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Ian’s Scientific Work


Ian Irvine is a marine scientist who has been working on environmental and pollution issues since the 1970s. His B. Sc. (Hons) research (1973) involved an investigation of climatic change over the past 3.7 million years, using samples from a Deep Sea Drilling Project borehole from the middle of the Tasman Sea. This work was published in 1978.

He subsequently gained a Ph. D. in science from the University of Sydney (1981), for his investigation of heavy metal contamination in the seabed sediments of Sydney Harbour and its tributaries.

Ian is an expert in the investigation, assessment and management of contaminated sediments, a major global environmental problem. He has written, edited or contributed to more than 200 scientific reports, articles, environmental impact studies and other investigations, mainly dealing with contamination in the marine and coastal environment.

Ian taking notes underwater

Ian (on right) taking notes, seabed survey of Jervis Bay, 1983

Ian has provided advice to various Australian state governments and many companies on marine environmental and dredging issues, and has acted as an expert witness in several major court cases. He has conducted scientific peer reviews of the sediment investigations for various major projects including the Port of Melbourne Corporation’s Port Phillip Bay Channel Deepening Project (2006-2007) and the recent Independent Review of the Port of Gladstone (2013). He was a member of the expert scientific panel for the Great Barrier Reef Dredge Synthesis Review (2014-2015).

Cover of GBR report

National Assessment Guidelines for Dredging

Ian has carried out many consultancies in the Asia-Pacific region for the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank and other international agencies. His most recent international assignment (2014) was as a sediment pollution specialist, project preparation for a river basin improvement project in Mongolia.

Ian was the principal consultant for the development of all three editions of Australia’s national ocean disposal guidelines between 1993 and 2009, most recently the National Assessment Guidelines for Dredging, 2009. These manuals set out procedures for the investigation, environmental assessment and management of sediments that are dredged out of ports and harbours throughout Australia. Such materials must be proven non-toxic to marine organisms before they can be disposed of at sea. Contaminated sediments are a major global problem and most countries’ ocean disposal follow the guidelines laid down by the London Convention to protect the marine environment.