Biomass Burning Tracing

Biomass Burning Markers Identification and Tracing Using Hyphenated Techniques

Degree type


Closing date

25 September 2023



Citizenship requirement

Domestic / International


$36,161pa for 3.5 years

About the research project

The toughest analytical science challenges typically require advanced analytical technologies to acquire the desired solutions. In the field of separation science this inevitably involves hyphenated technologies, specifically the combination of chromatography and mass spectrometry hyphenation. To advance this technology to its full capability our ARC Training Centre for Hyphenated Analytical Separation Technologies (HyTECH) utilises the collaborative strength of academic, industry and end-user partnerships.

We are seeking outstanding graduates with an interest in solving fundamental and technical challenges in analytical science, with a focus on delivering analytical solutions and impact to technology end-users. HyTECH students will receive a competitive post-graduate stipend, contribute to a program of cutting-edge industry focused research, be supported with a substantial annual program of early career researcher professional development, and over the course of their candidature spend a minimum of twelve months placement within the facilities of one or more of the project’s supporting partner organisations.

Biomass burning (BB) emissions are a significant source of particles to the atmosphere, especially in regions where the occurrence of anthropogenic and natural wildfires is common. Aerosol emissions from wildfires can be transported long distances and lead to atmospheric deposition of macronutrients (such as nitrogen) and bio essential trace metals (such as iron) to remote ocean regions, which has the potential to fertilise marine ecosystems. A highly sensitive and selective method to track BB emissions involves monitoring the atmospheric concentration of specific markers, namely, the monosaccharide anhydrides (MAs), levoglucosan, mannosan and galactosan. The type and concentration of these BB markers depend on the type of biomass being burnt and other parameters such as burning temperature. This information can be used to reconstruct fire activity matching more accurately with type of vegetation burnt or specific locations.

Ion chromatography with electrospray lithium cationisation - triple quadrupole tandem mass spectrometry (IC-ESI-QqQ-MS) had demonstrated to provide the selectivity and sensitivity required for the determination of MAs in atmospheric aerosols and sediments samples. However, the identity of additional BB potential markers found in those samples remained still unknown. There is also a lack of a systematic study about the ratios among BB markers as a function of the type of vegetation burnt. This project involves the development of new methods based on ion chromatography and/or hydrophilic interaction liquid chromatography IC/HILIC-ESI-QqQ-MS for the analysis of well-known and potential new BB markers for the analysis of a suite of marine and terrestrial atmospheric aerosol samples, sea/fresh water samples and sediment samples. The new method will be applied to field work from land-based (kunanyi-Mount Wellington) and ship-based (Southern Ocean Time Series) time-series platforms and to lacustrine sediments. To overcome the lack of systematic studies about the ratios among MAs as a function of the type of vegetation burnt, this project will collaborate with FireLab3 (Fire Centre, Bushfire Research Hub, UTAS), a facility where simulated biomass burning can be perform under controlled conditions to accurately measure different biomass burning markers according to different types of biomasses being burnt. This project will also expand work combining the analysis of the same samples by IC coupled with inductively coupled plasma MS (IC-ICP-MS) to add speciation capability to the project.

Primary Supervisor

Meet Dr Estrella Sanz Rodriguez


The successful applicant will receive a scholarship which provides:

  • a living allowance stipend funded by ARC of $36,161 per annum (2023 rate, indexed annually) for 3.5 years
  • a relocation allowance of up to $2,000
  • a tuition fees offset covering the cost of tuition fees for up to four years (domestic applicants only)

If successful, international applicants will receive a University of Tasmania Fees Offset for up to four years.

As part of the application process you may indicate if you do not wish to be considered for scholarship funding.

Other funding opportunities and fees

For further information regarding other scholarships on offer, and the various fees of undertaking a research degree, please visit our Scholarships and fees on research degrees page.


Applicants should review the Higher Degree by Research minimum entry requirements.

Ensure your eligibility for the scholarship round by referring to our Key Dates.

Additional eligibility criteria specific to this project/scholarship:

  • Applicants must be able to undertake the project on-campus

Selection Criteria

The project is competitively assessed and awarded.  Selection is based on academic merit and suitability to the project as determined by the College.

Additional essential selection criteria specific to this project:

  • Suitable for graduates with degrees in Chemistry (preferably Analytical), or any Earth, Environmental, Oceanography, or Marine Science discipline with analytical chemistry experience.
  • Collaborative and multidisciplinary team-player mentality

Additional desirable selection criteria specific to this project:

  • A strong interest in the biogeochemistry of trace elements in the ocean or the atmosphere would be desirable
  • Laboratory and analytical instrumental skills
  • Demonstrable research communication skills e.g. research thesis, published papers, conference presentations

Application process

  1. Select your project, and check that you meet the eligibility and selection criteria, including citizenship;
  2. Contact Dr Estrella Sanz Rodriguez to discuss your suitability and the project's requirements; and
  3. In your application:
    • Copy and paste the title of the project from this advertisement into your application. If you don’t correctly do this your application may be rejected.
    • Submit a signed supervisory support form, a CV including contact details of 2 referees and your project research proposal.
  4. Apply prior to 25 September 2023.

Full details of the application process can be found under the 'How to apply' section of the Research Degrees website.

Following the closing date applications will be assessed within the College. Applicants should expect to receive notification of the outcome by email by the advertised outcome date.

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