1. Developing passive sampler monitoring approaches for use in wastewater based epidemiology

Lead supervisor: Professor Jochen Mueller, QAEHS

Other supervisors: Dr Sarit Kaserzon, Dr Phong Thai, Dr Ben Tscharke, QAEHS

Contact: j.mueller@uq.edu.au

 

Project description

Wastewater based epidemiology is an emerging field for monitoring a wide range of chemicals including drugs of abuse, pharmaceutical and medication use and even exposure to pollutants. One of the key limitations of this technique is associated with the collection of representative samples. Typically only large wastewater treatment plants maintain sampling systems and operational staff that allow continuous samplers. In contrast, many rural and remote sites, prisons, mine sites or sub-catchments cannot usually be investigated because of limited or impractical access to samples. We have developed a novel sampling technique and obtained preliminary data as part of an Honours project where we established the feasibility of passive sampling techniques for continuous sampling of a wide range of chemicals of interest in wastewater streams. The aim of this PhD project is to:

  1. Evaluate and refine the sampling technique and compound- and system/environment-specific sampling parameters,
  2. Apply passive samplers in parallel with active sampling techniques to determine limitations and uncertainties associated with passive sampling techniques, and
  3. Establish and apply passive sampling based monitoring of specific chemicals at sites where active sampling is not otherwise feasible.

Preferred educational background: Undergraduate Class I or IIA honours or Masters degree in a relevant discipline such environmental science or chemistry. Experience or an interest in environmental monitoring would be highly valued.

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2. Bioaccumulation potential of chlorinated paraffins (CPs) in humans

Lead supervisor: Professor Jochen Mueller, QAEHS

Other supervisors: Dr Fisher Wang, QAEHS

Contact: j.mueller@uq.edu.au

 

Project description

Chlorinated paraffins (CPs) are a group of industrial compounds used as flame retardants, plasticizers and other types of additives. They are persistent chemicals that have the highest production volume in human history. Their physico-chemical properties, including persistence, means that they have high potential to biomagnify via food webs and eventually accumulate in the human body. However, data regarding human exposure to CPs are scarce and furthermore little is known about the bioaccumulation potential for CPs in humans. This PhD project aims to understand the process that CPs may undergo after human intake, the distribution of CPs in the human body and their bioaccumulation potential.

Through this PhD project, the student will gain cutting-edge experience in the field of human biomonitoring through learning and applying both chemical analysis and in-vitro analysis techniques. The student will be trained to attain proficient knowledge and skills in identifying and quantifying organic contaminants in complex biota samples and understanding their sources and fate in humans.

Preferred educational background: Undergraduate Class I or IIA honours or Masters degree in Environmental Science or biochemistry. A strong background in environmental chemistry and a keen interest in human exposure to environmental contaminants would be highly valued.

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3. Calibration of new passive sampling monitoring technologies for aquatic pollutants as part of regulatory compliance monitoring

Lead supervisor: Dr Sarit Kaserzon, QAEHS

Other supervisors: Prof Jochen Mueller, QAEHS

Contact: k.sarit@uq.edu.au

 

Project description

Globally, new chemicals are registered for use daily. This makes the task of monitoring for pollutants in the aquatic environment an extremely challenging one for regulators and public health agencies. For this reason, advanced and sensitive monitoring technologies are required to keep up with the myriad of environmental pollutants in use.

Passive sampling technologies have been developed and used over the past two decades as part of monitoring and regulatory assessments (e.g. as part of the EU Water Framework Directive, The USGS and as part of regulatory catchment management monitoring by Seqwater, QLD). Passive samplers can provide benefits such as (i) increased sensitivity (ii) low cost (iii) ease of deployment and (iv) the opportunity to estimate time-weighted-average water concentrations for a more representative estimate of pollutant burdens. However, some limitation exist with current technologies which include the susceptibility of sampler designs to changes in water flow velocity and biofouling during deployment.

This project aims to develop and calibrate new low-cost and robust passive sampling tools for the monitoring of existing and emerging chemical pollutants. Working alongside industry, this project will generate new sampling techniques and protocols, along with knowledge to inform chemical regulation and public health policy.

Preferred educational background: Undergraduate Class I or IIA honours or Masters degree in Environmental Science, with a strong background in environmental chemistry and a keen interest in environmental contaminant fate and monitoring methodologies.

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