Pesticides (particularly herbicides and insecticides) are detected ubiquitously in the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) region waterways. This is largely as the GBR has relatively comprehensive long-term monitoring programs for these substances, in contrast to other parts of Australia. Pesticides are found regularly at above Australian ecological guideline (trigger value) concentrations. The predominant source of the pesticide residues is agriculture, mostly from cropping, but also some from grazing lands. Sugarcane cultivation carried out in over 400,000 ha of land along the coast is the largest source, but horticulture and grain growing are also significant sources as are localized urban areas. The areas of highest risk are adjacent to the agricultural activity i.e. freshwater wetlands, with estuarine waterways at lower risk, coastal habitats such as seagrass meadows lower again and inner-shelf coral reefs at least risk. Mid-shelf and outer-shelf reefs are at very low risk. However pesticide residues can be found at “low” concentrations throughout the GBR even far offshore and in the far north. Management of pesticides in Australia is split between the Federal Government, through the Australian Pesticide and Veterinary Medicine Authority (APVMA), and the State Governments. Management has not been particularly effective in reducing residues but the Queensland Government has active programs addressing this issue.
Professorial Fellow, ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, James Cook University, 2016 –
Chief Research Scientist, Centre for Tropical Water & Aquatic Ecosystem Research (TropWATER), 2014 – 2016. Team Leader, Catchment to Reef Processes Research Group – TropWATER
Principal Research Scientist, Australian Centre for Tropical Freshwater Research, James Cook University, 2001 – 2013
Director, Water Quality and Coastal Development Section, Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, 1990 – 2001
Research Scientist, Australian Centre for Tropical Freshwater Research, James Cook University, 1988 – 1990
Director, Institute of Natural Resources, University of the South Pacific, Suva, Fiji, 1986 – 1987
Research Fellow, Institute of Natural Resources, University of the South Pacific, Suva, Fiji, 1981 – 1986
B Sc (Hons) Sydney University; M Sc, PhD James Cook University
My research interests are in the sources of pollutants in catchments, transport of pollutants to the marine environment, the dispersal of land-based pollutants in coastal and marine environments and the effects of terrestrial pollutants on marine ecosystems. I am particularly interested in the following research areas: water quality in tropical coastal marine environments; the effects of sediments, nutrients, pesticides and other contaminants on coral reef and seagrass bed ecosystems; catchment sources of sediment, nutrient and pesticide discharge to coastal environments; land use practices which lead to enhanced rates of sediment, nutrient and pesticide discharge to coastal environments; river plume dynamics and biological, physical and chemical processes occurring in river plumes; temporal and spatial dynamics of water quality on the Great Barrier Reef; water quality management systems in coral reef environments. I have published over 100 peer reviewed articles in this field as well as more than 300 technical reports, books and book chapters.
I am also heavily involved in policy advice to Australian governments regarding management of water quality issues for the Great Barrier Reef. I was the lead author of the Scientific Consensus Statement documenting the status of knowledge and management for water quality issues affecting the Great Barrier Reef for the Queensland and Federal Governments in 2008, 2013 and 2016/2017 leading groups of more than 50 scientists and policy experts. I have been closely involved in the Water Quality Improvement Planning process for the GBR NRM regions over the last 10 years.