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Our people-our expertise: Dr Barbara Sendall

Our people-our expertise

Dr Barbara Sendall

Qualifications | Research interests | Publications | Presentations

Barbara obtained her PhD in molecular characterisation of plant pathogenic fungi at the University of Queensland, and afterwards completed a post-doctoral project on population genetics of plant pathogens. She has worked as a Research Scientist in the Forensic and Scientific Services Organic Chemistry Laboratory at Queensland Health since 2007.

Barbara’s role is to study toxic blue-green algae (Cyanobacteria), in particular developing diagnostic tests for their detection in drinking and recreational waters. Barbara is particularly interested in toxigenic benthic cyanobacteria as her research has shown this group of organisms produces toxins in creeks and rivers which are part of the catchment for major drinking water dams. She is part of the Phycology unit where a collection of more than 100 strains of cyanobacteria is housed and where cyanobacteria are also routinely identified and enumerated by staff in the unit.


  • PhD in Plant Pathology, Mechanisms of pathotypic variation in Puccinia helianthi (sunflower rust). University of Queensland, Brisbane, Queensland.
  • Master of Agriculture (Agricultural Biotechnology), Molecular detection of Gauemannomyces graminis var. tritici (Ggt) in roots and soil. University of Adelaide, Adelaide, South Australia.
  • Bachelor of Applied Science (Biology) with Distinction. Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, Queensland.

Research interests and expertise

Barbara’s research is focused on understanding the toxigenicity and phylogeny of freshwater and marine cyanobacteria in Australia, utilising a combination of molecular, morphological and chemical methodologies. To facilitate this interest, she is participating in ongoing collaborations in which novel toxic and nuisance-bloom cyanobacteria have been identified and characterised with DNA-based methodology.

Barbara’s research assists in identifying toxigenic cyanobacteria which can form blooms in drinking and recreational water and therefore potentially impact on human health. Barbara and colleagues Amy Jennison and Rikki Graham from Public Health Microbiology have recently commenced a collaborative project with the Australian Rivers Institute, CSIRO and the Department of Environment and Science on characterisation of toxic marine cyanobacteria in Moreton Bay. Additionally, a collaborative project with the Department of Environment and Science in 2019 identified the cyanobacterium responsible for frequent nuisance blooms in the Murray-Darling catchment in Victoria.

Developing an understanding of the distribution and abundance of toxigenic cyanobacteria assists water authorities in supplying safe drinking water to Queenslanders and ensuring the risk of exposure to toxins during recreational activities is minimised.


McGregor GB, Sendall BC (2020) True branching and phenotypic plasticity in the planktonic cyanobacterium Dolichospermum planctonicum (Nostocales, Aphanizomenonaceae). Phycologia (in review).

McGregor GB, Sendall BC (2019) Potamosiphon australiensis gen. nov., sp nov. (Oscillatoriales), a new filamentous cyanobacterium from subtropical north-eastern Australia. Phytoaxa, 387(2). DOI: 10.11646/phytotaxa.387.2.1

Sendall BC, McGregor GB (2018) Cryptic diversity within the Scytonema complex: characterization of the paralytic shellfish toxin producer Heterosyctonema crispum, and the establishment of the family Heteroscytonemataceae (Cyanobacteria/Nostocales). Harmful Algae, 80 . pp. 158-170. DOI: 10.1016/j.hal.2018.11.002

McGregor GB, Sendall BC (2017) Ewamiania thermalis gen. et sp. nov (Cyanobacteria, Scytonemataceae), a new cyanobacterium from Talaroo thermal springs, north-eastern Australia. Australian Systematic Botany. 30(1): 38-47. DOI: 10.1071/SB16039

Gaget V, Lau M, Sendall BC, Froscio, S, Humpage AR (2017) Cyanotoxins: which detection technique for an optimum risk assessment? Water Research, 118(1): 227-238. DOI: 10.1016/j.watres.2017.04.025

McGregor GB, Sendall BC (2017) Iningainema pulvinus gen nov., sp nov. (Cyanobacteria, Scytonemataceae) a new nodularin producer from Edgbaston Reserve, north-eastern Australia. Harmful Algae. 62: 10-19. DOI: 10.1016/j.hal.2016.11.021

McGregor GB, Sendall BC (2015) Phylogeny and toxicology of Lyngbya wollei (Cyanobacteria, Oscillatoriales) from north-eastern Australia, with a description of Microseira gen.nov. Journal of Phycology. 51(1): 109-119. DOI: 10.1111/jpy.12256

McGregor GB, Sendall BC (2013) Komvophoron kgariii sp. nov. (Oscillatoriales), a new epipelic cyanobacterium from subtropical eastern Australia. Phycologia. 52(6): 472-480. DOI: 10.2216/13-143.1

Baker L, Sendall BC, Gasser RB, Menjivar T, Neilan, BA, Jex AR (2013) Rapid multiplex-tandem PCR assay for automated detection and differentiation of toxigenic cyanobacterial blooms. Molecular and Cellular Probes. 27(5-6):208-14. DOI: 10.1016/j.mcp.2013.07.001

McGregor GB, Stewart I, Sendall BC, Sadler R, Reardon K, Carter S, Wruck D, Wickramasinghe W (2012) First report of a toxic Nodularia spumigena (Nostocales/Cyanobacteria) bloom in sub-tropical Australia. II. Bioaccumulation of nodularin in isolated populations of mullet (Mugilidae). International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 9(7):2412-43. DOI: 10.3390/ijerph9072412

McGregor GB, Stewart I, Sendall BC, Sadler R, Reardon K, Carter S, Wruck D, Wickramasinghe W (2012) First report of a toxic Nodularia spumigena (Nostocales/Cyanobacteria) bloom in sub-tropical Australia. I. Phycological and public health investigations. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 9(7): 2396-2411. DOI:10.3390/ijerph9072396

McGregor GB, Sendall BC, Hunt LT, Eaglesham GK (2011) Report of the cyanotoxins cylindrospermopsin and deoxy-cylindrospermopsin from Raphidiopsis mediterranea Skuja (Cyanobacteria/Nostocales). Harmful Algae. 10(4): 402-410. DOI: 10.1016/j.hal.2011.02.002


Aug 2019: Cryptic diversity: challenges and opportunities for recognising cyanobacterial diversity, with McGregor GB. In: 21st Symposium of the International Association of Cyanophyte/Cyanobacteria Research, North Stradbroke Island, Brisbane, Qld.

Aug 2019: Characterisation of the bloom-forming marine cyanobacterium ‘Lyngbya’  in south east Queensland, Australia, with McGregor GB, Willis A, Burford M, Graham RM. In: 21st Symposium of the International Association of Cyanophyte/Cyanobacteria Research, North Stradbroke Island, Brisbane, Qld.

Sept 2016: What lies beneath? The prevalence of toxigenic Scytonema in benthic freshwater environments in south-east Queensland. In: 5th National Cyanobacteria Workshop, Brisbane, Qld.

Oct 2014: Detection of cyanotoxin genes in freshwater benthic cyanobacteria from sub-tropical south-eastern Australia using multiplex real time PCR. In: 16th International Conference on Harmful Algae, Wellington, New Zealand.


Dr Barbara Sendall
Scientist, Phycology
Organic Chemistry, Public and Environmental Health

phone: +61 7 3096 2843