The Grand Challengers Podcast Episode #19

Diving deep into the underground, ‘forensics’ on river water quality to uncover environmental past and future?

Guest: Anna Lintern

October 17th, 2023

Episode Teaser


“…I think we need to think before we build, to put it simply……”

Did you know that human history leaves traces locked deep beneath the ground that can help us for future challenges? And just how many creative ways are there for us to explore water quality issues in our river systems?

My guest today is Anna Lintern, a senior lecturer and head of the water group in the Department of Civil engineering at Monash University, Australia. Anna’s passion for rivers, water and history has led her on a journey of interdisciplinary proportions and so-called forensics if you can call it that, to support better policymaking for environmental management.

On today’s show, we discuss just how much is involved to dig deep into the underground and unravel how human activities have altered the natural environment.


Anna Lintern is a senior lecturer and head of the water group at Monash University’s Department of Civil Engineering, Australia. Her work focuses on improving river and lake water quality in urban and agricultural environments with a focus on understanding sources and transport pathways of pollutants. Most notably, Anna has combined approaches from multiple disciplines such as palaeolimnology (best understood as ‘forensics’ on core samples taken from the ground), microbiology, statistical modelling, river ecology and geomorpholoy.

Anna obtained a Bachelor Double Degree in Engineering and Arts (with a focus on Japanese and History) in 2011 and PhD in Water Systems Engineering at Monash University in 2016. She pursued a postdoctoral research position at the University of Melbourne for 2 years before rejoining Monash as a Lecturer in November 2017. Anna strives to produce industry-relevant research, collaborating with state government and water authorities on current concerns for waterways across Australia.

Despite being an early career researcher, Anna has already participated in a number of scientific editorial boards and committees. She is currently an Associate Editor for Wires Water, Journal of Environmental Quality and production assistant of the Journal of Humanitarian Engineering. She is also a passionate teacher and active in promoting women in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Medicine (STEM) field.

Resources Related to the Episode

(Disclosure: Links on this page to “View on Amazon” are Affiliate links. This means that, at zero cost to you, I will earn an affiliate commission if you click through the link and finalize a purchase.)

  • Let’s debunk some cat myths
  • Forensic shows from the 90s and early 2000s included: CIS, NCIS, Law and Order, Bones among others
  • If you’re interested in travelling to Japan, here are some nice guides [Japan-Guide] []
  • The International Baccalaureate Programme and a guide to the IB History unit
  • The science behind smooth writing, ballpoint pens and others [Medium article]
    • For a scientific study, here is a nice article: Goonetilleke, R.S., Hoffmann, E.R. and Luximon, A., 2009. Effects of pen design on drawing and writing performance. Applied ergonomics40(2), pp.292-301. [Link]
  • Australian History:
  • “With great power comes great responsibility” – there are actually a few attributions and similar quotes. Here’s an interesting article about this quote
  • What is Palaeolimnology [Wikipedia] and Quaternary Science [Wikipedia]?
  • Anna’s work on sediment cores:
    • Lintern, A., Deletic, A., Leahy, P. and McCarthy, D., 2015. Digging up the dirty past: evidence for stormwater’s contribution to pollution of an urban floodplain lake. Marine and Freshwater Research66(7), pp.596-608. [Link]
    • Lintern, A., Leahy, P.J., Zawadzki, A., Gadd, P., Heijnis, H., Jacobsen, G., Connor, S., Deletic, A. and McCarthy, D.T., 2016. Sediment cores as archives of historical changes in floodplain lake hydrology. Science of the Total Environment544, pp.1008-1019. [Link]
    • Lintern, A., Leahy, P.J., Heijnis, H., Zawadzki, A., Gadd, P., Jacobsen, G., Deletic, A. and McCarthy, D.T., 2016. Identifying heavy metal levels in historical flood water deposits using sediment cores. Water Research105, pp.34-46. [Link]
  • A history of Dichlorophenyltrichloroethane (DDT) [Wikipedia]
  • Anna’s work on spatio-temporal river water quality modelling and data analysis:
    • Lintern, A., Liu, S., Minaudo, C., Dupas, R., Guo, D., Zhang, K., Bende‐Michl, U. and Duvert, C., 2021. The influence of climate on water chemistry states and dynamics in rivers across Australia. Hydrological Processes35(12), p.e14423. [Link]
    • Lintern, A., Webb, J.A., Ryu, D., Liu, S., Waters, D., Leahy, P., Bende‐Michl, U. and Western, A.W., 2018. What are the key catchment characteristics affecting spatial differences in riverine water quality?. Water Resources Research54(10), pp.7252-7272. [Link]
  • Anna’s recent paper on Best Management Practices and the wicked problems: Lintern, A., McPhillips, L., Winfrey, B., Duncan, J. and Grady, C., 2020. Best management practices for diffuse nutrient pollution: Wicked problems across urban and agricultural watersheds. Environmental Science & Technology54(15), pp.9159-9174. [Link]
  • In talking about gold mining and the impact of mining, we reference Episode 17 with Mohan Yellishetty. Check out his episode for more insights on the Australian mining landscape
  • All about Dungeons & Dragons

Connect with Anna Lintern