The Phyto Lab
Assessing the Risk of Heavy Metal Accumulation in Edible Garden Plants
This research project investigates edible plant species and their potential to phytoremediate heavy metal contaminants from soils. The project assesses risks to food safety of domestic and urban gardens whilst also informing suitable species selection and application for bioremediation of heavily contaminated sites in Australia.
Lead Researcher: Annaclaire McDonald (BSc) – PhD Candidate – 2018 to 2020
Winner of the 2019 International ‘Visualise your Thesis’ competition: https://research.unimelb.edu.au/visualiseyourthesis
Australian Mines: Contaminant Dynamics and Surface Phytomanagement
This project explores the viability of Australian native plants for use in the field of phytomanagement, in particular, the management of heavy metal contaminated soil left behind after coal mining. Using a combination of in-situ field work and manipulative glasshouse experiments, he aims to identify Australian native trees/grasses with the ability to accumulate or tolerate soils with high levels of heavy metal contamination.
The overarching goal of this project is to develop a practical, cost effective, and environmentally sustainable solution to a large scale global problem.
Lead researcher: Kieran Young (BSc) – PhD Candidate – 2017 to 2020
Native Australian Phytoremediation: A Comparative Approach
This research examines heavy metal tolerance and uptake within native Australian species compared with closely-related, non-native phytoremediators. In addition, the role of chelating agents will be assessed for environmental safety and phytoremediation facilitation.
Lead Researcher: Olivia Schmidt (BSc) – 2020
The Role of Arbuscular Mycorrhizal Fungi (AMF) in Metal Decontamination
Sunflower (Helianthus annuus) is one of the most prominent species choices for large-scale heavy metal decontamination projects. This research examines the presence and abundance of AMF communities in enabling metal uptake within this popular phytoremediator.
Lead Researcher: Lisa Danzey – 2020
Herbs and Metals: Risks to Australian Urban Gardeners (and Food Enthusiasts)
Many urban gardeners live in areas exposed to elevated soil metals, particularly in places where gardens are established on road edges or on former industrial sites. This research tests six of the most popular cullinary herbs to determine the relative risk of heavy metal exposure from contaminated garden soils.
Lead Researcher: Rebecca Cohen – 2020