Measurement of greenhouse gas emissions and carbon accounting. Coal seam gas, coal mining, agriculture and urban environments
Gases: Carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide
Isotope chemistry of greenhouse gases
Groundwater management in the Murray-Darling Basin.
Fields of Research (FoR)Atmospheric composition, chemistry and processes, Groundwater hydrology, Hydrogeology, Environmental Chemistry (incl. Atmospheric Chemistry), Groundwater Hydrology, Geophysics, Geology, Quaternary Environments, Isotope Geochemistry, Applied Statistics
I have over 27 years of international lecturing, consulting and research experience in greenhouse gas measurements, hydrogeology, geology, and geostatistics. My current atmospheric research focuses on measuring methane emissions from coal seam gas, coal mining and agricultural sources. Since 2018 I have been affiliated with the United National Environment Programme Methane Science Studies team, which completed the world’s...view more
I have over 27 years of international lecturing, consulting and research experience in greenhouse gas measurements, hydrogeology, geology, and geostatistics. My current atmospheric research focuses on measuring methane emissions from coal seam gas, coal mining and agricultural sources. Since 2018 I have been affiliated with the United National Environment Programme Methane Science Studies team, which completed the world’s first airborne measurements of greenhouse gases from coal seam gas fields. I have managed major projects collectively worth over $3 million for the UNEP, Cotton Catchment Communities CRC, and National Centre for Groundwater Research and Training (NCGRT). I do extensive outreach to inform government policy development and the community, and as part of my science outreach, I write written numerous popular press articles including pieces for The Conversation and Australian Geographic. I am also Chair of the UNSW Science Sustainability Working Group which focuses on reducing UNSW’s carbon footprint. Since 2003 I have supervised over 60 honours, Master, and PhD students to completion.
My major research activities include:
- measuring the greenhouse footprint of coal seam gas, coal mining, natural landscapes, agriculture, and urban environments
- carbon accounting
- satellite observation of greenhouse gases
- airborne measurement of greenhouse gases
- soil health and soil carbon sequestration
- mapping connectivity between coal measures and freshwater aquifers using isotopes
- quantifying aquifer depressurisation impacts on sustainable water use and ecosystems.
In the Greenhouse Gas Measurement laboratory we can analyse the isotopic composition of carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide gases. Isotope analyses help attribute the sources of greenhouse gases measured in ambient air samples and gases stripped from groundwater.
Our research on quantifying methane emissions from coal seam gas developments in the Surat Basin, Queensland was recently featured on ABC 7:30 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=89MtxxM-NTU
UN Sustainable Development Goal Research Alignment
Goal 2 - End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture
Goal 4 - Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all
Goal 11 - Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable
Goal 12 - Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns
Goal 13 - Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts*
Goal 15 - Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss
Public Outreach and Community Impact
I have written educational pieces on the need for research on CSG in The Conversation and Australian Geographic, and I contributed to the recent NSW Chief Scientist and Engineer background reports and reviews on CSG.
- School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences http://www.bees.unsw.edu.au
- Connected Water Initiative Research Centre http://www.connectedwaters.unsw.edu.au
- Centre for Ecosystems Science https://www.ecosystem.unsw.edu.au
- Earth and Sustainability Science Research Centre http://www.essrc.unsw.edu.au
- Member - American Geophysical Union
- Member – European Geosciences Union
- Member – International Association of Hydrogeology
Major Research Grants
- 2018/19/20/21 United Nations Environment Programme: Quantifying greenhouse gas emissions from coal seam gas and agriculture in the Surat Basin, Queensland
- 2018/19/20/21 Cotton Research and Development Corporation grant: Assessing the off farm movement of nitrogen fertiliser in the Nogoa, Namoi and Murrumbidgee Catchments
- 2015/16/17/18 Cotton Research and Development Corporation grant: Baselining groundwater conditions in the lower Namoi and evaluating Pilliga CSG development impacts
- 2014 Major Research Equipment and Infrastructure Initiative (MREII): LGR dissolved gas extraction system and the ultraportable greenhouse gas analyser
- 2013/14/15 - Cotton Research and Development Corporation grant: quantifying the uncertainty associated with predicting CSG production impacts in the Condamine Catchment, Queensland
- 2009/10/11/12/13/14 – ARC Special Research Initiatives Shared Grant, ARC/NWC co-funded national centre for groundwater research and training (NCGRT).
- BSc (Hons) – Environmental Geology, UNSW Sydney – awarded 1989
- PhD – Environmental Geophysics, UNSW Sydney – awarded 1995
- 2016 – Finalist, Cotton Seed Distributor Researcher of the Year.
- 2010 – Cotton Catchment Communities CRC – Achiever of the month award for “The development of a new approach for constructing 3D conceptual hydrogeological models of catchments”.
- 2007 – Cotton Catchment Communities CRC - Science and Innovation award for “The Development of Electrical Imaging Techniques for Soil Water Monitoring”.
My Research Supervision
Areas of supervision
Honours in greenhouse gas emissions or soil carbon
Ideally students have completed the following undergraduate courses
- GEOS1111 Investigating Earth and Its Evolution
- GEOS2291 Earth's Systems and Sustainability
- GEOS6733 Environmental Geophysics
- Millicent Crowe - Mapping groundwater resources using remote sensing
- Xinyi Lu - Quantifying the isotopic signature of greenhouse gas sources
- Shuang Xiao - AI methods for forecasting groundwater levels (joint supervisor with Dr Dioni Cendon ANSTO)
- Mark Hocking - Impulse response modelling of aquifer recharge and Analytic Element modelling of CSG production impacts
- Stephen Harris - Assessing the off farm movement of nitrogen fertilisers (joint supervisor with Dr Dioni Cendon ANSTO)
- Charlotte Iverach (joint supervisor with Dr Dioni Cendon ANSTO)
- Dane Burkett (co-supervisor, supervisor Ian Graham)
- Scott Cook (co-supervisor, supervisor Wendy Timms)
- Mohammadreza Keshavarzi (co-supervisor, supervisor Andy Baker)
- Calvin Li (co-supervisor, supervisor Martin Andersen)
- Jie Yan (Jack) (co-supervisor, supervisor Paul Lennox)
The Connected Water Initiative Research Centre, UNSW Australia, is seeking high-quality international and domestic applicants to apply for PhD positions. Applicants must have a 1st class honours degree (or equivalent), or a higher degree (MSc or MRes) and evidence of research experience. The international scholarships are highly competitive. Ideally the candidate will have an outstanding undergraduate degree from a top 100 University on the QS, Times, or Shanghai Jao Tong rankings. The candidate will have one or more first author journal papers in a leading journal. All applicants must develop a short research proposal with their potential supervisor. International applicants must also meet English language qualifications.
Details on International scholarships are located here: http://research.unsw.edu.au/international-research-candidate-scholarships
Details on Domestic scholarships are located here http://research.unsw.edu.au/domestic-research-candidate-scholarships
The greenhouse gas measurement team has ongoing projects quantifying methane and carbon dioxide emissions from wetland, caves, agriculture, coal mining, and coal seam gas. We make these measurements using satellite, aircraft, drone or car based surveys.
We also have several projects assessing the rate of carbon turnover in soils throughout Australia. This research is done in collaboration with ANSTO.
If you are interested in doing an honours or PhD project on any of the above research topics please send your resume to firstname.lastname@example.org
Advice for prospective students
Over the next century there will be unprecedented pressures on the environment (particularly on water, soil and air) due to global warming and increasing population. There is a critical need to measure greenhouse gas emissions, so that their generation can be managed. Australia is large and we need many people involved to improve our understanding of water and gas movement throughout the landscape. Being involved in measuring water movement and sources and sinks of greenhouse gases is one way you can make a positive contribution to managing the impacts of global warming. UNSW is at the forefront of measuring gases and their isotopic compositions. Within our gas lab we have:
- Picarro G2401-i Analyser for methane, carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide
- Picarro G2132-i Analyser for δ13C for methane
- Picarro G1101-i Analyser for δ13C for carbon dioxide
- Los Gatos Research Isotopic N2O Analyser (site-specific δ15N, δ18O and N2O)
- Los Gatos Research Ultraportable Greenhouse Gas Analyser (CH4, CO2, H2O)
- Los Gatos Research dissolved gas extraction unit
- Bruker Alpha multispectral analyser for soil carbon measurements
We also have access to facilities within the Mark Wainwright Analytical Centre: http://www.analytical.unsw.edu.au
And we work closely with the Institute for Environmental Research at ANSTO: http://www.ansto.gov.au/ResearchHub/IER/