Sarah Buckerfield

BES PhD StudentPhD Student

Bachelor of Global and Ocean Sciences (Hons, 1st) The Australian National University (2010-2013)


Dr David Oliver (University of Stirling)
Dr Richard Quilliam (University of Stirling)
Prof Susan Waldron (University of Glasgow)
Dr Larissa Naylor (University of Glasgow)

Start Date: 1st October 2016

4B141 Cottrell Building
Biological & Environmental Sciences
Faculty of Natural Sciences
University of Stirling
Stirling, Scotland, FK9 4LA

Tel: +44 (0)1786 467767
fax: +(44) 1786 467843


My particular area of interest is sustainable groundwater management as part of the broader catchment management framework. I hope to contribute to this field by developing skills as an interdisciplinary scientist able to draw on the fields of geology, hydrogeology, geophysics and remote sensing, biology, and geochemistry. After graduating from The Australian National University in 2013 I entered the graduate program at Geoscience Australia (see worked on a variety of projects across the agency. This included The Broken Hill Managed Aquifer Recharge project in the groundwater group, investigating the effects of spatial data projections on the predictive accuracy of spatial interpolation in GIS in the National Earth Observation Group, and geophysical surveys for regolith cover depth estimation as part of the UNCOVER initiative in the geophysical acquisition and processing team.

Research Project

Understanding hydrological and land-use controls on microbial pollution & human health risks in the South West China karst region.

Microbial contamination of groundwater used for drinking, irrigation, domestic purposes, and industry is a cause of serious health issues in the Southwest China karst region. It is a function of contamination of surface water by agricultural and domestic run-off and waste, in particular manure and sewage, which enters the groundwater system upon which communities are often completely dependent during the dry season and droughts. The inherent geological and hydrological properties of karst aquifers allow minimal attenuation of microbial contaminants, a phenomenon that is observed in the Southwest China karst region and throughout karst aquifers of the world, resulting in re-emergence of pathogenic microbes at groundwater bores and springs. A combination of land-use practices, the tropical to sub-tropical climate, climate change bringing increased frequency and severity of droughts, and the inherently vulnerable karst aquifer system have led to this widespread health problem as part of a devastating ecological disaster. Detailed study of the temporal and spatial variation in production of microbial contaminants, and hydrological controls on their fate in the surface-groundwater system are required to adjust management of this fragile ecosystem for urgent human health and environmental needs.

Project goals

  • Characterise sources of Faecal indicator organisms (FIOs) across the range of land uses encountered in karst terrain of the Guizhou Provence, their loading to land,  seasonal variation, and relationship with the probability of microbial pathogen presence.
  • Quantify the role of different hydrological mechanisms in the attenuation, transport, and fate of FIOs through the wet and dry seasons.
  • Evaluate the role of the karst environment from field to landscape scale in determining downstream microbial organism concentrations and FIO fate.
  • Develop simple and effective methods to inform local communities of the mechanisms and risks of microbial contamination of drinking water, enabling improved management.

Funding acknowledgements

The PhD is funded by NERC via the IAPETUS Doctoral Training Partnership. My host institutions are The University of Stirling and University of Glasgow.

© University of Stirling FK9 4LA Scotland UK • Telephone +44 1786 473171 • Scottish Charity No SC011159
Portal Logon