Dr Cassie Rauert

Senior Research Fellow

Queensland Alliance for Environmental Health Sciences
Faculty of Health and Behavioural Sciences
c.rauert@uq.edu.au
+61 7 334 61814

Overview

Cassandra is a Research Fellow at QAEHS, joining the group in 2019. She completed her PhD at the University of Birmingham in 2014 where her research focussed on determining how humans are exposed to flame retardants from their indoor environments. Following her PhD she completed a Postdoctoral Fellowship at Environment and Climate Change Canada where she was the principal researcher for the Global Atmospheric Passive Sampling (GAPS) Network, researching chemicals of concern in the atmosphere. Following her Postdoctoral Fellowship she worked for the Oil Sands Monitoring Program in Canada, assisting with facilitating a multi-stakeholder funding program for assessing environmental impact of Oil Sands operations, before returning to Australia in 2019.

At QAEHS she is the project lead investigating human exposure to microplastics and developing new methods for detecting micro and nanoplastics in human matrices. Her other research interests include the impact of tyre road wear particles and the chemical additives they contain on urban water ways, and developing novel biomonitoring methods for assessing human exposure to chemicals of concern (e.g. silicone wristbands and breast implants).

Research Interests

  • Impact of tyre wear and tyre additive chemcials on the environment
    Tyre road wear particles (TRWPs) are formed through every day abrasion of tyres on road surfaces and are now recognised as one of the largest sources of microplastics to the urban environment. Whilst being a significant source of microplastics they also contain a wide range of harmful additive chemicals. Our group is studying the occurrence, fate and impact of TRWPs and the chemcials they contain on the Australian environment with the aim of reducing their concentrations and impact.
  • Human exposure to plastics
    Humans are exposed to microsize and nanosize palstics everyday but there is still little understanding on this exposure, particularly their fate after we are exposed. In collaboration with the Minderoo foundation we are developing robust analytical methods to confidently quantify plastics in human matrices and assess if there is a risk of this exposure or not.

Qualifications

  • Bachelor of Science Honours Class I, The University of Sydney
  • Doctor of Philosophy, University of Birmingham

Publications

View all Publications

Supervision

  • Doctor Philosophy

  • Doctor Philosophy

  • Doctor Philosophy

View all Supervision

Available Projects

  • High production volume plastics, such as polyolefins, have thus far been the most intensively studied and shown to contaminate all environmental spheres, therefore posing a planetary-scale threat. Other classes of plastics, such as those that are halogenated to increase durability and thermal stability have generally been overlooked. Halogenated plastics may not be as widely used as conventional plastics; however, they are often extremely persistent with emissions associated with their production, use and disposal. This has led to significant environmental concern around the use of these materials, in particular fluorinated and brominated plastics. Informing the debate around environmental emissions of halogenated plastics and their environmental safety requires environmental measurements. Thermal decomposition (pyrolysis) coupled to gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC/MS - Shimadzu) is a potential approach for halogenated plastics. In this ICHDR project, increased sensitivity and specificity would be explored utilising negative ion chemical ionisation mass spectrometry. The outcome of this project will be validated quantitative techniques for the assessment of environmental exposure to the most persistent plastic materials in use

  • We are continually exposed to a complex mixture of chemical pollutants through several pathways. Our exposures are highly specific, with different patterns of exposure from the different aspects of our lives. Increasing complexity in the chemicals being used and produced makes characterising this exposure increasingly challenging. To address this challenge there is a need for improved and robust biomonitoring methods to understand the complete picture of our exposures which will facilitate effective mitigation strategies against exposure to chemicals of high concern.

    This project will develop and apply polydimethylsiloxane (silicone) as a non-invasive human biomonitoring device to advancing understanding on key and unknown chemical exposures to the Australian population. Using silicone wristbands and donated silicone prostheses (breast implants) chemical exposures in a range of scenarios will be quantified through both target and non-target chemical analysis using chromatographic techniques coupled to mass spectrometry (GC/LC-MS). The successful applicant will have access to a range of archived samplers specific to various exposure scenarios as well as the advanced analytical instrumentation necessary to successfully complete the project.

  • Nano-sized plastic particles are a ubiquitous environmental contaminants of emerging concern. Comprised of a complex mixture of different polymers and associated additives, these particles of below 1 µm in size are hypothesised to be either released directly into the environment or the result of fragmentation of larger plastic items. A first step in informing an assessment of whether nanoplastics pose a risk to the environment is to quantify their presence in several key environmental compartments. For particle sizes below 1 µm, asymmetric flow field flow fractionation (AF4) shows potential to effectively characterise particle size and shape. Coupling asymmetric AF4 with thermal decomposition (pyrolysis) gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC/MS - Shimadzu) methods will allow for full characterisation of the nanoplastic fractions in environmental samples. This project will develop, validate, and apply AF4-Pyrolysis-GC/MS methods to allow Shimadzu to be a technology provider to comprehensively characterise nanoplastics in water and urban air, by size, identifying polymer type and quantifying the amount of each polymer present.

View all Available Projects

Publications

Journal Article

PhD and MPhil Supervision

Current Supervision

Possible Research Projects

Note for students: The possible research projects listed on this page may not be comprehensive or up to date. Always feel free to contact the staff for more information, and also with your own research ideas.

  • High production volume plastics, such as polyolefins, have thus far been the most intensively studied and shown to contaminate all environmental spheres, therefore posing a planetary-scale threat. Other classes of plastics, such as those that are halogenated to increase durability and thermal stability have generally been overlooked. Halogenated plastics may not be as widely used as conventional plastics; however, they are often extremely persistent with emissions associated with their production, use and disposal. This has led to significant environmental concern around the use of these materials, in particular fluorinated and brominated plastics. Informing the debate around environmental emissions of halogenated plastics and their environmental safety requires environmental measurements. Thermal decomposition (pyrolysis) coupled to gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC/MS - Shimadzu) is a potential approach for halogenated plastics. In this ICHDR project, increased sensitivity and specificity would be explored utilising negative ion chemical ionisation mass spectrometry. The outcome of this project will be validated quantitative techniques for the assessment of environmental exposure to the most persistent plastic materials in use

  • We are continually exposed to a complex mixture of chemical pollutants through several pathways. Our exposures are highly specific, with different patterns of exposure from the different aspects of our lives. Increasing complexity in the chemicals being used and produced makes characterising this exposure increasingly challenging. To address this challenge there is a need for improved and robust biomonitoring methods to understand the complete picture of our exposures which will facilitate effective mitigation strategies against exposure to chemicals of high concern.

    This project will develop and apply polydimethylsiloxane (silicone) as a non-invasive human biomonitoring device to advancing understanding on key and unknown chemical exposures to the Australian population. Using silicone wristbands and donated silicone prostheses (breast implants) chemical exposures in a range of scenarios will be quantified through both target and non-target chemical analysis using chromatographic techniques coupled to mass spectrometry (GC/LC-MS). The successful applicant will have access to a range of archived samplers specific to various exposure scenarios as well as the advanced analytical instrumentation necessary to successfully complete the project.

  • Nano-sized plastic particles are a ubiquitous environmental contaminants of emerging concern. Comprised of a complex mixture of different polymers and associated additives, these particles of below 1 µm in size are hypothesised to be either released directly into the environment or the result of fragmentation of larger plastic items. A first step in informing an assessment of whether nanoplastics pose a risk to the environment is to quantify their presence in several key environmental compartments. For particle sizes below 1 µm, asymmetric flow field flow fractionation (AF4) shows potential to effectively characterise particle size and shape. Coupling asymmetric AF4 with thermal decomposition (pyrolysis) gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC/MS - Shimadzu) methods will allow for full characterisation of the nanoplastic fractions in environmental samples. This project will develop, validate, and apply AF4-Pyrolysis-GC/MS methods to allow Shimadzu to be a technology provider to comprehensively characterise nanoplastics in water and urban air, by size, identifying polymer type and quantifying the amount of each polymer present.