The University of Western Australia

UWA Staff Profile

Ipsum Lorem

Carolyn Oldham

Professor Carolyn Oldham

Academic Staff (Civil, Environmental and Mining Engineering)

Contact details
Academic Staff (Civil, Environmental and Mining Engineering)
The University of Western Australia (M019)
35 Stirling Highway
+61 8 6488 3531
+61 8 6488 1015
BSc PhD W.Aust.
Carolyn Oldham is Professor at the University of Western Australia in the School of Civil, Environmental and Mining Engineering. She earned a BSc with Honours in Chemistry and a PhD in Environmental Engineering for an investigation into the effects of turbulence on oxygen patchiness in a lake. Since 1994, Carolyn has worked to integrate her cross-disciplinary research interests in transport processes, environmental chemistry and spatial and temporal patchiness. This focus on cross-disciplinary integration, i.e. trans-disciplinary research, has led Carolyn to collaborate with hydrologists, oceanographers, estuarine and groundwater scientists.

Carolyn has led a diverse range of research projects on arsenic contamination of wetlands, rivers and ground waters, fate and transport of decomposing seagrass wrack in coastal waters, groundwater nitrogen plumes into coastal waters, prediction of contaminant dynamics after mine closure, and acidification dynamics in surface and ground waters. While the context of Carolyn’s research has been, and remains, extremely diverse, she has worked to integrate approaches and frameworks across multiple disciplines and has maintained her core interest in the interactions between transport and biogeochemical transformation processes, with a focus on patchiness and connectivity dynamics at system, local and micro scales.

Carolyn brings the same trans-disciplinary approach to her teaching and in 2010, received a national Australian Learning and Teaching Council Award for an “outstanding and sustained commitment to increasing the diversity of student learning experiences in engineering”. From 2003 – 2008, she served as Associate Dean (Teaching and Learning), and Dean in the Faculty of Engineering, Computing and Mathematics at UWA. She remains one of the few women promoted to Professor of Engineering in Australian research intensive universities, she is an active mentor for junior academic women, chairs the UWA Leadership Development for Women Planning Group and initiated an Australian study on optimizing the performance of women academics in engineering. She is currently Project Lead for UWA's SAGE Athena SWAN initative.

Carolyn has also led research projects in a number of developing countries, has sat on the Board of Engineers Without Borders Australia, and has worked in East Timor to build capacity in their Universities to train East Timorese engineers.

Carolyn and her husband Paul have raised two delighful young men, and she is a certified Iyengar yoga teacher.
Key research
The use of non-dimensional numbers to characterize the effectiveness of material transfer across ecosystems.
The impact of surface water – groundwater interactions on nutrient transformation pathways in urban catchments.
Origins and impact of acidic groundwater and acid sulfate soils.
Prediction of water quality in mine pit lakes: monitoring and modeling.
Interactions between waves and marine canopies and the impact on solute and particle fate within canopies.
Seagrass wrack fate and transport.
Engineers, communities and environment

Scholarly books

Oldham CE, Gaynor, AM, Dobbs S and Crebbin G (2013) Engineers engaging communities: Energy and water. Morgan and Claypool, London UK.

Oldham CE. (2014) Environmental sampling and modeling for prediction of water quality in mine pit lakes. UWA Press, Crawley Australia.

Refereed journals

Adyel T, Hipsey M and Oldham C (Accepted) Temporal dynamics of stormwater nutrient attenuation of an urban constructed wetland experiencing summer low flows and macrophyte senescence. Ecological Engineering.

Woodward BL, Marti CL, Imberger J, Hipsey MR, Oldham CE (Accepted) Wind and buoyancy driven horizontal exchange in shallow embayments of a tropical reservoir: Lake Argyle, Western Australia. Limnology and Oceanography.

Colomer J, Soler M, Serra T, Casamitjana X and Oldham C (Accepted) The impact of anthropogenic longitudinal intermattes on a Posidonia oceanica meadow. Marine Ecology Progress Series.

Adyel T, Oldham C and Hipsey M (2016) Stormwater nutrient attenuation in a constructed wetland with alternating surface and subsurface flow pathways: event to annual dynamics. Water Research doi: 10.1016/j.watres.2016.10.005

Abbott B, Baranov V, Mendoza-Lera C, Nikolakopoulou M, Harjung A, Kolbe T, Balasubramanian M, Vaessen T, Ciocca F, Campeau A, Wallin M, Romeijn P, Antonelli M, Gonçalves J, Datry T, Laverman A, de Dreuzy J, Hannah D, Krause S, Oldham C, Pinay G. (2016) Using multi-tracer inference to move beyond single-catchment ecohydrology. Earth Science Reviews. 160:19-42.

El Allaoui A, Serra T, Colomer J, Soler M, Casamitjana X and Oldham CE. (2016) Interactions between fragmented seagrass canopies and local hydrodynamics. PlosOne 11:5, e0156264, doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0156264

Bhaskar AS, Beesley L, Burns MJ, Fletcher TD, Hamel P, Oldham CE, Roy, AH. (2016). Will it rise or will it fall? Managing the diverse effects of urbanizations on base flow. Freshwater Science. 35(1):293–310. doi:10.1086/685084.

Lu S, Näb O, Lazar C, Neu TR, Ciobotă V, Oldham C, Lillicrap A, Peiffer S, Rösch P, Popp J and Küsel K. (2016) Extremophile microbiomes in acidic and hypersaline river sediments of Western Australia. Environmental Microbiology and Environmental Microbiology Reports. 8:58-67

El Allaoui N, Serra T, Soler M, Colomer J, Pujol D and Oldham C (2015) Modified hydrodynamics in canopies with longitudinal gaps exposed to oscillatory flows. J. Hydrology 531: 840-849, doi:10.1016/j.jhydrol.2015.10.041

Harrison F, McAuliffe R, Stubbs K and Oldham C. (2015). Fluorescence application to hydrocarbon monitoring in North West Shelf marine waters. APPEA Journal 2015: 345 - 350.

Daud AM, McDonald S and Oldham CE (2015). Dissolved organic carbon characteristics an acidified groundwater dependent ecosystem. Marine and Freshwater Research, doi: 10.1071/MF13215

Oldham CE, McMahon K, Brown E, Bosserelle C and Lavery PS (2014) Physical properties of seagrass wrack that affects its offshore transport, deposition and retention on a beach. Limnol. Oceanogr. Fluids Env. 4: 120-135, doi 10.1215/21573689-2844703

Biermann V, Lillicrap AM, Magana C, Price B, Bell RW and Oldham CE. (2014) Low cost passive treatment of extremely acidic and saline drainage using municipal waste organics in a compost bioreactor. Water Research, 55:83-94. doi:10.1016/j.watres.2014.02.019

Oldham CE (2013) Book review: Acidic pit lakes: The legacy of coal and metal surface mines. Mine Water and the Environment 32:247-248, doi:10.1007/s10230-013-0231-y

Lavery PS, McMahon K, Weyers J, Boyce MC and Oldham CE (2013) The release of DOC from seagrass wrack and its implications for trophic connectivity. Marine Ecology Progress Series 494:121-133, doi: 10.3354/meps10554

Oldham CE, Farrow D and Peiffer S. (2013) A generalized Damköhler number for classifying material processing in hydrological systems. Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci. 17:1133-1148, doi:10.5194/hess-17-1133-2013.

Nath B, Lillicrap AM, Ellis LC, Boland DD and Oldham CE. (2013) Hydrological and chemical connectivity dynamics in a groundwater dependent ecosystem impacted by acid sulfate soils. Water Resources Research. doi:10.1029/2012WR012760.

Khun TC, Oldham CE and Evans L. (2013) PSII activity as an ecological indicator for assessing impact from variable exposure at community-level. International Journal of Bioscience, Biochemistry and Bioinformatics. doi:10.7763/IJBBB.2013.V3.203

Khun TC, Oldham CE and Evans L. (2012) Urban runoff impacts on receiving aquatic ecosystems assessed using periphyton community. International Journal of River Basin Management. 10: 189-196. doi:10.1080/15715124.2012.683007

Oldham CE, Farrow D and Peiffer S. (2012) The potential for material processing in hydrological systems – a novel classification approach. Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci. Discuss. 9:10487-10524, doi:10.5194/hessd-9-10487-2012, 2012.

Refereed Conference papers

Khakbaz G, Hipsey M and Oldham C. 2016. Effect of hydrological variability on the performance of stormwater constructed wetlands: Assessment of the gaps in current modelling approaches. Stormwater 2016, September 2016, Surfer’s Paradise, Australia

Davies C, Vogwill R and Oldham C. 2016. Urban subsoil drainage as an alternative water source in a drying climate. Stormwater 2016. September 2016, Surfer’s Paradise, Australia

Wang B, Oldham C and Hipsey M. 2016. Comparison of machine learning techniques and variables for groundwater dissolved organic nitrogen prediction in an urban area. Procedia Eng. 154: 1176–1184.

Adyel T., Hipsey M. and Oldham C. 2016. Multi-functional, multi-compartment constructed wetland to support urban waterway restoration. Water Convention 2016.

Adyel, T., Rubal-Conti, A. Ocampo C,. Coletti J., Hipsey M. and Oldham C. 2015. Ecohydrology and stormwater nutrient attenuation performance ina constructed wetland in Western Australia. Proc. 36th International Assoc. Hydro-environmental Rsearch, June 28 – Jul 3, The Hague, The Netherlands.

Lillicrap A, Biermann V and Oldham C. 2014. Interactions between acid saline groundwater and surface waters and the long-term risk of catchment acidification. A case study: Lake Gore, Western Australia. Hydrology and Water Resources Symposium 2014, Perth, Western Australia

Ocampo C.J. and Oldham C.E. 2013. The impact of urbanisation on hydrology in areas with significant groundwater surface water interactions: Three case studies. WSUD 2013 Conference, Gold Coast, Australia.

Technical Reports

Hipsey M, Bruce L and Oldham C 2016 Modelling coastal wrack dynamics. Report to Department of Transport, Western Australia

Hunt K, Ocampo C and Oldham C 2016 A guide for monitoring the performance of WSUD elements in areas of shallow groundwater. CRC Water Sensitive Cities Report B2.4-2-2016

Ocampo C, Rennie B and Oldham C 2016 Performance of two urban stormwater biofilters in a high groundwater area of the Perth Region, Western Australia. CRC Report B2.4-1-2016

Adyel TM, Ocampo C, Tareque H, Oldham C and Hipsey MR 2015 Performance assessment of the Wharf Street Constructed Wetland: 2009-2014. CRC Water Sensitive Cities Report

Ruibal-Conti AL, Ocampo C, Adyel TM, Hipsey MR and Oldham C 2015 Performance assessment of the Anvil Way compensation Basin living stream: 2004-2013. CRC Water Sensitive Cities Report

Uranium Advisory Group 2012. Independent review of uranium mining regulation. Prepared for WA Department of Mines and Petroleum, DMP0281009-A. Available at

Roles, responsibilities and expertise
Current - 2017

Project Leader, CRC Water Sensitive Cities: Groundwater - Surface Water Interactions.
Project Leader, Dept Transport: Water Quality in Jurien Bay Boat Harbour
UWA Lead, SAGE Athena SWAN initiative
Academic Promotion Committee
Board of the Graduate Research School
Chair, UWA Gender Equity Committee
Faculty of Engineering and Mathematical Science Equity and Diversity Committee
Chancellor's Boards of Discipline Panel
Funding received
Career funding

$5.1m in industry funding
$4.8m in national competitive funding
Industrial relevance
Carolyn works at the interface between industry and UWA. The majority of the work done in her Contaminant Dynamics Research Group has had direct industry applications, whether on mine sites, along coastal infrastructure or in areas undergoing urban development. She has chaired a number of industry stakeholder groups that provide feedback to researchers on the usefulness of their work.
Inst Engineers Australia (IEAust)
Australian Institute of Company Directors (AICD)
Assoc. Sciences of Linology and Oceanography (ASLO)
Australian Society fo Limnolgy (ASL)
Honours and awards
2010 UWA Excellence in Teaching Award
2010 National award from the Australian Learning and Teaching Council: Citation for “Sustained commitment to increasing the diversity of student learning experiences in engineering”
Previous positions
1993-94 Postdoctoral Fellow, Masschusetts Institute of Technology
2005-2007 Associate Dean (Teaching and Learning) Faculty of Engineering, Computing and Mathematics
2007 Deputy Dean, Faculty of Engineering, Computing and Mathematics
2008 Interim Dean, Faculty of Engineering, Computing and Mathematics
Carolyn teaches Transdiplinary Design, a unit that brings together Masters students from 4 different Faculties (including Engineering) to work on real life projects in rural and urban areas.

Over the last 20 years, Carolyn has supervised over 100 Engineering Honours students, 12 PhD students and 3 Masters students.

Recently graduated PhDs

Randika Singhe (2016) A critical study of the wastescape in the western province of Sri Lanka: pathways towards alternative approaches.
Adam Lillicrap (2016) Assessing changing land uses and their impact on acidification of downstream waters.
Tanveer Adyel (2017) Treatment wetland metabolism in urban catchments with significant groundwater interactions.

Current supervision PhD and PhM students - 2017

Bronwyn Woodward (PhD) Convective circulation in the side arms of a sheltered lake.
Maria la Paz (PhD) Seasonal stratification, oxygen and macrophyte interactions in a shallow lake.
Benya Wang (PhD) Use of machine learning to explore sources of groundwater organic nitrogen in urban areas.
Sobia Ahmed (PhD) Bioavailability of groundwater organic nitrogen.
Ana Singh (PhM) Interactions betwee macrophytes and hydrology: impact on nutrient attenuation in an urban stream.
Carl Davies (PhD) Groundwater recharge coefficients at urban lot and precinct scales.
Gelareh Khakbaz (PhD) Interaction between hydrology and macrophyte assemblage in urban waterways.
Katia Defendi(PhD) Dwelling, natural resources, and human health: Searching for balance through urban metabolism.
Jeanette Jensen (PhD) Regulation of diffuse source pollution from agriculture
Claire Idris (PhM) Water treatment in developing countries.
Fraser Eynon (PhM) Sediment loads discharged from drains under urban development.
Kumar Kandappan (PhM) Trimetric assessment of infrastructure design and maintenance.
Josephine Neldner (PhD) Where to for water sensitivity? Landscape architecture’s role in determining Australia’s urban water futures.
Current external positions
Interantional Fellowship (2016-2019), University of Bayreuth, Germany
Current projects
Oldham, Lavery, Hipsey and McMahon (2016-17) Dept Transport. The impact of marine wrack degradation on water quality in the Jurien Bay Boat Harbour.

Oldham (2012-2017) CRC Water Sensitive Cities. Hydrology and nutrient transport processes in urban environments.

Research profile
Research profile and publications

The University of Western Australia

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Last updated:
Tuesday, 3 November, 2015 2:39 PM