QAEHS researchers have a number of projects suitable for Honours students. Details of the projects are below. If you are interested in undertaking your Honours year at QAEHS, please contact the relevant lead supervisor.

Further information is available on the QAEHS researchers and their research portfolios.

For enquiries regarding studying at QAEHS, please contact Sharon Grant, QAEHS Research Manager, at s.grant@uq.edu.au.

 

Available honours projects

1. Data analytics for wastewater-based epidemiology

Lead supervisor: Dr Phong Thai, QAEHS

Other supervisors: Prof Jochen Mueller, Dr Jake O’Brien, Dr Ben Tscharke, QAEHS

Contact: p.thai@uq.edu.au

Project description

Our group has been conducting advanced research in the field of wastewater-based epidemiology. We have gathered data from regional and national wastewater monitoring programs over the last several years. We also work with international collaborators to look at the chemical profile in wastewater in other countries. Up to three projects are available to apply data-analytics to collected data to gain more insights into the state of human and/or environmental health through wastewater-based epidemiology.

Top of page

2. Methods for measuring glyphosate exposure in the Australian population

Lead supervisor: Dr Sarit Kaserzon, QAEHS

Other supervisors: Prof Jochen Mueller, QAEHS

Contact: k.sarit@uq.edu.au

Project description

Over one hundred million chemicals are registered for use worldwide, with additional ones being added on a daily basis. Of particular concern are chemicals that are of wide-spread use in agriculture and are applied near drinking water sources as these have increased potential for human exposure (i.e. ingestion, inhalation, dermal contact). Such chemicals should be prioritised for incorporation into environmental and human exposure assessments to inform any risks to public health. Glyphosate is a broad spectrum herbicide formulated in 1974 by Monsanto that has emerged as a chemical of concern. It has been used for over 40 years to control broadleaf weeds and grasses and is the most widely used herbicide in Australia and globally. More than 500 glyphosate-based herbicide (GBH) products are registered for use in Australia, but no data on environmental or human exposures are available.

Up to two projects are available to further develop new passive sampling methods for the environmental sampling of glyphosate. The aim of these projects is to develop targeted sampling and analytical methods to sample glyphosate in Australia and obtain data on human exposure through the use of wastewater samples. As part of these projects you will:

  1. help develop and validate sampling and analytical methods to measure glyphosate and it’s degradation product aminomethylphosphonic acid (AMPA) in wastewater and other matrices; and/or
  2. Conduct the first assessment of glyphosate/AMPA exposure in the Australian population
Top of page

3. Evaluating the validity of the Total Oxidisable Precursor Assay (TOPA)

Lead supervisor: Professor Jochen Mueller, QAEHS

Other supervisors: Dr Jennifer Braeunig, QAEHS

Contact: j.mueller@uq.edu.au

Project description

Per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFASs) are a complex and diverse group of highly-fluorinated organic contaminants. The legacy use of PFASs in aqueous film forming foams (AFFF) for firefighting has resulted in widespread environmental contamination at airports, fire training grounds, landfills and manufacturing facilities. Novel analytical techniques such as the total organofluorine analysis (TOF) have revealed a significant proportion of unknown organo-fluorine compounds in AFFF formulations. The total oxidisable precursor (TOP) assay aims to quantify polyfluoroalkyl substances that can transform into stable PFASs (i.e. PreFASs) in the environment. Oxidation provides a more accurate mass balance approach to enable semi-quantification of the potential fate of PreFASs in a sample. The TOP assay was recently adopted as a required analysis under the Queensland Foam Policy and is a suggested analysis in the draft PFAS National Environmental Management. Plan. However, the application of TOP assay to complex environmental samples and its interpretation have been challenging, calling for a thorough validation of the technique. The proposed study will be a pilot study to undertake a preliminary assessment of the validity of the TOP assay.

Top of page

4. Assessing long term trends in pesticide levels reaching the Great Barrier Reef

Lead supervisor: Dr Phong Thai, QAEHS

Other supervisors: Prof Jochen Mueller, QAEHS

Contact: p.thai@uq.edu.au

Project description

QAEHS have been monitoring pesticides in the Great Barrier Reef lagoon for over a decade as part of the GBRMPA Marine Monitoring Program. Passive samplers have been deployed year round at several locations between Fitzroy Island to the south and Low Isles in the tropical north. The amount of pesticides reaching the Reef lagoon depends on many factors, including adjacent catchment land management practices, timing of pesticide applications, amount of rainfall and resulting run-off. The amount of rainfall in particular can lead to high inter-annual variability in pesticide loads discharged from catchment rivers. This variability can mask long term trends in reductions in discharged pesticide loads due to improved land management practices. The aim of this project is to use Monte Carlo techniques to understand longer term trends in the amount of pesticides reaching the Reef lagoon that may be attributable to improved land management practises in the adjacent catchments.

Top of page

5. Estimating the fate of UV filters used in products applied to the skin through analysis of human urine samples

Lead supervisor: Professor Jochen Mueller, QAEHS

Other supervisors: Dr Fisher Wang, QAEHS

Contact: j.mueller@uq.edu.au

Project description

UV filters in sunscreens and other skin care products are highly prevalent in Australia and can make their way into waterways through household wastewater and via wash-off through recreational activities. UV filters have been shown to cause coral bleaching and effect the hormone systems of fish, demonstrating their potential to cause environmental harm. The goal of this pilot project is to estimate the fate of UV filters used in products applied to the skin. This application concerns the identification of urinary metabolites and quantification of the amount of metabolite excreted per applied dose onto skin. The extraction and analysis methods for the measurement of sunscreen ingredients and their metabolites in human urine will be established by QAEAHS analysts. The student will be involved in recruiting participants to apply sunscreen and collect urine, extraction of the urine samples and interpretation of the analytical results. This will provide an indication of how much of these chemicals are absorbed into and excreted by the human body.

Top of page