Dr Liping Pang is a Science Leader at ESR. Her field of expertise is on the experimental investigations and modelling of contaminant transport in subsurface media, in particular on subsurface microbial transport.
Her research ranges from identifying water contamination sources and pathways using synthetic DNA tracers, modelling subsurface microbial transport, phosphorus, heavy metals and pesticides to setback distances and the cumulative impact of on-site disposal systems on groundwater quality.
Liping has successfully led two Marsden projects on virus research related to groundwater. In recent years she has pioneered multidisciplinary research in developing cost-effective surrogates using biomolecule-modified particles for mimicking pathogen transport and removal in porous media. So far, surrogates for Cryptosporidiumparvum, rotavirus and adenovirus have been developed and validated in alluvial and coastal sand aquifer media. The Cryptosporidium surrogates have been also satisfactorily validated by researchers overseas in granular limestone aquifer media.
“Our approach has opened up an exciting new direction for assessing pathogen attenuation and transport in porous media," she says.
“Testing the actual pathogens is expensive, risky and time consuming. Other methods, like using turbidity for measuring protozoa removal, are grossly inaccurate. The new surrogate techniques can allow us to get a much clearer picture of how certain pathogens are transported and removed in water environment. We are currently working with Water Research Australia to validate the surrogates in water treatment processes like coagulation and filtration.”
To build collaborative relationships with international researchers, Liping was recently awarded a travel grant through the Royal Society of New Zealand’s New Zealand-Germany Science & Technology Programme. She also collaborates with the UNESCO Global Water Pathogen Project.
By analysing a large body of published data from field experiments, Liping has established an extensive database of microbial removal rates for a wide range of soils, vadose zones, and aquifer media under various environmental conditions.
“The database provides useful information for analysing the risk of water contamination, determine safe setback distances, and to select suitable sites for land disposal of wastewater and sludge,” she says.
Liping has a PhD in Civil Engineering from the University of Canterbury and a Master of Science in Earth Sciences from the University of Waikato.
Recently funded projects