The Environmental Chemistry and Microbiology Unit

Overview and Focus

The Environmental Chemistry and Microbiology Unit (ECMU) at Charles Darwin University has been conducting research and consultancies in the Northern Territory and adjacent areas of northern Australia for more than 20 years. We cover the full range of environments: marine, freshwater and terrestrial, but specialize in metal, nutrient and microbiology analyses in marine environments – including sediment, water and biota.

Quality Assurance

We participate in QUASIMEME (Quality Assurance of Information for Marine Environmental Monitoring in Europe) and have done so since its inception in 1997. QUASIMEME is a subscription based international quality assurance program for marine environmental monitoring. Laboratory performance studies include four rounds per annum of 'blind' analysis of seawater, sediment and biota. Submitted data is statistically assessed to provide an external quality assurance for chemical measurements in the marine environment. Our performance in QUASIMEME has consistently been of a very high quality and documentation is available if required. The laboratory follows documented analytical protocols based on USEPA methodology and other published methodology and includes extensive QC analyses with every sample batch.


The ECMU has been and is involved in a broad range of research consultancies for industry and government agencies, a snapshot of which is listed below:

  • Baseline studies for the McArthur River Mine development in the Gulf of Carpentaria. (McArthur River Mining Pty. Ltd.)
  • Heavy metals and arsenic in sediments of Darwin Harbour (N.T. Department of Land Resource Management (DLRM))
  • Investigations of impacts of sewage effluent on water quality in Darwin Harbour with a focus on macro-tidal creek receiving environments (Power Water Corporation)
  • In shore catchment bacteria assessment (DLRM, Darwin City Council, Department of Health)
  • Baseline studies of seawater, sediment and biota for the Century Mine development at Karumba, Gulf of Carpentaria, QLD (Minerals and Metals Group Century Mine Ltd)
  • Assessment of metal contamination in mangroves along the Norman River at Karumba (Minerals and Metals Group Century Mine Ltd)
  • Assessment of sediment sources in Angurugu River, Groote Eylandt (GEMCO, BHP Billiton)
  • Marine Health Monitoring Program, Receiving Environment Quality Survey (Pacific Aluminium Gove Pty. Ltd.)
  • Investigation of the effects of effluent discharge from Rio Tinto Alcan Yarwun on the receiving environment of Port Curtis (Rio Tinto Alcan Yarwun Pty. Ltd.)
  • Air quality monitoring in the Darwin Area for NT Department of Lands Planning and Environment and CSIRO Atmospheric Research Division.
  • Analytical Services to Environmental Research Institute of the Supervising Scientist. 


ECMU Administration:

Professor Karen Gibb - Leader and Microbiology

Dr Niels Munksgaard - Chemistry



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