Research Projects

Surface pollution is widespread and a globally significant challenge

Research Overview:

Since the dawn of the Industrial Revolution, humans have introduced hazardous contaminants into the environment; often unintentionally, but mostly as a consequence of our anthropocentric activities. Soil pollutants cause biodiversity decline, impair ecosystem function, are linked to major human health issues as well as restricting human interaction, agricultural practices and development in formerly safe regions across the world.

Phytoremediation is a method which harnesses natural plant processes to assist in the immobilization and clean-up of pollutants in the natural environment. Over the last two decades it has been proven to be an environmentally friendly and cost-effective alternative to current remediation technologies. This method has been shown to be effective in cleaning up key hazardous organic compounds, like Petroleum Hydrocarbons and PCB, as well as heavy metals including Lead, Uranium, Arsenic and Mercury. So far, more than 400 species have been shown to have phytoremediation properties of the approximate 400,000 approximate plant species on Earth.


Current Research Focus:

This research team currently explores terrestrial and aquatic surface contamination across Australia, with particular emphasis on heavy metals and Petroleum Hydrocarbon mixes. We work within the Ecosystem Security Research Team at UTS.

  • We are interested in developing new methods and technologies to reduce terrestrial and aquatic land contamination in a safe, cost-effective and non-destructive way.
  • We work within urban areas of the Sydney catchment, but also have field sites in coastal and regional New South Wales. Our manipulative glasshouse projects are conducted in the rooftop facilities of the UTS Science building.
  • Our research in phytoremediation considers all stages of the plant life cycle; from seed ecology to seedling growth and plant reproductive cycles.


Previous Research – Invasive Plant Species:

Previous research of the lab includes invasive plant species in Australia, and exploring the introduction and life history traits of these species in a comparative context. For more information on the outcomes of these projects, please see Publications and Media.