USC researcher in global seawater quality project
3 Mar 2020
USC Australia has joined an American-led project to develop a new way of testing oceans for levels of iron, a naturally occurring metal nutrient vital to the healthy functioning of marine ecosystems.
Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research and Innovation) Professor Roland De Marco will use his chemistry expertise and electrode technology to develop sensors capable of detecting even tiny traces of iron in seawater.
Professor De Marco said the sensors would be designed to fit into a submersible instrument that could be deployed around the world to collect water quality data to address issues such as the growth of phytoplankton – essential plant food for fish and invertebrates.
That device will be manufactured by research project leader, Professor Todd Martz of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California in San Diego, who already commercially markets a similar remote-operated instrument to study pH in seawater.
Professor De Marco received almost AUD$90,000 of the multi-million-dollar grant awarded by the United States National Science Foundation.
He and a USC Australia part-time postdoctoral staff member have started work on the three-year project, which will involve testing samples of Sunshine Coast seawater in a flow device that allows continuous monitoring on campus at Sippy Downs.
“Iron has a profound effect in regulating marine phytoplankton, and obviously the whole ecosystem, but seawater is a difficult substance to analyse so this is a formidable task,” said Professor De Marco.
“The sensors are pencil-sized tubes that can be screwed into the flow device. When iron gets into them, it impacts on the sensors’ electrical properties and creates a voltage that can be measured by a volt meter.”
He said similar technologies had been investigated but none had been refined sufficiently to be taken from the laboratory into the field, as was the current goal.
Media and politics spark graduate’s research career28 Oct
A new USC Arts graduate and University Medallist fascinated by the intersection of media and politics in today’s rapidly changing world is now researching the different ways that the issue of climate change is presented in the news.
Expert panel: Creating COVID-safe environments27 Oct
Ensuring our environments are safe and hygienic in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic will be the topic of a free public webinar on Thursday 29 October from 6-7pm.
COVID-19 and mental health: Researchers to share insights in free public webinar9 Oct
Mental health experts from USC will share some of their latest research on staying well during COVID-19 in a free online seminar next week.