Fate of nitrification inhibitors in agricultural soils

Duration: 6-10 weeks

Description:

Nitrogen inhibitors, such as nitrapyrin and DMPP, are widely used to stabilise nitrogen in agricultural soils for crops and pastures. These chemicals act by delaying nitrification of ammonia and urea nitrogen fertilisers through the inhibition of soil bacteria. Nitrogen inhibitors are increasingly being used by farmers, however, their fate and toxicology in the environment are still poorly understood.  This project will investigate levels of nitrapyrin or DMPP in sugarcane soils and track their fate into associated local waterways from Queensland. Methods to analyse these compounds are available using gas chromatography- or liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry.

Expected outcomes and deliverables: The student will gain theoretical and practical experience with laboratory extraction techniques and have the opportunity to learn state-of-the-art analytical techniques using GC- or LC-MS instrumentation.

Suitable for: The project would suit students with a background in environment science and would be suitable for candidates looking to progress to honours and/or a PhD.

Primary supervisor: Professor Jochen Mueller

 


 

Long term trends in per capita alcohol usage based on wastewater analysis

Duration: 6-10 weeks

Description: 

Systematic collection and analysis of wastewater has become an effective tool for estimating population use and abuse of a range of chemicals including illicit drugs, tobacco, alcohol, pharmaceuticals and specific foods and for assessing markers of population health status. This project will aim to establish long term trends in usage/exposure to alcohol in a wastewater treatment plant (WWTP) catchment population.  Daily wastewater influent samples have been obtained from a SE Queensland WWTP since 2010 and archived in the Australian Environmental Specimen Bank (ESB). Both archived and on-going samples will be analysed using liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry to establish total daily mass loads of ethanol and its key metabolites. Per capita alcohol consumption can then be derived based on estimates of the catchment population. This project will provide time-resolved data to better understand trends in consumption patterns for alcohol in a representative Australian sub-population which is of high interest to health authorities throughout Australia, as well as the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) and law enforcement authorities.

Expected outcomes and deliverables: The student will have the opportunity to learn state-of-the-art analytical and integration techniques using LC-MS instrumentation and gain theoretical and practical experience in temporal analysis techniques.

Suitable for: The project would suit students with a background in environment science and would be suitable for candidates looking to progress to honours and/or a PhD.

Primary supervisors: Dr Ben Tscharke, Dr Jake O’Brien

 


 

Analytical method development for emerging contaminants in different food groups

Duration: 6-10 weeks

Description: 

Per- and polyfluroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a group of man-made chemicals that have been used in a range of household and industrial products such as non-stick cookware, food packaging and fire-fighting foam. Despite their commercially favourable properties, PFAS have become a concern to human health due to their persistence in the environment, potential adverse health effects and tendency to concentrate in biological tissues. Many countries including Australia have started phasing out the use of two commonly used PFAS, Perfluoroctane sulfonate (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA). However, due to their stable and versatile chemical and physical properties these chemicals continue to be detected at elevated levels in the environment.

Increased interest in this emerging contaminant group is pushing for the development of rapid, robust and high-throughput methods for analysing PFAS in a wide range of matrices. QAEHS has been actively involved in the analysis of PFAS from several different matrices such as: soil, wastewater, drinking water, serum, eggs, fish, crustaceans, grass, worms and meat from different contaminated sites across Australia.

This project will aim to expand the suite of matrices that can be analysed for PFAS in house. The focus will be to apply, modify or develop quantitative analytical methods to determine PFAS levels in different food groups such as fruits, vegetables and milk products. This will aid us in determining the background exposure to humans through food intake.

Expected outcomes and deliverables: The student will gain theoretical and practical experience with food analytical methodologies and have the opportunity to learn state-of-the-art analytical techniques using LC-MS instrumentation.

Suitable for: The project would suit students with a background in environment science and would be suitable for candidates looking to progress to honours and/or a PhD.

Primary supervisors: Dr. Soumini Vijayasarathy, Dr. Jennifer Braeunig