Key Research Interests and Expertise

My research is focussed on two main themes:

1) The mediation of coastal dynamics by complex interactions between physical, biological and chemical components.
This research investigates physical, biological and chemical properties and processes in coastal habitats and how these are mediated by complex interactions.  Of particular interest is how biota alters the erosion of sediments via biostabilisation and biodestabilisation.
Intertidal mudflats, salt marshes and mangrove forests have an intimate association between the organisms (micro-algae and macrofauna) and their habitat (the sediment).  The organisms signficantly modify the sediments they inhabit and vice versa.  These habitats are particularly at threat from global climatic change and sea level rise and are considered to be indicator habitats for climate change.
This research interest started with my undergraduate project, where I investigated how diatoms (microscopic algae) stabilised sediments, protecting the sediment from erosion.  I continue to pursue this research question today.  More recently, I have been investigating how macrofauna species act on the sediment in isolation, how changes in species density affect their actions and how combinations of species interact to alter the mudflat habitat and process therein, using a range of biogeochemical measurements and erosion devices.
Investigating the influence of biota on sedimentary properties and processes not only addresses fundamental sedimentological and ecological questions, but is vital for developing models of sediment dynamics, understanding ecosystem services and for managing coastal habitats.

2) Methodological and technological advances and applications.
Coastal habitats provide unique challenges for researchers, requiring specialised equipment and methods.  The second main theme of my research is the development and application of novel technologies and methodologies to facilitate research, some of which are outlined below.  My extensive tests and calibrations of erosion devices have led to new experimental approaches that have improved the accuracy of these measurements.  I helped develop and calibrate an improved Cohesive Strength Meter device for measuring sediment erosion (based on the original design of Paterson 1989).  This device is now commercially produced by PARTRAC, UK.  More recently, I have developed a new erosion device FloWave, which creates a combined oscillatory and unidirectional flow to simulate the effects of combined tidal flow and wave action.  I have collaborated with Dr R. Murphy, the University of Sydney to develop new remote sensing techniques for measuring algae in intertidal sediments, using colour-infrared photography and new derivative based approaches to spectroradiometry.
Development of these new technologies and methodologies has improved our understanding of how coastal ecosystems function and respond to anthropogenic impacts.

Publications: EPrints Digital Repository

ID: 153733