Professor Ian Snape

Professor Ian Snape
Professor Ian Snape (Photo: Glenn Jacobson)

Professor Ian Snape: BSc, PhD
Geochemist and Principal Research Scientist

Research interests

I have worked in the remediation industry for 18 years as a consultant and research scientist and now lead and coordinate a multidisciplinary team of researchers from the Australian Antarctic Division, CSIRO and universities in Australia, Canada and the US. I’m also Chairman of the Contaminants in Freezing Ground Network – an association of about 150 scientific researchers, environmental regulators and engineers who have a practical interest in managing contaminants in freezing ground.

My research focus concerns complex interdisciplinary problems that involve:

  • identification, transport, fate and impacts of contaminants in the Antarctic environment;
  • elucidation of processes of biodegradation of petroleum hydrocarbons using organic chemistry, isotopic techniques and microbial ecology; and
  • development and application of water treatment techniques for mitigation of contaminated runoff.

Scientific research outputs include 80 peer review journal articles, a co-edited book Bioremediation of Petroleum Hydrocarbons in Cold Regions, more than 100 environmental consultancy reports, ministerial briefings and conference abstracts.

Major research has:

  • identified contaminant sources and pathways through the nearshore environment at Casey station;
  • demonstrated the relationship between contaminants and biological impacts;
  • provided scientific evidence to support the need for site remediation; and
  • developed techniques for on site water treatment and site remediation in Antarctica.

This research culminated in the development and implementation of Australia's Antarctic Clean-up Program. In 2004 the first stage of clean-up was completed at Casey station with the removal of 1000 tons of hazardous waste.

Current projects

  • Remediation of petroleum contaminants in the Antarctic and subantarctic (#4036)

International representation/collaborations

Major international research collaborations:

Development of permeable reactive barriers for petroleum spill mitigation in freezing ground.

Using designs developed and tested through collaborative research in Antarctica, BP have commissioned the first permeable reactive barrier in the Arctic for installation on a gravel pad on the North Slope of Alaska. The project team is co-led by Prof Geoff Stevens (University of Melbourne), A/Prof Damian Gore (Macquarie University), Prof David Barnes (University of Alaska, US) and Dr James Chatham (BP Executive, Anchorage, US) and has been active for 5 years. It is a significant collaboration between Arctic and Antarctic governments, industry and academia.

Development of in situ metal stabilisation technologies for contaminated soil in freezing conditions.

Metal contamination in the Antarctic is mostly associated with abandoned waste disposal sites. In the Arctic, there is also a vast contamination problem associated with abandoned mine tailings. The project team is co-led by A/Prof Damian Gore (Macquarie University), Prof Geoff Stevens (University of Melbourne), Dr Dan Stangrom (Veolia ES), Dr Gary Pritchard (PanAlytical), and Anne Glatiotis (Worley Parsons Komex, Canada). The goal is to develop a technique for remediating metal contaminants without the need for bulk extraction and removal of soil, which is prohibitively expensive.

Spatial variability in polar soil ecosystems: An integrated study of genes, microbial biodiversity and landform evolution.

This international project is co-led with A/Prof Steven Siciliano (University of Saskatchewan, Canada) and Prof Michael Gillings (Macquarie University). This ambitious 10 year+ program of research involves analysis and sampling landform features at a variety of spatial scales (10 cm to intercontinental) across the Arctic and Antarctic to examine those factors that influence soil ecosystem vulnerability to pollution and climate change. So far, more than 1000 soils have been collected and archived from Antarctica, Norway and Canada. Gene sequencing and environmental parameterisation are currently underway, and the first green house gas flux information from high polar and sub-Antarctic soils have now been obtained.

Key outcome areas

Development and implementation of:

  • Australia’s Antarctic and subantarctic Clean-up Program;
  • chain of custody procedures for samples at the Antarctic Division; and
  • the polar soil library.

Related links

Selected Publications

Filler, D., Snape, I., & Barnes, D., Eds. (2008). Bioremediation of Petroleum Hydrocarbons in Cold Regions. Cambridge. 288 pp.

Walworth, J., Pond, A., Snape, I., Rayner, J., Ferguson, S. & Harvey, P. (2007). Nitrogen requirements for maximizing petroleum bioremediation in a sub-Antarctic soil. Cold Regions Science and Technology 48, 84-91.

Schafer, A.N., Snape, I., & Siciliano, S.D. (2007). Soil biogeochemical toxicity endpoints for sub-Antarctic Islands contaminated with petroleum hydrocarbons. Environmental Toxicology & Chemistry 26, 890-897.

Larner, B.L., Seen, A.J., & Snape, I. (2006). Evaluation of diffusive gradients in thin film (DGT) samplers for measuring contaminants in the Antarctic marine environment. Chemosphere 65, 811-820.

Woodberry, P., Stevens, G., Snape, I., & Stark, S. (2006). Removal of metal contaminants by ion-exchange resin columns, Thala Valley Tip, Casey Station, Antarctica. Solvent Extraction and Ion Exchange 24, 603-620.

Snape, I., Ferguson, S.H., Harvey, P.M., & Riddle, M.J. (2006). Investigation of evaporation and biodegradation of fuel spills in Antarctica: II—Extent of natural attenuation at Casey Station. Chemosphere 63, 89-98.

Powell, S.M., Ferguson, S.H., Snape, I., & Siciliano, S.D. (2006). Fertilization stimulates anaerobic fuel degradation of Antarctic soils by denitrifying microorganisms. Environmental Science and Technology 40, 2011-2017.

Snape, I., Harvey, P.M., Ferguson, S.H., Rayner, J.L., Revill, A.T. (2005). Investigation of evaporation and biodegradation of fuel spills in Antarctica: I - a chemical approach using GC-FID. Chemosphere 61, 1485-1494.

Northcott, K.A., Snape, I., Scales, P.J., Stevens, G.W. (2005). Dewatering behaviour of water treatment sludges associated with contaminated site remediation in Antarctica. Chemical Engineering Science 60, 6835-6843.