Professor David Chittleborough

Professor David Chittleborough
 Position Adjunct Professor
 Org Unit School of Physics, Chemistry and Earth Sciences
 Telephone +61 8 8313 3873
 Location Floor/Room B ,  Mawson ,   North Terrace
  • Biography/ Background

    Professor David Chittleborough received his Masters Degree in Agricultural Science at the University of Adelaide in 1975 while working in the South Australian Department of Agriculture in the Soil Conservation Branch. He subsequently completed his PhD at the University of Adelaide in the field of pedology in 1982: the study of the origin, development and distribution of soils. The focus was on soils with strongly contrasting textures between surface and subsoil horizons, a property conferring significant challenges for engineering, agricultural and hydrological management, particularly in Australia where almost 20% of the entire continent is covered by such soils. The work showed that a significant process in the development of these soils is clay translocation, a process in which fine clay particles become dispersed and move during storm events from the surface to lower in the profile thereby causing a marked buildup in clay in subsurface horizons. Amongst an array of problems, the clay-rich horizons reduce the rate of transmission of water, pose a significant resistance to root penetration and cause water logging amongst a catalogue of soil management problems.

     Professor Chittleborough joined the University of Adelaide as a Lecturer in 1983 and promoted to Associate Professor in 1999 and subsequently to Professor. His research has focussed on various aspects of soil and environmental science - processes of non-point source pollution, specifically the impact of soil processes and soil management on water quality; the reafforestation of wet-tropics landscapes, the biogenesis of soils and the restoration of arid soilscapes following open-cut mining. He recently completed work funded by the South Australian Government on clay spreading, a technique that holds much promise for dramatically increasing crop yields on impoverished, coarse-textured (sandy) soils. He has had two Australian Research Council Grants in recent years to set up an advanced high-resolution nano-particle fractionation facility.  

    Professor Chittleborough has held number of administrative posts in the University including role of Head of the Department of Soil Science, and Deputy Head of the School of Environmental Sciences. He co-founded the University’s Water Research Centre and was the Centre’s Co-Director for a number of years. In 2013 he took up an Adjunct Professorship in Pedology & Biogeochemistry in the Earth Sciences Department, School of Physical Sciences, Faculty of Sciences. 

    A focus of his recent research is the biogenesis of soil and landscapes for which he has funding from the Environment Institute of the University of Adelaide. This work posits that vegetation has engineered the soil landscape, a process known as niche-building.  He has funding from the Terrestrial Ecosystem Research Network for an Ecosystem Observatory in the River Murray Basin in South Australia near Renmark. [].  This one of a network of 12 in Australia monitoring the functioning of the ‘skin’ of the Earth on which life on planet Earth depends viz. that section of the Earth’s surface from the base of the groundwater to the top of the vegetation layer. Australian and international earth and biological collaborators are involved in these research projects. 







  • Teaching Interests

    Pedology – processes of soil formation; soil classification, properties, distribution and management; soil and landscape evolution;

    Paleopedology – genesis of ancient soils and the climates under which they formed.

    Hydropedology – soil-water processes; nutrient, carbon and colloid transport within and from soils and their environmental impact.

    Biogeochemistry – weathering processes in soils and landscapes.


  • Research Interests

    Professor Chittleborough is interested in soil and landscape processes and their environmental and agricultural implications for management of a sustainable and resilient ecosystem.

    Specific ongoing research areas include:

    Ecohydrology. He is a researcher in the Terrestrial Ecosystem Research Network that has set up 12 ecosystem observatories to monitor the ‘skin’ of the Earth ie. that section of the Earth’s surface from the base of the groundwater to the top of the vegetation layer on which life on Earth depends.

    Biogenesis of soil landscapes. Biotic influences in the processes of soil and landscape evolution

    Nanoparticles in the environment, in particular those fine particles in soils and aquatic systems and techniques of separation and characterisation.

    Use of nanoparticulate clays and organics to improve productivity of coarse textured (sandy) soils.

    Ancient soils (paleosols): their formation, evolution and significance for modern day climate change.


  • Publications

    Recent Publications:

    Reith,F., Verboom,W., Pate,J. and Chittleborough,D. (2019) Collaborative involvement of woody plant roots and rhizosphere microorganisms in formation of pedogenetic clays. Annals of Botany XX: 1–12, 2019  doi: 10.1093/aob/mcz065,

    Shahabi,H., Jarihani,B., Chittleborough,D. and Tavakkoli Piralilou,S. (2019).   Gully Networks Detection by Integration of Machine Learning Models and Geographic Object-Based Image Analysis; A Semi-automated Object-based Gully Networks Detection Using Different Machine Learning Models. Sensors [Manuscript ID: sensors-610804].  

    Marshall,J., Muhlack,R., Morton,B., Dunnigan,L., Chittleborough,D. and Kwong,C.W. (2019) Pyrolysis temperature effects on biochar-water interactions and application for improved water holding capacity in vineyard soils. Soil Systems 3: 27; doi:10.3390/soilsystems3020027.

    Marshall,J., Morton,B.J., Muhlack,R., Chittleborough,D., and Kwong,C.W.  (2017) Recovery of phosphate from calcium-containing aqueous solution resulting from biochar-induced calcium phosphate precipitation. Journal of Cleaner  Production 165:27-35.

    Steggles,E.K., Holland,K.L., Chittleborough,D.J., Doudle,S.L., Clarke,L.J., Watling,J.R. and Facelli,J.M.  (2016) The potential for deep groundwater use by Acacia papyrocarpa (Western myall) in a water-limited environment Ecohydrology 10 (1) DOI: 10.1002/eco.1791

    Awad,J., van Leeuwen,J., Chow,C., Drikas,M., Smernik,R.,Chittleborough,D. and Bestland,E. (2016) Characterization of dissolved organic matter for prediction of trihalomethane formation potential in surface and sub-surface Waters, Journal of Hazardous Materials 308:430-439.

    Bestland,E., Liccioli,C., Soloninka,L., Chittleborough,D., Fink,D. (2016). Catchment-scale denudation and chemical erosion rates determined from 10Be and mass balance geochemistry (Mt Lofty Ranges of South Australia). Geomorphology 270:40-54.

    Fraser ,M.B.; Churchman,G.J., Chittleborough,D. and Rengasamy,P. (2016) Effect of plant growth on the occurrence and stability of palygorskite, sepiolite and saponite in salt-affected soils on limestone in South Australia. Applied Clay Science 124-125, 183-196.

  • Professional Associations

    Member of the 2020 International Hydropedology Conference Working Group to be held in Brisbane, Australia.

  • Media Expertise

    ExpertiseSoils (origin and formation, classification, impact of urban and agricultural development, impact of soil management on water quality, salinity); soil; water quality
    NotesAlt phone: (08) 8303 3873
    Mobile0438 803 904

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Entry last updated: Thursday, 15 Dec 2022

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