Ronald Smernik

Dr Ronald Smernik

Research Fellow

School of Agriculture, Food and Wine

Faculty of Sciences

Eligible to supervise Masters and PhD - email supervisor to discuss availability.


Ron Smernik is a senior lecturer in the Soils Group in the School of Agriculture, Food and Wine. His teaching and research interests are in field of soil chemistry. A particular focus is soil organic matter, the mostly dead and decaying biomass of plants and microbes that generally comprises 1-5% of soil mass, but has a disproportionate impact on many key soil properties, including fertility, carbon storage and the toxicity of pollutants. In terms of soil fertility, soil organic matter acts as a "slow release fertilizer", since the slow decomposition of soil organic matter releases key plant nutrients, especially N, P and S. The presence of soil organic matter also enhances soil physical properties for plant growth, including water holding capacity and soil structure. The carbon present in soil organic matter represents a large pool of carbon; management of soil to enhance soil organic matter levels has been identified as a key strategy for carbon sequestration to mitigate against climate change caused by rising levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide. Soil organic matter acts as the main sorbent of organic contaminants in soil and thus controls the toxicity, transport and rate of breakdown of this important class of environmental pollutants.

Ron has contributed to all of these aspects of soil organic matter research, mainly through the development and application of methods for the chemical characterization of soil organic matter, especially nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy. Recent highlights include the development of 31P NMR methods to unravel the complexities of the P speciation of soil and novel methods for differentiating among the broad range of pyrolytic materials found in and added to soil (i.e. "black carbon" and "biochar"). Ron has published >100 peer-reviewed papers, has received funding for research both pure (e.g. ARC) and applied (e.g. Meat & Livestock Australia) in nature, and has collaborates with researchers all around the world.

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  • Education

    Date Institution name Country Title
    1992 - 1996 The University of Sydney Australia PhD
    1988 - 1991 The University of Sydney Australia B. Sc. (Hons)
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  • Current Higher Degree by Research Supervision (University of Adelaide)

    Date Role Research Topic Program Degree Type Student Load Student Name
    2017 Co-Supervisor The Role of Arbuscular Mycorrhizal Fungi in Nutrient Leaching Under Salinity and Water Stress Conditions Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Ms Cuc Thi Kim Tran
    2016 Co-Supervisor The role of pH in determining organic metal complexation in acid sulfate soils Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Ms Sima Bargrizan
    2016 Co-Supervisor Nutrient Cycling Between Litters and Soil after Fire in Native Woodland and Pinus radiata Plantations Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Erinne Stirling
    2015 Co-Supervisor Manipulating the Soil Microbiome for Improving Plant Responses to N& Drought Stress Doctor of Philosophy under a Jointly-awarded Degree Agreement with Doctorate Full Time Miss Olivia Herlina Cousins
  • Past Higher Degree by Research Supervision (University of Adelaide)

    Date Role Research Topic Program Degree Type Student Load Student Name
    2012 - 2016 Co-Supervisor Investigating the Role of Stoichiometry as an Influence on Soil Phosphorus Content and Forms Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Ms Melinda Rosita Secentin Moata
    2010 - 2014 Co-Supervisor Crop Residue Phosphorus: Speication and Release in Cropping Soils Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Miss Sarah Ruth Noack
    2010 - 2014 Principal Supervisor Comparison and development of advanced techniques for organic matter characterisation in water and wastewater processing Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Miss Emma Louise Plant
    2009 - 2013 Principal Supervisor Effect of Coating Phyllosilicate Clays with Hydrous Oxides on Organic Carbon Stabilisation Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Mr Akhmad Saidy
    2009 - 2012 Principal Supervisor Aromatic Condensation of Black Carbon: Its Measurement and Importance Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Miss Anna McBeath
    2007 - 2010 Co-Supervisor Environmental Behaviour of Pharmaceuticals, Personal Care Products and Endocrine Disrupting Compounds following Land Application of Biosolids Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Ms Kate Langdon
    2007 - 2010 Principal Supervisor Improved Techniques for the Characterisation of Soil Organic Phosphorus Using 31P Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy and Their Application to Australian Soils Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Dr Ashlea Doolette
    2006 - 2009 Co-Supervisor Infrared Spectroscopy and Advanced Spectral Data Analyses to Better Describe Sorption of Pesticides in Soils Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Mr Mohsen Fruzangohar
    2005 - 2009 Principal Supervisor Influences on the Sorption Affinity of Soil Organic Matter for Non-Ionic Organic Pollutants Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Mr Ahmad Gholamalizadeh Ahangar
    1998 - 2004 Co-Supervisor A CASE STUDY OF THE PHYSICAL, CHEMICAL AND BIOLOGICAL FACTORS AFFECTING DISSOLVED ORGANIC CARBON IN THE WARREN RESERVOIR, SOUTH AUSTRALIA Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Dr Tanja Jankovic-Karasoulos
  • Position: Research Fellow
  • Phone: 83137436
  • Email: ronald.smernik@adelaide.edu.au
  • Fax: 8313 6511
  • Campus: Waite
  • Building: Prescott (CSIRO), floor 3
  • Room: 3 04
  • Org Unit: School of Agriculture, Food and Wine

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