Dr Adam Hartland

Adam Hartland

Senior Lecturer (Geochemistry)

Qualifications: BSc(Hons), PhD Birmingham

Personal Website:

About Adam

I'm an environmental geochemist specialising in the interaction between natural organic matter, nanoparticles and trace elements in soil, water and minerals. I work on a range of applied and fundamental problems, from understanding the mechanisms of metal contamination in agricultural soils, to measuring nutrient and toxic metal bioavailability in water bodies, to developing proxies of past environmental change using cave carbonates (speleothems). All these topics have similar chemical processes at their core and draw on techniques from both geochemistry (e.g. isotopes, geochemical modelling) and environmental chemistry (e.g. speciation analysis).

I have a long-held interest in the subsurface dating back to an undergraduate project studying groundwater food-webs under New Zealand’s Canterbury plains. This led me deeper underground, resulting in a PhD in Speleothem Science at the University of Birmingham, and a postdoctoral fellowship in groundwater geochemistry at the University of New South Wales. I currently hold a Rutherford Discovery Fellowship aimed at developing new, quantitative proxies of climate history from speleothems.

Papers Taught

Research Supervised


  • Dempsey, Te Puea (2015) Toitu Te Moananui a Toi- The Effects of the MV Rena on the Water Quality, Chemistry and Zooplankton of Otaiti (Astrolabe Reef).
  • McSweeney, Caleb (2015) The Effects of Contaminated Rena Sediments on Julvenile Paua (Haliotis iris).
  • Eager, Chris (in progress) Alum dosing of lake tributaries in the Bay of Plenty region (UoW scholarship)


  • Pearson, Andrew (in progress). The terrestrial carbon cycle in transition: tracking changes using novel tracers on multiple timescales (Marsden Fast-Start).
  • Saeed, Huma (in progress). Controls on the bioavailability of phosphorus in lake systems (ERI Scholarship).
  • Muraoka, Kohji (in progress). Lake mixing and phytoplankton diversity - analysis from regional to global scale.
  • Salmanzadeh, Mahdiyeh (in progress). An isotopic assessment of the apparent plateau in New Zealand soil cadmium accumulation (ERI and NZFA Award).
  • Drylie, Tarn (in progress). The effects of low-level disturbances on coastal soft sediment biodiversity and ecosystem function (NIWA).
  • Iuele, Helena (in progress) Investigation of Levels and Type of Endocrine Disruptors in Sediments in Coastal Areas of the Bay of Plenty (UoW Doctoral Scholarship).
  • Chong, Grace-Lynn (in progress) Mercury Bioaccumulation in Fish from Different Trophics Statuses and Seasonal Cycling in the Taupo Volcanic Zone Lakes (UoW Doctoral Scholarship).
  • Mering, John (in progress) Development and application of stable isotope methods for evaluation of alteration and fluid flow in hydrothermal settings.
  • Clunies-Ross, Phil (in progress, UCan) Glacial Suspended Particulate Matter: Compositional and Behavioural Change in Freshwater Environments.
  • Anderson, Ebony (in progress, UNewcastle) Geologic Archives of Climate Drivers in the South Pacific (ARC).
  • Yi, Zicheng (in progress, Lincoln Uni) Cadmium bioavailability in agricultural soils.
  • Kpodonu, Theodore (2016). An integrated ecosystem assessment for water quality management of Lake Okataina (BOPRC).
  • Huteau, Julien (2017) Fate & effects of contaminants in estuarine environments (BOPRC).

Research Interests

I would welcome inquiries from students interested in carrying out research in any of the following areas (note this list is not exhaustive):

MSc opportunities

- Fluorescence as a tracer of lake trophic state

- In situ probes for measuring trace element and organic speciation

- Speleothems as recorders of extreme events

- Mechanisms of metal-organic incorporation in calcite

- Adsorption and microbial degradation of organic matter traced with carbon isotopes

- Reconstructing lake trophic state using compound specific amino acids

PhD opportunities

- Novel quantitative proxies of past climate from speleothems

- Environmental signal alteration during carbonate precipitation

- Reconstructing ENSO using highly-resolved palaeoclimate records

- Testing terrestrial archives of volcanism


Caves and palaeoclimate

Caves provide unique windows into the functioning of surface ecosystems and through speleothem deposition, record information on  a wide range of processes, including infiltration dynamics, vegetation, soil carbon storage, temperature changes and many more. We are currently focusing on the interaction of colloids (particles between 1 and 1000 nm), natural organic ligands and complexed (chemically-bound) metals, in order to develop speleothem proxies of past environmental change. This work benefits from collaborations with European research organisations through project QUEST.

Aqueous biogeochemistry

Natural ligands and nanoparticles in soil and water play a central role in controlling the mobility and bioavailability of metals and metalloids. This research theme is focused on ecological impacts of these processes.

DGT research

DGT (diffusive gradients in thin films) is a passive sampling technique which can be deployed for the specific measurement of dissolved species in water. Researchers in my group employ DGT to answer a range of questions relating to the chemical form (speciation) and biogeochemical availability of metals, nutrients and contaminants in soil. sediment and water.

Soil and sediment systems

The accumulation and transfer of metals and nutrient species within soils is controlled to a large extent by interactions at the soil-water-root interface. Students in my group are involved in studying the fate, mobility and transformation of metals, toxic compounds (e.g. Cd) and nutrients in soils and sediments in collaboration with other New Zealand research institutes.

Isotope systematics

Stable and radio isotopes are essential tools in the study of Earth and environmental science. Opportunities are available for research students to use O and C isotope measurements as well as more exotic isotopes (e.g. 114/110Cd) to explore modern and ancient processes.

Analytical techniques used in WEG research include:
  • Diffusive gradients in thin films (DGT)
  • Flow field-flow fractionation (Fl-FFF), size exclusion (SE), normal and reverse-phase high performace liquid chromatography (HPLC)
  • Fluorescence spectroscopy (3D excitation emission matrices), total organic carbon (TOC) analysis
  • Ultrafiltration
  • Inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICPMS), including laser-ablation (LA-ICPMS)
  • Stable isotope mass spectrometry (IRMS and CRDS)

Recent Publications

  • Salmanzadeh, M., Balks, M. R., Hartland, A., & Schipper, L. A. (2016). Cadmium accumulation in three contrasting New Zealand soils with the same phosphate fertilizer history. Geoderma Regional, 7(3), 271-278. doi:10.1016/j.geodrs.2016.05.001 Open Access version: hdl:10289/10386

  • Blyth, A. J., Hartland, A., & Baker, A. (2016). Organic proxies in speleothems -- New developments, advantages and limitations. Quaternary Science Reviews, 149, 1-17.

  • Kpodonu, A. T. N. K., Hamilton, D. P., Hartland, A., Laughlin, D., & Lusk, C. H. (2016). Coupled use of sediment phosphorus speciation and pigment composition to infer phytoplankton phenology over 700 years in a deep oligotrophic lake. Biogeochemistry, Online, 16 pages. doi:10.1007/s10533-016-0227-3

  • Dempsey, T., Ross, P. M., Hartland, A., McSweeney, C., & Battershill, C. N. (2016). Measurement of shipwreck-derived waterborne trace metals using DGT samplers. New Zealand Journal of Marine and Freshwater Research, 50(1), 115-130. doi:10.1080/00288330.2015.1127829

Find more research publications by Adam Hartland

Contact Details

Room: C.D.3.02
Phone: +64 7 837 9390