Dr Ryan Turner

Senior Research Fellow

School of the Environment
Faculty of Science

Overview

Dr. Ryan Turner is currently the Science Leader of the Reef Catchments Science Partnership at the University of Queensland (a partnership with the Department of Environment and Science). Ryan was previously the Principal Scientist for Water Quality and Investigations in the Department of Environment and Science and held an Adjunct Associate Professor role at Queensland University of Technology in the Managing for Resilient Landscapes, Institute for Future Environments. For 12 years Ryan managed multimillion dollar water quality monitoring programs assessing the impacts of sediment, nutrient and pesticides loads in numerous catchments along the Queensland coast discharging to the Great Barrier Reef and Moreton Bay. Ryan has been on several steering committees and technical advisory panels, such as the Great Barrier Reef Foundations Technical Advisory Panel. He has published extensively (>60 papers and reports) and led several Queensland Government – Academic collaborative research projects. Ryan previously supervised analytical chemistry and microbiology laboratories in the private and public sector. Ryan has developed numerous methodology and standard operating procedures for analytical and monitoring techniques (water quality, sediments and soils). Ryan’s passion for the future of water security is what keeps him going.

Publications

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Grants

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Supervision

  • Doctor Philosophy

  • Doctor Philosophy

  • Doctor Philosophy

View all Supervision

Available Projects

  • Assessing the hazard and risk posed by nitrate in GBR freshwaters.

    Nutrient concentration data from the Great Barrier Reef Catchment Loads Monitoring Program between 2006 and 2023 will be compared to appropriate water quality guidelines for ecosystem protection to assess the hazard and risk they pose to aquatic ecosystems.

    Hazard and risk assessment of metals in waters of the Burdekin river and estuary.

    Two-years of metal concentration data (July 2014 to June 2016) from samples collected in the Burdekin River and Barratta Creek estuaries were collected and a preliminary hazard assessment was conducted as part of a World Wildlife Fund sponsored project on turtles. This project will use that metal data and conduct hazard assessment using the newest water quality guidelines and conduct a probabilistic risk assessment for the individual metals and for metal mixtures to aquatic ecosystems.

  • The Great Barrier Reef Catchment Loads Monitoring Program has been collecting pesticide concentration data between 2009 and 2021 and nutrient concentration data since 2006. To date, temporal trends have been estimated using very complex source catchment models. But with so much monitoring data it is possible to use this data to determine if concentrations have changed over time. To date, analysis for changes in concentration over time (temporal trend analysis) has only been conducted for using monitoring data for four pesticides (imidacloprid, diuron, imazapic and hexazinone) while over 90 are routinely monitored for. No trend analyses have been conducted on the nutrient monitoring data. These trend analysis projects will determine if the efforts/investments of the Australian and Queensland governments to improve land management practices and hence water quality have been successful. There are four priority projects on temporal trend analysis. These projects will be conducted in collaboration with staff from the Queensland Department of Environment and Science and the UQ School of Mathematics and Physics.

    • Statistical analysis of temporal trends in nitrate loads in rivers that discharge to the Great Barrier Reef (A priority project)
    • Statistical analysis of temporal trends in pesticide concentrations in rivers that discharge to the Great Barrier Reef (A priority project)
    • Statistical analysis of temporal trends in sediment loads non-PSII herbicides in rivers that discharge to the Great Barrier Reef (A priority project)
    • Statistical analysis of temporal trends in the toxicity of pesticide mixtures in rivers that discharge to the Great Barrier Reef (A priority project)
  • Using GIS techniques to predict the toxicity of pesticide mixtures for every one-kilometre reach of rivers that drain to the GBR (A priority project)

    The Partnership and the Qld Department of Environment and Science have developed relationships that use percent land use data to predict the toxicity of pesticide mixtures. Two waterways that drain to the GBR will be selected and divided into one-kilometre reaches. At the bottom of each reach, digital elevation maps will be used to determine the upstream catchment and combine that with land use maps to estimate the percent landuse upstream of each reach in the selected waterways. The percent land use data will then be used to estimate the toxicity of pesticide mixtures for each one-kilometre reach of the selected waterways.

    Using GIS systems to develop risk maps for pesticides

    This project will develop two GIS layers related to pesticide pollution. The first layer will combine land use data with information on the pesticides that can be applied to various agricultural practices and crops. This will identify the pesticides that could be expected to occur in the waterways. The second layer will present the spatial distribution of pesticides that have been detected in waterways that discharge to the GBR. These layers will help design pesticide monitoring programs and guide other research into the occurrence and risk posed by pesticides.

    Using GIS systems to develop maps for the potential occurrence of pesticides (based on land use and registered uses of pesticides)

    This project will use land-use maps (from the Queensland Department of Environment and Science, DES)) and the PubCris database (of pesticides registered for agricultural crops and systems by the APVMA) to determine the pesticides that are applied to agricultural land and therefore the pesticides that will potentially be present in the waterways that drain the catchments. This project will be conducted in collaboration with staff from the Partnership and DES and potentially the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries. It will provide information on what pesticides might occur in waterways and thus guide pesticide monitoring programs.

    Using GIS techniques to predict the toxicity of pesticide mixtures for any point on rivers that drain to the GBR

    This is like the previous project, except that the aim is to be able to predict the toxicity at any point in a waterway that discharges to the GBR. The project will use the relationships that use percent land use data to predict the toxicity of pesticide mixtures. In this project you will use digital elevation maps to determine the upstream catchment and combine that with land use maps to estimate the percent landuse upstream of any point in a selected waterway. This data will then be used to estimate the toxicity of pesticide mixtures at any point in the selected waterway. The outcomes of this project will provide the foundation to enable the calculation of the toxicity of pesticide mixtures at any point in any waterway that discharges to the GBR.

View all Available Projects

Publications

Journal Article

Conference Publication

  • Lambert, V., Adams, M. P., Collier, C., Carter, A., Saunders, M., Brodie, J., Bainbridge, Z., Rasheed, M., Turner, R. and O'Brien, K. R. (2019). Towards ecologically relevant targets: Impact of flow and sediment discharge on seagrass communities in the great barrier reef. 23rd International Congress on Modelling and Simulation - Supporting Evidence-Based Decision Making: The Role of Modelling and Simulation, MODSIM 2019, Canberra, ACT, Australia, 1 - 6 December 2019. Modelling and Simulation Society of Australia and New Zealand Inc. (MSSANZ). doi: 10.36334/modsim.2019.G1.lambert

  • Warne, Michael, Smith, Rachael, Turner, Ryan, Waters, David, Ellis, Rob, Shaw, Mel, Silburn, Mark D., Carroll, Chris, Martin, Katherine, Mueller, Jochen, Schaffelke, Britta, McCosker, Kevin, Wallace, Rohan, Huggins, Rae, Tindall, Dan, Bennett, John, Chinn, Chris, Henry, Nyssa, Gale, Kevin, Honchin, Carol and Yorkston, Hugh (2014). Reducing pesticide loads to help protect the Great Barrier Reef, Australia: An integrated endeavour to change land management practices on a massive scale. 248th National Meeting of the American-Chemical-Society (ACS), San Francisco, CA, United States, 10-14 August 2014. Washington, DC, United States: American Chemical Society.

  • O'brien, Dominique, Davis, Aaron, Nash, Michael, Di Bella, Lawrence, Turner, Ryan, Reghenzani, John and Brodie, Jon (2013). Water quality within the Herbert river catchment associated with specific land use. 35th Annual Conference of the Australian Society of Sugar Cane Technologists, Townsville, QLD Australia, 16-18 April 2013. Mackay, QLD Australia: Australian Society of Sugar Cane Technologists.

  • Turner, R. D.R., Smith, R. A., Huggins, R. L., Wallace, R. M., Warne, M. St J. and Waters, D. K. (2013). Monitoring to enhance modelling - A loads monitoring program for validation of catchment models. 20th International Congress on Modelling and Simulation, MODSIM 2013, Adelaide, SA, Australia, 1 - 6 December 2013. Canberra, ACT, Australia: Modelling and Simulation Society of Australia and New Zealand.

  • Smith, R., Turner, R., Vardy, S. and Warne, M. (2011). Using a convolution integral model for assessing pesticide dissipation time at the end of catchments in the Great Barrier Reef Australia. 19th International Congress on Modelling and Simulation - Sustaining Our Future: Understanding and Living with Uncertainty, Perth, WA Australia, 12-16 December 2011. Canberra, ACT Australia: Modelling and Simulation Society of Australia and New Zealand.

  • Smith, R., Turner, R., Vardy, S. and Warne, M. (2011). Using a convolution integral model for assessing pesticide dissipation time at the end of catchments in the Great Barrier Reef Australia. 19th International Congress on Modelling and Simulation (MODSIM), Perth, WA, Australia, 12-16 December 2011. Christchurch, New Zealand: Modelling and Simulation Society Australia and New Zealand.

  • Lewis, S. E., Smith, R., Brodie, J. E., Bainbridge, Z. T., Davis, A. M. and Turner, R. (2011). Using monitoring data to model herbicides exported to the Great Barrier Reef, Australia. 19th International Congress on Modelling and Simulation (MODSIM), Perth, WA, Australia, 12-16 December 2011. Christchurch, New Zealand: Modelling and Simulation Society Australia and New Zealand.

Other Outputs

Grants (Administered at UQ)

PhD and MPhil Supervision

Current Supervision

Possible Research Projects

Note for students: The possible research projects listed on this page may not be comprehensive or up to date. Always feel free to contact the staff for more information, and also with your own research ideas.

  • Assessing the hazard and risk posed by nitrate in GBR freshwaters.

    Nutrient concentration data from the Great Barrier Reef Catchment Loads Monitoring Program between 2006 and 2023 will be compared to appropriate water quality guidelines for ecosystem protection to assess the hazard and risk they pose to aquatic ecosystems.

    Hazard and risk assessment of metals in waters of the Burdekin river and estuary.

    Two-years of metal concentration data (July 2014 to June 2016) from samples collected in the Burdekin River and Barratta Creek estuaries were collected and a preliminary hazard assessment was conducted as part of a World Wildlife Fund sponsored project on turtles. This project will use that metal data and conduct hazard assessment using the newest water quality guidelines and conduct a probabilistic risk assessment for the individual metals and for metal mixtures to aquatic ecosystems.

  • The Great Barrier Reef Catchment Loads Monitoring Program has been collecting pesticide concentration data between 2009 and 2021 and nutrient concentration data since 2006. To date, temporal trends have been estimated using very complex source catchment models. But with so much monitoring data it is possible to use this data to determine if concentrations have changed over time. To date, analysis for changes in concentration over time (temporal trend analysis) has only been conducted for using monitoring data for four pesticides (imidacloprid, diuron, imazapic and hexazinone) while over 90 are routinely monitored for. No trend analyses have been conducted on the nutrient monitoring data. These trend analysis projects will determine if the efforts/investments of the Australian and Queensland governments to improve land management practices and hence water quality have been successful. There are four priority projects on temporal trend analysis. These projects will be conducted in collaboration with staff from the Queensland Department of Environment and Science and the UQ School of Mathematics and Physics.

    • Statistical analysis of temporal trends in nitrate loads in rivers that discharge to the Great Barrier Reef (A priority project)
    • Statistical analysis of temporal trends in pesticide concentrations in rivers that discharge to the Great Barrier Reef (A priority project)
    • Statistical analysis of temporal trends in sediment loads non-PSII herbicides in rivers that discharge to the Great Barrier Reef (A priority project)
    • Statistical analysis of temporal trends in the toxicity of pesticide mixtures in rivers that discharge to the Great Barrier Reef (A priority project)
  • Using GIS techniques to predict the toxicity of pesticide mixtures for every one-kilometre reach of rivers that drain to the GBR (A priority project)

    The Partnership and the Qld Department of Environment and Science have developed relationships that use percent land use data to predict the toxicity of pesticide mixtures. Two waterways that drain to the GBR will be selected and divided into one-kilometre reaches. At the bottom of each reach, digital elevation maps will be used to determine the upstream catchment and combine that with land use maps to estimate the percent landuse upstream of each reach in the selected waterways. The percent land use data will then be used to estimate the toxicity of pesticide mixtures for each one-kilometre reach of the selected waterways.

    Using GIS systems to develop risk maps for pesticides

    This project will develop two GIS layers related to pesticide pollution. The first layer will combine land use data with information on the pesticides that can be applied to various agricultural practices and crops. This will identify the pesticides that could be expected to occur in the waterways. The second layer will present the spatial distribution of pesticides that have been detected in waterways that discharge to the GBR. These layers will help design pesticide monitoring programs and guide other research into the occurrence and risk posed by pesticides.

    Using GIS systems to develop maps for the potential occurrence of pesticides (based on land use and registered uses of pesticides)

    This project will use land-use maps (from the Queensland Department of Environment and Science, DES)) and the PubCris database (of pesticides registered for agricultural crops and systems by the APVMA) to determine the pesticides that are applied to agricultural land and therefore the pesticides that will potentially be present in the waterways that drain the catchments. This project will be conducted in collaboration with staff from the Partnership and DES and potentially the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries. It will provide information on what pesticides might occur in waterways and thus guide pesticide monitoring programs.

    Using GIS techniques to predict the toxicity of pesticide mixtures for any point on rivers that drain to the GBR

    This is like the previous project, except that the aim is to be able to predict the toxicity at any point in a waterway that discharges to the GBR. The project will use the relationships that use percent land use data to predict the toxicity of pesticide mixtures. In this project you will use digital elevation maps to determine the upstream catchment and combine that with land use maps to estimate the percent landuse upstream of any point in a selected waterway. This data will then be used to estimate the toxicity of pesticide mixtures at any point in the selected waterway. The outcomes of this project will provide the foundation to enable the calculation of the toxicity of pesticide mixtures at any point in any waterway that discharges to the GBR.

  • Riparian vegetation and catchment sediment generation

    There are catchment-based targets in the Reef Water Quality Improvement Plan for improving catchment riparian conditions as well as water quality improvements. This project will look for correlations between earth observation measurements of riparian extent, riparian connectivity and water quality measured concentrations and loads of total suspended solids.

    Gully density and catchment sediment generation

    There are catchment-based targets in the Reef Water Quality Improvement Plan for improving catchment conditions as well as water quality improvements. This project will look for correlations between earth observation measurements of basin gully density and water quality measured concentrations and loads of total suspended solids.

  • Calculating the pesticide mixture toxicity using historical pesticide monitoring data from the GBR lagoon and assessing the hazard they pose

    Between 2010 and 2020 the Reef Marine Monitoring Program has conducted pesticide analysis using passive samplers. But only two-years’ worth (2017/18 and 2018/19) of data had the toxicity of pesticide mixtures calculated using the multi-substance potentially affected fraction (msPAF) method that is now used to determine the risk posed by pesticide mixtures. This project will calculate the other years and then assess the risk that pesticide mixtures pose. Temporal analysis of the msPAF values will also be conducted.

    Analysis and write up of the 2+ years of orbitrap data collected by the GBRCLMP, including a statistical analysis of land-use relationships.

    The Queensland Department of Environment and Science has conducted non-targeted organic chemical analysis of rivers that discharge to the GBR for two years. This project will collate that data to determine what chemicals are present, how frequently each is detected, summary concentration statistics and determine if there are relationships between their occurrence and land-use. This project will help determine what chemicals are included in future chemical analysis of GBR waterways.

  • Fingerprinting Water: Using Real-Time Spectra to Predict the Concentrations of Pesticides (A priority project)

    This project will attempt to use the spectra generated by TriOS OPUS probes (which currently provides real-time measurements on nitrate-nitrogen and total suspended solids) to predict concentrations of three pesticides (atrazine, diuron and imidacloprid) in a number of different rivers that discharge to the Great Barrier Reef. Finding such relationships could enable real-time water quality monitoring of waterways for water quality parameters and would enable quicker and cheaper method of monitoring waterways within the Great Barrier Reef catchments.

  • An analysis of the effect of holding time and temperature on nutrient sample preservation.

    Many of the sites sampled by the Great Barrier Reef Catchment Loads Monitoring Program are in remote locations and getting the water samples to the laboratories and analysed within the holding times for nutrients can be problematic. This study would work with the staff from the Queensland Health Forensic and Scientific Services (chemical laboratories) to determine the effect that prolonged holding times (prior to filtration and freezing) has on the accuracy of nutrient analysis and calculate correction factors or determine new holding times.

    Calculating real-time loads for nitrate and total suspended solids

    This project will look into the variability of real-time loads and tradition loads monitoring with discreet sampling.