Dr Catherine King

Ecotoxicologist, Dr Catherine King with two rubber boats containing marine sampling equipment, in Antarctica.
Ecotoxicologist Dr Catherine King. (Photo: Jane Wasley)

Dr Catherine (Cath) King: BSc (Hons), PhD
Senior Research Scientist: Ecotoxicology

Research interests

I am an environmental scientist with over 25 years experience in the field of ecotoxicology and environmental risk assessment. I studied at the University of Sydney (NSW, Australia) where I obtained both my Bachelor of Science (Honours, 1992) and my Doctor of Philosophy (1999) degrees. My research projects for both degrees focused on ecotoxicology in marine environments. For my doctoral thesis I investigated the impact of metals and organic contaminants on sensitive early life history stages of marine invertebrates. My doctoral work was a collaboration with the Aquatic Toxicology group, Sydney Water, with whom I worked as an Environmental Scientist during this period. After graduating, I completed a Post-Doctoral Research Fellowship at the Centre for Environmental Contaminants Research at CSIRO in NSW. During my Post-Doc, I conducted research on the bioavailability, bioaccumulation and toxicity of contaminants in waters and sediments to benthic marine invertebrates, and contributed to the development of the Handbook for Sediment Quality Assessment for Australia.

My first experience working in Antarctica was during my doctoral degree. I was fortunate to be invited to join a research project within the Human Impacts Research Program, and spent the 1996–97 and 1997–98 summers conducting research on the impact of a rubbish tip and wastewater discharge on near-shore sediments and biota. This involved both field-based biomonitoring and benthic community surveys, and laboratory-based bioaccumulation studies and toxicity tests.

In 2005 I began working as a Research Scientist at the Australian Antarctic Division, where I have continued to develop a portfolio of ecotoxicology research on Antarctic and subantarctic species. Most of my research during this period has focused on determining the sensitivity of a range of species to common contaminants that occur in the Antarctic environment, especially metals, fuels and complex wastewater mixtures. I am particularly interested in factors that control contaminant bioavailability and that affect the sensitivity of organisms to contaminants, and the sensitivity and vulnerability of organisms to stressors associated with environmental change. The research I do encompasses both marine and terrestrial environments, with the ultimate aim of developing site-specific environmental quality guidelines for Antarctica and subantarctic regions. I have led and contributed as a co-investigator to over 20 Antarctic-based research projects, over the course of which I have supervised nearly 30 postgraduate research students. I am currently positioned as a Senior Research Scientist, leading the Ecotoxicology Research group within the Antarctic Conservation and Management Program at the AAD.

My current research portfolio requires that I manage a suite of diverse multidisciplinary teams that deliver strategically important robust scientific research that contributes to evidenced-based decision making in policy and operational developments both for the Australian Antarctic program, and internationally through the Committee for Environmental Protection (CEP).

Current projects

 International/national collaborations

  • University of Tasmania
  • University of Wollongong
  • Deakin University
  • Macquarie University
  • Monash University
  • University of Sydney
  • University of NSW
  • Southern Cross University
  • University of Western Sydney
  • Griffith University
  • CSIRO

Key outcome areas

  • Committee for Environmental Protection (CEP)
  • Australian Antarctic Division Strategies Branch (Policy) and Support Centre (Operations)
  • Australian Government – ANZECC/ARMCANZ Australian and New Zealand guidelines for fresh and marine water quality
  • Australian Government – National State of Environment (SoE) reporting
  • Tasmanian Government

Related links

Australian Antarctic Magazine (AAM) articles

Press releases and online articles

Selected publications

Wasley J, Mooney T, King CK, 2016. Risk assessment of the impact of fuel on soil invertebrate communities on a subantarctic island. Integrated Environmental Assessment and Management 12(2): 306–314. doi: 10.1002/ieam.1674

Arbel J, King CK, Raymond B, Winsley T, Mengersen KL, 2015. Application of a Bayesian nonparametric model to derive toxicity estimates based on the response of Antarctic microbial communities to fuel contaminated soil. Ecology and Evolution 5(13): 2633–2645. doi:10.1002/ece3.1493

Corbett PA, King CK, Mondon JA. 2015. Application of a quantitative histological health index for Antarctic rock cod (Trematomus bernacchii) from Davis Station, East Antarctica. Marine Environmental Research 109: 28–40. doi:10.1016/j.marenvres.2015.05.011

Nydahl AC, King CK, Wasley J, Jolley DF, Robinson SA, 2015. Toxicity of fuel contaminated soil to Antarctic moss and terrestrial algae. Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry, 34(9): 2004–2012. doi: 10.1002/etc.3021

Gissi F, Adams MS, Jolley DF, King CK, Robinson S, 2015. Toxicity of metals to the Antarctic marine microalga, Phaeocystis antarctica. Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry, 34(7): 1578–1587 doi: 10.1002/etc.2949

Sfiligoj BJ, King CK, Candy SG, Mondon JA, 2015. Determining the sensitivity of the Antarctic amphipod Orchomenella pinguides to metals using a joint model of survival response to exposure concentration and duration. Ecotoxicology, 24: 583–594. doi: 10.1007/s10646-014-1406-4

Stark JS, Smith J, King CK, Lindsay M, Stark S, Palmer AS, Snape I, Bridgen P, Riddle M, 2015. Physical, chemical, biological and ecotoxicological properties of wastewater from Davis Station, Antarctica. Cold Regions Science and Technology, 113: 52–62. doi:10.1016/j.coldregions.2015.02.006

Wild S, McLagan D, Schlabach M, Bossi R, Hawker D, Cropp R, King CK, Stark JS, Mondon J, Bengtson Nash S, 2015. An Antarctic Research Station as a source of Brominated and Perfluorinated Persistent Organic Pollutants to the Local Environment. Environmental Science and Technology, 49: 103–112. doi: 10.1021/es5048232

Marcus Zamora L, King CK, Payne SJ, Virtue P, 2015. Sensitivity and response time of three common Antarctic marine copepods to metal exposure. Chemosphere, 120: 267–272. doi: 10.1016/j.chemosphere.2014.07.051

Richardson E, Powell S, King CK, 2015. The Use of Microbial Gene Abundance in the Development of Fuel Remediation Guidelines in Polar Soils. Integrated Environmental Assessment and Management, 11(2): 235–241 doi:10.1002/ieam.1580

Bramley-Alves J, Wasley J, King CK, Powell S, Robinson S, 2014. Phytoremediation of hydrocarbon contaminants in subantarctic soils: an effective management option. Journal of Environmental Management 142: 60–69. doi: 10.1016/j.jenvman.2014.04.019

Payne SJ, King CK, Marcus Zamora L, Virtue P, 2014. Temporal changes in the sensitivity of coastal Antarctic zooplankton communities to diesel fuel: A comparison between single- and multi-species toxicity tests. Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry (33) 4: 882–890. doi: 10.1002/etc.2522

Ho MA, Price C, King CK, Virtue P, Byrne M, 2013. Effects of ocean warming and acidification on fertilization in the Antarctic echinoid Sterechinus neumayeri across a range of sperm concentrations. Marine Environmental Research 90: 136–141. doi:10.1016/j.marenvres.2013.07.007

Mooney TJ, King CK, Wasley J, Andrew NR, 2013. Toxicity of diesel contaminated soils to the subantarctic earthworm Microscolex macquariensis. Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry 32(2): 370–377. doi: 10.1002/etc.2060