Laboratory and field services

Laboratory services equipmentWe have equipment, laboratory capabilities and expertise in the following fields and services:

  • Fieldwork expertise in ecosystem monitoring and sampling across a broad range of habitats and biota
  • Analytical chemistry laboratory for routine water quality and more detailed chemical analyses
  • Taxonomic laboratories and expertise in the identification of vegetation, fish, macroinvertebrates and zooplankton
  • Biogeochemical laboratory for the study of linked microbial-geochemical processes in aquatic ecosystems
  • Ecotoxicology laboratory for determination of  risks associated with contaminants and environmental stressors
  • Aquarium facilities and eco-physiology laboratory for studying fish and invertebrate behavioural and physiological responses to environmental stressors
  • Molecular laboratory to support taxonomy, population genetics, metabarcoding and environmental deoxyribonucleic acid (eDNA) studies.

Environmental chemistry laboratory

The environmental chemistry laboratory at Wodonga provides water and sediment quality analyses in support of both internal and external projects. Our services are also available to university researchers and the public upon discussions with our team. We offer tailored environmental and water assessment and monitoring solutions to meet your requirements.

Specialised Equipment

We have a wide range of specialised instrumentation available for the analyses of water, sediment, soil, effluents and biota. This equipment includes:

  • Shimadzu Ultra Performance Liquid Chromatography tandem Mass Spectrometer (UPLC-MS/MS) for the analysis of: proteins, amino acids, organic acids and algal toxins
  • Agilent 240FS Atomic Absorption Spectrophotometer and Graphite Furnace: for the anlaysis of major cations and trace metals
  • Analtik Jena 3100  Total Organic Carbon (TOC) analyser for measurement total dissolved inorganic and organic carbon
  • Metrohm Ion Chromatography System: for major ion analysis (anion and cation) of water
  • Beckman Coulter Flow Cytometer: for algal identification and cell counts
  • Horiba FluoroMax Spectrofluorometer: for spectroscopic analysis of organic carbon in water samples
  • Shimadzu UV-2700 Spectophotometer:used for a range of colorimetric analyses.

All of our analytical methods are based on standard industry Quality Assourance/Quality Control protocols and use externally calibrated standards and reference materials.

Taxonomic and identification laboratory

Macroinvertebrates

The macroinvertebrate laboratory has processed aquatic invertebrate samples from across Australia for more than 30 years. We've  built up an extensive voucher library that can be drawn on for species level taxonomic determination. The Centre for Freshwater Ecosystems (CFE formerly as Murray–Darling Freshwater Research Centre, MDFRC) developed and maintains the free online bug guide that is widely used for the identification of macroinvertebrates to genus and family levels. The macroinvertebrate laboratory is closely aligned with the Centre for Freshwater Ecosystems (CFE) deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) laboratory, such that we can provide both classical and next generation approaches to biomonitoring.

Macroinvertebrates are widely used as indicators in freshwater ecology due to their sensitivity to changes in water quality, community responses to changes in flows, food resources and climatic variability. They are useful for determining both structural (e.g. diversity, abundance) and functional (e.g. proportion of herbivores, carnivores and detritivores, trophic links in food webs) aspects of freshwater ecology and are relatively common and easy to sample.

Our services are available to university researchers, stakeholders and the public and specific types of processing (e.g. taxonomic resolution, qualitative v quantitative) can be tailored to client needs.

Fish and zooplankton

We have facilities and expertise to enable to identification of fish (larvae through to adults) and have developed a larval identification guide for Murray–Darling Basin freshwater fish species. Our staff also have extensive experience in zooplankton taxonomy and identification to genus and family levels.

Biogeochemical laboratory

The Centre for Freshwater Ecosystems (CFE) has a strong background in the study of biogeochemical processes in aquatic systems including wetland acidification, blackwater events and nutrient cycling. Our expertise in these areas ranges from the molecular level understanding of biogeochemical processes to the development of water management strategies.

We have equipment and facilities to study biogeochemical processes at a range of scales, from highly controlled laboratory reactors through to mesocosms and field studies. In doing this work we make full use of the analytical chemistry and molecular facilities of the Centre for Freshwater Ecosystems (CFE) as well as external research facilities such as the Australian Synchrotron.

Our current areas of research are:

  • the water quality response of catchments to high flow (storm) events
  • the use of water quality parameters to determine peatland condition
  • dissolved proteins in surface waters as a bioavailable nitrogen source
  • arsenic distribution and mobility in legacy gold-mining sediments

Ecotoxicology laboratory

The ecotoxicology laboratory offers a wide variety of services, from determining the fate, transport and bioavailability of contaminants in aquatic ecosystems, to determining the ecotoxicological effects and thresholds on aquatic biota.

Our facilities include:

  • access to cultures of algae, invertebrates and fish for use in bioassays
  • control climate rooms and cabinets
  • access to the analytical and biogeochemistry laboratories for analysis of metals, pesticides, algal toxins, nutrients etc.

Our current areas of research are:

  • the influence of dissolved organic carbon on metal toxicity to freshwater organisms
  • the influence of dissolved organic matter on growth, toxin production and toxicity of harmful algae
  • the effect of environmental and anthropogenic stressors on amino acid composition of aquatic organisms
  • Micro-plastics and potential effects to aquatic organisms

Aquarium facilities and eco-physiology laboratory

The Centre for Freshwater Ecosystems (CFE) has extensive aquarium and experimental facilities for freshwater fish and invertebrates. Our equipment and facilities include an eco-physiology laboratory with intermittent flow respirometry, habitat-selection tanks and flume tanks that enable us to study:

  • behaviour
  • dispersal
  • diet and feeding
  • growth
  • metabolism
  • physiological tolerances.

Molecular laboratory

The molecular biology laboratory at the Centre for Freshwater Ecosystems we use deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) technology to answer complex ecological questions and provide invaluable knowledge for managing Australia’s freshwater ecosystems. The laboratory is supported by a dedicated team of staff and conducts research over a wide range of habitats and organisms.

Research capabilities within the laboratory include:

  • barcoding: identifying species from sections of a specimens/individuals tissue
  • metabarcoding: identifying whole communities on mass from deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) in samples such as sediment, biofilm or stomach contents.
  • population genetics: understanding population structure and interactions through gene flow patterns
  • taxonomy and phylogenetics: understanding biodiversity and evolutionary lineages of organisms.

The molecular biology laboratory works closely with the macroinvertebrate, microbiology and fish laboratories.

Our current areas of research include:

  • the detection of whole communities or individuals from deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) that is present in the environment.
  • developing deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) approaches to biological monitoring.
  • exploring population structure in plants and animals.
  • understanding who eats who from consumer diet studies using deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) from stomach contents..

Fieldwork expertise in ecosystem monitoring, sampling a broad range of habitats and biota

A variety of monitoring techniques are undertaken at the Centre for research on macroinvertebrates, zooplankton, fish and vegetation. Some of the monitoring techniques include:

  • Water quality assessment
  • AusRIVAS sampling
  • tree condition monitoring
  • vegetation surveys
  • electrofishing assessment
  • small and large fyke netting
  • environmental DNA
  • biological community assessment
  • biofilm sampling
  • zooplankton sampling.

We offer a range of monitoring services using standard methods as well as the development of project specific sampling methods as required. Training and competency are an important component of Centre based activities and we strive to maintain a high standard for delivery of our monitoring and research activities.