Research Group

Environmental Water Science

Water is a basic component of human existence and the support system on which people and ecosystems depend. The academics in this research group study its importance to ecosystems and humans, its use and management as a resource, and its modification through contamination and pollution.

The objectives of the group are:

  1. To undertake research on the environmental impacts of decentralized systems for urban development that provide water and waste-water services at allotment, cluster and subdivision scale using alternative water sources. Studies have been undertaken on the use of water sensitive urban design principles in new developments, the use of domestic rainwater tank systems, grey-water treatment systems and reuse, constructed wetlands for waste-water treatment and the performance of urban storm-water runoff control structures in improving urban runoff quality.
  2. To undertake research on faecal source tracking in catchments using a variety of chemical and microbial methods such as tracers,  fluorescent whitening agents, faecal sterols and other tools to track contaminant pathways through soil and the unsaturated zone to further evaluate the impact of contaminants in rivers, estuaries and lake systems.
  3. To examine the effects of pollutants on estuarine and marine biota, and their biological response to pollutant stressors. Biological responses in organisms may be employed as surrogates and more informative tools for pollution effects than chemical measures of contaminant levels alone. As well as ecotoxicology and approaches to remediating aquatic contamination, the group is also interested in the physiology of aquatic organisms and the ecology of estuarine and marine environments.

To meet these objectives the group uses a variety of field monitoring instruments and has access to chemical and biological instrumentation in modern laboratories for water and specimen assays.

Techniques used include chromatography & spectrometry including PCR analysis, metal assay and faecal sterol analysis and faunal identification and enumeration.

Instrumentation includes GC-MS, ICP-MS, ESI-MS, X-ray diffraction, electron diffraction, NMR, real-time PCR system, and flow-through respirometry.


A number of external funding partners have been involved in the group's research projects including:

  • The Australian Research Council (Linkage and Discovery)
  • Hunter Water Corporation
  • NSW Government Departments (Primary Industries, Environment, Climate Change and Water)
  • Port Stephens Council
  • Lake Macquarie Council
  • Bluescope Steel
  • Newcastle Innovation


Members of the group have been very successful in gaining nationally competitive research grants and industry funding. The research has resulted in numerous publications in high impact journals ranging in specialisation from chemistry and biochemistry to applied environmental science and toxicology.

Group members

Prof Hugh Dunstan
Prof Tim Roberts
A/Prof Phillip Geary
Dr Anita Chalmers
Dr Craig Evans
Dr Troy Gaston
Dr Charles Lee
Dr Steven Lucas
Dr Geoff MacFarlane
Dr Richard Yu