Trace elements geochemistry

Eco-engineering of in-site red mud into functional soils for sustainable rehabilitation of red mud domain

Dr Narottam Saha is a biogeochemist. His primary research interest is in understanding the biogeochemistry of trace elements and their cycling in the environment, with projects addressing key research questions related to ecological engineering of red mud into functional soil for sustainable rehabilitation of mined land. He is currently involved in wide range of research activities: 

  • Physicochemical speciation and organic-inorganic complexation of metal(loid)s and rare earth elements (REE) to understand their fate and transport in the continuum of contaminated soil/tailings-water-vegetation, which is critical for understanding risks of mine wastes (e.g., tailings, wastewater) and designing effective intervention for alleviating the risks. 
  • Investigation of sensitive shifts in the relative abundance of metal stable isotopes tracing sources and elucidating processes of their migration pathways from mine tailing and soil to plants to natural waterways and eventually into the oceans.
  • Bio-imaging to understand compartmentalization of metal(loid)s and REEs in plant tissues/organs, their uptake mechanism and translocation pathways.
  • Metal(loid) contamination in food chain and aquatic ecosystems, and assessment of associated human and ecological risks.
  • Understanding the dynamics of trace metal geochemistry in coral skeleton and proxy based reconstruction to infer long-term anthropogenic forcing on coral reefs.


Dr Narottam Saha is specialised in the area of environmental analytical chemistry and geochemistry, with Bachelors and Masters Degrees in Applied Chemistry and Chemical Technology, a second Masters Degree (Distinction) in Environmental Sciences ( University of East Anglia, UEA, UK), and  PhD in geochemistry (The University of Queensland). In his Masters study, Saha received a Commonwealth scholarship, one of the most prestigious international scholarship schemes, for Master Degree in Environmental Sciences, with special emphasis on Clumped Isotope geochemistry and climate science.

In 2014, Saha received Australia’s federal government scholarship (IPRS) for undertaking his PhD degree. Saha’s research achievements were well recognised with awards of Stanley Gray Fellowship from Institute of Marine Engineering, Science & Technology (IMarEST, UK) for coral reef research and National Science and Information & Communication Technology (NSICT) Fellowship (2010) from Government of Bangladesh for heavy metal pollution research. 

His multidisciplinary research experiences include biogeochemistry of heavy metals, assessment of carcinogenic and non-carcinogenic risks for the population exposed to heavy metals, clumped isotopes geochemistry in recovering palaeo-climate history and developing trace element proxies in coral carbonate skeleton to trace historical gradients of inshore coastal water quality. His PhD research highlights the potential of self-referencing rare earth elements over traditional trace elemental proxies for reconstructing marine water quality, degradation of which is considered as one of the major threats in declining the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) coral community. He has been the first to have discovered a noble V/Ca proxy, which is decoupled from other commonly used runoff proxies, for monitoring historical catchment clearing and firing in coastal areas. His discovery has direct relevance to environmental protection for reefs in the GBR through promoting better land management with improved water quality. 


The current research projects Saha engaged with are in collaboration with Rio Tinto Ltd, focusing on developing new technologies to rehabilitate bauxite residues dams. 


Dr Saha has academic collaboration with other departments in UQ including School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, School of Agriculture and Food Sciences. He also has international collaboration with University of East Anglia (UK), Bangladesh Atomic Energy Commission, Rajshahi University (Bangladesh), Jahangirnagar University (Bangladesh), Shahid Beheshti University of Medical Sciences (Iran), and Shahid Chamran University of Ahvaz (Iran).