Biogeochemistry and Ecotoxicology

Lab Heads

Assoc. Prof. Ewen Silvester

View Ewen's profile, publications and contact details

Dr Aleicia Holland

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Our research investigates biogeochemical processes in aquatic ecosystems, the bioavailability and toxicity of contaminants, the response of aquatic ecosystems to natural and anthropogenic stressors and the effects of abiotic factors on aquatic biota. We use a range of field and laboratory techniques to address specific research questions. Our field sites span tropical, temperate and alpine environments including alpine streams, rivers, lakes and wetlands, both nationally and internationally. We also use controlled laboratory experiments to understand chemical processes, interactions of biota with their chemical environment, and the bioavailability and toxicity of contaminants.

Alpine aquatic ecology and Peatlands

Our research is critical for future management of the Australian alpine environment. Alpine peatlands are important in regulating stream flows and water quality and will be adversely impacted by climate change. Our work investigates chemical regulation processes that occur in alpine peatlands and associated headwater streams as well as the aquatic communities in these environments. Our recent projects include the response of alpine peatlands and aquatic communities to high intensity rain events.

Characterisation and bioavailability of Dissolved Organic Matter (DOM)

DOM has an important role in regulating abiotic and biotic processes in aquatic ecosystems. We use a range of spectroscopic and analytical techniques to characterise the chemical composition and bioavailability of DOM in aquatic ecosystems. Our current research investigates the influence of tributary inflows on DOM cycling in regulated systems; metabolic dynamics in dryland lowland rivers, and characterisation of DOM in naturally acidic, circumneutral and groundwater fed systems.

Bioavailability and contaminant toxicity

Contamination of aquatic ecosystems is increasing globally. We use chronic toxicity bioassays coupled with a range of analytical and speciation techniques to assess the toxicity and bioavailability of contaminants (e.g. metals) in aquatic systems. Our current research is directed towards understanding the influence of water quality in modifying the toxicity of metals and the use of field data to derive habitat guideline values.

Effects of abiotic factors on aquatic biota

Environmental and anthropogenic factors (temperature, salinity, pH and contaminants) affect aquatic organisms and biological communities. We use molecular techniques, (metagenomics and eDNA) to study responses of organisms and communities to these factors. Examples include: the effects of water type on fish gill microbiome in the Amazon basin; influence of water quality on moss distributions; biofilm responses to DOM composition; metals and environmental stressors effects on the amino acid profiles and proteome of aquatic biota.

Synchrotron-based techniques

We use Infrared Microspectroscopy (IRM), and X-ray Absorption Spectroscopy (XAS) to study elemental and chemical distributions in sediments and organisms.

Lab Members

  • Dr Andre Siebers
  • Dr Luke McPhan
  • Ms Manisha Shakya
  • Ms Suman Acharya
  • Mr Lucas Morais
  • Mr Francesco Colombi
  • Ms Oliviah Lines
  • Ms Gabriella Macoustra
  • Ms Lakmini Egodawatta
  • Mr Gwilym Price.