skills short course for local groups here in Townsville and Rockhampton. Shelley and Chris Williams also lead field trips at Woodcutters mine outside of Darwin for the SER 2023 10th World Conference on Ecological Restoration.

In September Sarah McDonald visited our esteemed colleagues in the Water and Sediment Quality team at ERISS in Darwin to learn the ins and outs of eDNA extraction techniques and metabarcoding. Sarah also helped Shelley with fieldwork at Woodcutters mine while in the NT. Stu Ballantyne was helping Maya Srinivasan with her long-term monitoring of coral and fish as part of a TropWATER and AIMS partnership. For 4 weeks he was diving off the Frankland Islands near Cairns and Orpheus Island near Cardwell.

While Stu was diving in the blue azure depths of the GBR, Shelley and Sarah were slugging it out at Mount Leyshon mine for the dry season fieldwork, narrowly escaping wild pigs and heat exhaustion.

In October Shelley and Julie Hanley helped Ozfish out with their Creekwatch monitoring program on the Upper Ross River. Both Julie and Shelley are now in the process of developing a small project to set up a citizen scientist macroinvertebrate monitoring program as part of the healthy waterways partnership to get underway in mind-2024.

Our PhD student Maddi McKenzie has finished all her lab work and is planning on wrapping up her field work soon on the upside-down jellyfish (Cassiopea sp). She is excited to get to the writing up stage of her PhD after her trip to Hawaii.