Specialist Subjects: Chemical Process Principles, Particulate Systems, Material & Energy Transport
My present research interests concern the chemical, physical and biological properties of soil with particular focus on soil hydrophobicity (or water repellency) and the factors which influence its measurement, expression, abatement, destruction and recurrence. This phenomenon influences the delayed onset of water infiltration into affected soils reducing storage capacity and promoting surface run-off and/or evaporation. Recently atomic force microscopy (AFM) has been used to examine the distribution of surface mechanical properties on soil mineral particle surfaces and this has been used to infer the distribution and strength of adhesion of adsorbed organic material on particle specimens drawn from both hydrophilic and hydrophobic soils. It is hoped to extend the range of investigations to examine the extent to which micro-organisms (and their by-products) within soils influence hydrophobicity.
The heating of surface soils as a result of wild fire, or the use of fire as a land management tool, has a variety of interesting effects on soil chemistry leading to a redistribution of hydrophobicity (and changes in its persistence) within the soil column and a potential wide variety of outcomes dependent on subsequent meteorological conditions. A detailed examination of the carbon balance associated with wildfire is also in progress.