Sylvia is the Director of the Research Centre for Oceanography and a Research Associate Professor at the Department of Chemistry, University of Otago. Her research focus lies in the field of trace metal biogeochemistry and trace metal speciation in fresh, estuarine and sea water. Her research group is involved in deep sea hydrothermal vents studies of trace metals including modelling element and energy fluxes from these vents into the ocean.
Sylvia is co-chair of the SCOR WG 139 on Organic Ligands—A Key Control on Trace Metal Biogeochemistry in the Ocean and an vice-chair of the SCOR WG 145 MARCHEMSPEC. She is an associate editor of Marine Chemistry and currently supervises 6 PhD students.