The ocean and coastal rivers are cleaner thanks to the work of Jennifer Stauber, who has been honoured with the CSIRO Lifetime Achievement Award.
Dr Stauber, an Illawong resident, is a Chief Research Scientist, and former Deputy Chief and Acting Chief of CSIRO Land and Water, based at Lucas Heights.
Over her career of nearly 40 years as an ecotoxicologist at CSIRO, she has investigated the impacts of chemical contaminants in the environment.
This information has been used by government regulators to set guidelines to protect sensitive aquatic systems, both marine and freshwater.
The award, which was presented at a ceremony in the National Gallery, Canberra, recognised Dr Stauber’s “exceptional science leadership and landmark research on the bioavailability and toxicity of metals underpining the national water and sediment quality guidelines for environmental protection in Australia and globally.”
Dr Stauber began her career with the CSIRO in 1979 at the Division of Fisheries and Oceanography in Cronulla.
When the division moved to Hobart in 1983, she continued working for the CSIRO at the ANSTO facility at Lucas Heights.
”We write the guidelines for safe concentrations of pollutants for governments in Australia and New Zealand,” Dr Stauber said.
”The safe levels have been decreasing as we learn more about the subtle effects of chemicals on marine life and freshwater life.
“In the old days, we used to look at pollutants that killed organisms, that is the lethal effects, but now we are looking at the effects on reproduction and growth, which occur at much lower concentrations.
“The volume of pollutants going into the ocean and waterways has also decreased a lot over the years, but there are some new emerging contaminants such as personal care products in our waterways that we did not consider previously.”
Dr Stauber said the group’s research covered a wide variety of marine life, from fish to sea urchins, microscopic animals, zooplankton and microscopic plants.
Dr Stauber is also an adviser to government and industry, as chair and member of a large number of advisory committees.
She provides technical advice on issues as diverse as uranium mining, hazardous waste, risk assessment, reef water quality, coal seam gas and environmental regulation.
In 2015 she was elected as a Fellow of both the Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering and the international Society for Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry.
She is also a member of the Commonwealth’s Independent Expert Committee on Coal Seam Gas (CSG) and Large Coal Mining Development.
The committee provides scientific advice to the Minister for Environment and Energy the Hon. Josh Frydenberg on proposed developments in CSG and coal.