Tona Sanchez-Palacios



Research activity per year

If you made any changes in Pure these will be visible here soon.

Personal profile

Research interests

Throughout my research in molecular plant physiology and environmental chemistry I have had strong interest in understanding the mechanisms of long-distant transport and storage of metals and metalloids in plants. I am interested in applying this knowledge to improve current green technologies such as phytoremediation which involves the use of plants to improve the quality of ecosystems contaminated with metals and metalloids. I am also interested in applying this knowledge to investigate the formation of metallic nanoparticles in plants as a mechanism of tolerance, and the application of metal tolerant plants to develop new plant-based materials that can be used in industry.


Current projects

 Phytocapping of mineral waste tailings using mixed-waste organic-outputs and high value crops such as industrial hemp.

Supervisors: Assoc. Prof. Duanne White, Dr. Augustine Doronila (University of Melbourne), Dr. Zoe Read (Heron resources) and Dr. Tona Sanchez-Palacios

Jack Livingstone (Bachelor of Applied Science/Honours candidate)

The Environmental Protection Agency of NSW, has approved the application of Mixed Waste Organic Outputs (MWOO) for mine site rehabilitation of tailings including capping at Woodland, NSW. The approved recommendation for capping by the mine industry is to establish a layer of MWOO on top of the tailings followed by a vegetative cover. Despite of this, it is not well understood whether the MWOO would be conductive of plant growth and establishment in the long term. The aim of this research is to determine whether MWOO is conductive of plant growth using fast growing high-value crop such as hemp as a model plant.

Arsenic transfer and metabolim in marine herbivorous fish, Kyphosus spp.

Supervisors: Assoc. Prof. Tamsin Kelly, Assoc. Prof. Simon Foster and Dr. Tona Sanchez-Palacios

Tuti Siregard (PhD candidate)

Arsenic in marine environment is ubiquitous, yet it can be toxic to living organisms. Arsenic enters the marine food chain through algae. Algae convert the accumulated inorganic containing As molecules into methylated forms and more complex molecules such as carbohydrates (i.e. arsenoribosides), fatty acids and other organic species. Arsenoribosides can make up 70% of the total accumulated As in algae. When transferred to herbivorous fish such as members of the family Kyphosidae, arsenoribosides can be converted into less toxic forms such as thio-, glycerol-, phosphate- and methylated-arsenoribosides or substantially converted into arsenobetaine. Much remains to be understood regarding the transfer and metabolism of arsenoribosides in marine organisms. In this study, we proposed to conduct As-speciation analyses in the intestine system of Kyphosus spp., exposed to As-containing seaweed. Extraction and separation analytical techniques for As-speciation such as HPLC-HG-AFS, HPLC-ICPMS and LC-MS-MS will be employed for As containing metabolites determination. It is hypothesised that changes in proportion of As metabolites will be observed along the intestine of Kyphosus spp.

Research Project in Applied Science  

Supervisor: Dr. Tona Sanchez-Palacios

Ines Cassinelli Griffin

Spatial distribution of heavy metals in roots of Cannabis sativa L. (industrial hemp) grown under metal-rich conditions in solution. 

Industrial hemp can accumulate elevated levels of heavy metals in roots without showing signs of toxicity, which makes hemp an attractive model plant to study novel mechanisms of metal exclusion. In a recent completed Honours project, we found that hemp plants were able to accumulate significant amounts of Zn and Cu in their roots suggesting a mechanism of co-tolerance below ground parts. However, it is unknown whether these mechanisms occurred as a result of Zn-sequestration in vacuoles of cortical cells or Zn co-precipitation with other nutrients including cupper (Cu) and/or phosphorous (P) at the epidermic or endodermic apoplast regions. In this study, hydroponic studies will be conducted to determine the distribution of Zn and Cu at tissue level in roots. The test species will be industrial hemp (a low-THC C. sativa L. v. HAN from China). Flood and drain hydroponic system will be used in order to exposed plants to various concentrations of Zn and Cu in solution. Laboratory analysis using ICP-MS will be used to determine the accumulation of Zn and Cu in roots. In collaboration with ANSTO, the new nuclear microprobe Confocal Heavy Ion Micro-Probe (CHIMP) beamline (AP12305-2020) will be used to determine the spatial distribution of Zn and Cu at tissue level in mature root-sections of hemp plants. In addition to that, post data analysis of metal-mapping will be performed using the GeoPIXE TM software. Furthermore, changes in the metabolic profile of hemp-roots as result of exposure to Zn and Cu will be measured using LC-MS analysis.This research project will consist of a combination of state-of-the-art technologies and greenhouse experiments. This project contributes to uncovering new mechanisms of metal tolerance in other than model plants such as industrial hemp.

Completed Honours Projects

Phytoremediation potential of industrial hemp (Cannabis sativa L.): tolerance and accumulation of essential metals Cu, Mn and Zn.

 Supervisors: Assoc. Prof. Simon Foster, Assoc. Prof. Duanne White and Dr. Tona Sanchez-Palacios

Carly Annabell Beggs (Bachelor of Applied Science/Honours)

Phytoremediation is the ability of plants to accumulate heavy metals in its body parts. Industrial hemp is considered as a good candidate for phytoremediation as it has high metal tolerance and is a fast-growing plant species with a long tap root system. In recent years, research has been focused on investigating synergistic possibilities by using high value crops such as hemp for phytoremediation to restore heavy metal contaminated sites. It represents a simple, economic, environmentally friendly approach to cultivate high value industrial hemp varieties on non-arable land while ameliorating the toxic effects of heavy metals. The primary outcome of this study was to determine the levels of toxicity of essential micronutrients in hemp plants growing hydroponically under control conditions. 

Beggs C, J.T. Sánchez-Palacios, S. Foster. Zinc biochemistry in Industrial Hemp (Cannabis sativa L.). Poster session presented at: Chemcomm Symposium: Global Challenges in Chemistry - Australian National University; 2019 Apr 12; Canberra, AU. 

Characterisation of biogenic antimony nanoparticles in plants using single particle ICP-MS

Supervisors: Prof. William Maher, Assoc. Prof. Simon Foster and Dr. Tona Sanchez-Palacios

Christopher Andrew Johnston (Bachelor of Applied Science/Honours)

Antimony (Sb) is found in over 100 minerals and it is commonly found in nature at concentrations ranging from 0.2 µg g-1 to 0.5 µg g-1. By contrast, anthropogenic activities such mining can increase the levels of Sb to 400 µg g-1 in the mineral waste, which is toxic to most living organism including plants. Remediation of Sb-rich environments using plants has been of increasing interest in recent years. However, little is known about the mechanisms of Sb tolerance in plants, including the formation of Sb nanoparticles. The lack of understanding in the mechanisms of Sb tolerance in plants is in part due to the low recovery percentage (5-10%) of soluble-extractable Sb forms in plants.

Maher, W., C.A. Johnston., J.T. Sánchez-Palacios, ­S. Foster., (2018), Measuring of metallic nanoparticles of antimony in plants by SP-ICP-MS. In: Meeting of The International Mineralogical Association Conference, Melbourne, Australia, 13-17 August 2018.

Sanchez-Palacios J.T., C.A. Johnston, W. Maher, S. Foster., (2018), Differential effects in the formation of plant-based antimony nanoparticles by inorganic Sb forms. In: Meeting of The International Mineralogical Association Conference, Melbourne, Australia, 13-17 August 2018.






Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 14 - Life Below Water
  • SDG 15 - Life on Land


Dive into the research topics where Tona Sanchez-Palacios is active. These topic labels come from the works of this person. Together they form a unique fingerprint.
  • 1 Similar Profiles


Recent external collaboration on country/territory level. Dive into details by clicking on the dots or