Current/Recent projects

Australian Research Council - Discovery Early Career Fellowship

Predicting groundwater replenishment in arid catchments.

Temporary rivers, including intermittent and ephemeral rivers, make up roughly half the river systems globally, and closer to 70% of Australian surface waters. Yet our hydrologic understanding of these systems includes significant knowledge gaps, which are the subject of this project.  

PhD student Karina Gutierrez-Jurado is looking at the principal factors leading to streamflow in arid, intermittent streams. This combines theoretical modeling, a flow and climate change model of Pedler Creek, Willunga, South Australia, and fieldwork to understand flow permanence in the catchment.


Monitoring perched aquifer water levels in the ephemeralWoodforde River north of Alice Springs..

Pedler Creek in Willunga, South Australia.  The creek flows among valuable vineyards.

Publications (including submitted and in prep)

Gutierrez-Jurado KY et al. 2019. What triggers streamflow for Intermittent Rivers and Ephemeral Streams? WRR.

Partington et al. (In prep) Partitioning between surface flows and infiltration during ephemeral stream flows: a flume and modeling experiment. Planned submission March 2019.

Shanafield et al. (In prep) Upscaling streambed infiltration to catchment scale. Planned submission March 2019.  See my Story Map!

Bourke et al. (In prep) A hydrological framework for the occurrence of pools, seeps and springs in semi-arid environments. Planned submission June 2019.

Gutierrez-Jurado et al. Streamflow permanence in an intermittent catchment. Planned submission, June 2019.

Gutierrez-Jurado et al. Predicting intermittent streamflow in a coastal catchment now and into the future. Planned submission, September 2019.

In the press

Network Ten Australian program “Scope”: Season 4, Episode 71 Environmental Science (At 10'45")

Temporary Rivers: Unlocking their Secrets” Flinders University ECR Spotlight, Oct 5, 2017 

Turning groundwater into wine”: Stories of Australian Science 2015, 

Minute 319 Science Advisory Committee

Environmental Flow to the Lower Colorado River 

In March 2014, a historic e-flow was released at Morelos Dam, on the border between the U.S. and Mexico. After this pulse of water moved downstream, finally reconnecting the river to its delta for the first time in almost 30 years, it took almost five years to completely understand the ecological, hydrological, and social processes that occurred during the flow (read the final report here!). I co-supervised PhD student J. Eliana Rodriguez-Burgueno to use field and modeling techniques to estimate infiltration into the streambed throughout this reach.

See my Story Map: (Prepared for: Shanafield M et al. (2018) Where did all the water go? Challenges modelling the water balance of an historic environmental flow. Australian Freshwater Sciences Society, Glenelg, South Australia, September 2018.)

Rodríguez-Burgueño JE et al. (2017) Comparison of infiltration rates in the dry riverbed of the Colorado River Delta during environmental flows. Ecological Engineering, 106, pp.675-682

Shanafield, M et al. (2017). Short‐and long‐term evapotranspiration rates at ecological restoration sites along a large river receiving rare flow events. Hydrological Processes, 31(24):4328-4337

Rodríguez-Burgueño JE et al. (in prep) Streambed infiltration during a historic environmental flow in the lower colorado river.


The dry riverbed of the Lower Colorado River in December 2013; in March 2014, this channel filled with water.

Mawson Lakes Fellowship Program

Australia-Japanese comparative analysis of urban water-food energy security nexus

It is now widely accepted that meeting water, sanitation, and agricultural development goals requires a "nexus" approach to comprehensively address global issues holistically.This project compares wáter and energy needs for urban áreas in wáter-rich, energy-poor Japan, with wáter-poor, energy-rich Japan.

In October 2018, my colleagues and I travelled from Flinders University to Nagoya and Kyoto, Japan, to participate in workshops and discuss water-energy-food (WEF) nexus research. In March 2019, we will host our Japanese colleagues at Flinders to continue the discussion and analysis begun last year!


Autumn in Takayama, Japan. While Australian cities are energy-rich and water-poor, sustainably meeting the energy- and food- requirements of Japanese cities is a challenge.

DAAD/Universities Australia

Hyporheic exchange in a wastewater driven stream

What happens to pharmaceutical products that enter our wastewater plants, and when these plants release treated wastewater into stream channels?  Can we use these compounds as tracers for hyporheic exchange? This is an exciting new field of research. This collaboration between the Leibniz Institute for Freshwater Ecology (IGB) and Flinders University conducted fieldwork and developed new modeling approaches to explore these questions.

McCallum JL et al. A numerical stream transport modelling approach including multiple conceptualizations of hyporheic exchange, spatial variability, sorption, and degradation. Submitted to WRR February 2019.

Schaper JL, et al (2018) Hyporheic Exchange Controls Fate of Trace Organic Compounds in an Urban Stream. Environmental Science & Technology, 52(21):12285-94.

Shanafield et al. Longitudinal heat transport in a small, wastewater-driven stream. (In prep)


Collecting field data for flows in ephemeral streams is a challenge; they are often remote, hard to get to when wet, with unpredictable flows and a lot of scouring when they flow..

Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research

Integrated water, soil and nutrient management for sustainable farming systems in South Central Coastal Vietnam and Australia

This project has examined the wáter and nutrient balances in the intermittent La Vi River catchment in relation to the changing agricultural practices underway in the region.

Vu HM, Shanafield M, Batelaan O (2018) Flux dynamics at the groundwater-surface water interface in a tropical catchment. Limnologica 68:36-45.


Soil map of the La Vi Basin; understanding what background data is available (and obtaining it) is a major challenge.

Department of State Development, SA Government

Predicting Water Resource Impacts from Unconventional Gas Development

Risk analyses describe possible impacts to water resources from unconventional gas production.  However, quantitative estimates that show probable impacts are crucial for decision-making and informing the concerned public. This project examined impacts of unconventional gas development on wáter resources world-wide in a first attempt to quantify the likelihood of contamination due to surface spills, subsurface migration of fluids, and aquifer depletion.

Shanafield M, Cook PG, Simmons CT (2018) Towards quantifying the likelihood of water resource impacts from unconventional gas development. Groundwater.

Cook PG, Miller A, Shanafield M, Simmons CT (2017) Predicting water resource impacts of unconventional gas using simple analytical equations. Groundwater, 55(3):387-398


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