• M468
    35 Stirling Highway


  • The University of Western Australia (M470), 35 Stirling Highway,

    6009 Perth


Calculated based on number of publications stored in Pure and citations from PlumX

Personal profile


Coastal ocean circulation affects the weather, dispersal of nutrients, and pollutants from terrestrial sources, sediment transport, and ecosystem dynamics. Research I have undertaken integrates ocean simulation, observation, and analysis to understand the role of physical processes in circulation and mixing, sediment transport, weather and climate, and marine ecosystem functioning in the coastal ocean and the adjacent deep ocean. I have pursued these objectives using two interrelated methodologies: (i) field measurements using a range of techniques, including routine shipborne observations including as chief scientist on many voyages in WA; new field techniques I developed; and, novel approaches, such as ocean gliders; and, (ii) regional ocean modelling for analysis and process studies, including the integration of models and observations. My work has also addressed the impact of human activities on the coastal environment, including the development of mitigation measures. Usually, scientists in this field restrict themselves to studying only one of these broad subjects, but I have tackled all these subjects and made significant contributions to solving multidisciplinary, marine environmental issues.


My research has focused on the unique nature of the Western Australian coastline, but have now extended to the whole of Australia and the Indian Ocean region. Data obtained from leading research voyages and ocean observation infrastructure (ocean gliders, HF radar, moorings, and remote sensing) along the Australian coast have provided a better understanding of continental shelf water circulation and mixing, the associated primary production regimes, and migration of marine fauna along the coast. Research into the incident wave climate and sea level variability at a range of temporal scales has provided a greater understanding of the coastal processes and associated sediment dynamics. Research on rip currents, storm surges, and tsunamis has contributed to information for managing coastal hazards in the coastal zone.


My research covers very broad disciplines and in many instances resulted in new discoveries: (1) Australian continental shelves are subject to strong heat loss in late autumn and winter, resulting in cooling of the coastal water. This results in denser water near the coast, which drives an offshore-directed, higher density water along the seabed. This dense shelf water transport contributed to the removal of suspended matter, carbon, and biota from the coast. I discovered these flow structures using ocean gliders initially off south-west Australia and then extended to the whole of Australia. These are unique features where continental scale forcing through air-sea fluxes overcome the local wind and tidal forcing; (2) The island continent of Australia is surrounded by surface and subsurface boundary currents, and in a recent paper we described the seasonal and interannual transport variability of these currents and updated many circulation pathways. In WA, there are many shelf current systems: Holloway, Ningaloo, Capes, and Creswell Currents. I have led the investigations of these currents through field and numerical modelling to define their generation, forcing, seasonal, and interannual variability. The latter two currents, Capes and Cresswell, were discovered and named by me; and, (3) Coastal sea level variability occurs over timescales ranging from hours to centuries. I have used sea level records and numerical simulations to describe many processes, such as seiches, tsunamis, tides, storm surges, continental shelf waves, annual and interannual including nodal tides around Australia. Many new processes have been discovered, such as seismic tsunami propagation (role of offshore topography and wave reflection from Mascarene ridge on tsunami impacts in WA); meteorological tsunamis were described for the first time and demonstrated that WA is a hot-spot for the occurrence of this phenomenon, including explanation of a ship accident in Fremantle Port; remote forcing of continental shelf waves form tropical cyclones in the north-west shelf and the generation of eddies along the Rottnest shelf; (4) application of drift modelling for a variety of applications, which included turtles (incl. hatchlings), marine debris (flight MH370—I was the first to predict the landfall of debris in the western Indian Ocean), and ocean plastics. Seagrass wrack (dead seaweed) is a major problem along the WA coast. It accumulates on adjacent coastal structures, leading to odour issues and lack of amenity. A modelling system that I pioneered provided solutions to these problems at Port Geographe and was implemented at a cost of $27 million.


I am a multidisciplinary researcher. My published work straddles areas of oceanography, meteorology, geology, ecology, and engineering. My work has also addressed coastal engineering problems, such as coastal erosion, harbour layouts; submarine outfall studies (sewage, heated water and desalination plants); design of an artificial surfing reef (first in the world). Other studies include linking ocean processes and rainfall; climate change issues; whale aggregations in submarine canyons; transport of ocean debris (e.g. from missing aircraft MH370) and marine plastics; and migration of marine megafauna, including turtle hatchlings across the surf zone.


When I arrived at UWA, coastal oceanography and engineering was not a strong area of research or research training. Starting from scratch, I developed a world-renowned research and training programme (for early career researchers and postgraduate and honours students) in coastal oceanography. To date, I have directly supervised more than 300 people (20 doctoral researchers, 77 postgraduate research students, and 173 honours/coursework-master’s thesis students). I identify myself as belonging to an ethnic minority that is grossly underrepresented in our field. Therefore, I have a strong commitment to inclusion and diversity. Researchers and postgraduate students I supervised have originated from 19 countries (many from the Indian Ocean rim) with ~50% being female (in the PhD cohort over the past 5 years 12 of 14 or 86% have been female and include many from ethnic minorities). I was the recipient of the UWA teaching excellence awards in postgraduate research supervision (2003) and research mentoring (2022).


My mentoring of early career researchers and students extends beyond Australia. As the POGO (Partnership for Observation of the Global Oceans) visiting professor to Sri Lanka (2006) and Iran (2007), I trained local scientific personnel in coastal physical oceanography of the Indian Ocean waters and the Caspian Sea (> 50 participants). Similarly, as the chairperson for the Indian Ocean Tsunami Warning System Working on Modelling, I developed and participated in training courses in tsunami inundation modelling in the Indian Ocean rim countries. I was the sole instructor for many of these courses. The relationships I built through these interactions continue as I respond to various questions from the trainees and provide advice on career opportunities.


The building of a globally renowned coastal oceanography group over the past 32 years and training >300 people in the discipline is a notable example of building high quality research environments in Australia. The best example of research management is through my involvement in the Integrated Marine Observing System (IMOS), which I have been involved in even before its inception. I was the inaugural node leader of the Western Australian node of IMOS (WAIMOS) for six years. I have also been the leader of the IMOS ocean glider facility, since its inception and ocean radar facility for 3 years. The ocean glider facility is acknowledged as the world leader in the use of ocean gliders to undertake sustained coastal ocean observations and has deployed over 350 glider missions to date. I pioneered this use of autonomous ocean gliders in Australia, which was the first time gliders were used in the southern hemisphere. I have also promoted the integration of different data streams (e.g. ocean gliders. HF Radar, moorings and remote sensing) for understanding different ocean and shelf processes. As a member of the committees that developed the funding proposals, I have played a major role to secure funding for a number of National and State initiatives attracting more than $350 million in cash funding to facilitate ocean research in Australia. These include: Integrated Marine Observing System (IMOS), West Australian Marine Science Institution (WAMSI), Indian Ocean Marine Research Centre (IOMRC), Australian National Network in Marine Science (ANNiMS) and the UWA Oceans Institute.

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 3 - Good Health and Well-being
  • SDG 7 - Affordable and Clean Energy
  • SDG 11 - Sustainable Cities and Communities
  • SDG 13 - Climate Action
  • SDG 14 - Life Below Water
  • SDG 15 - Life on Land

Education/Academic qualification

Oceanography, PhD, Hydrography and sedimentology of a headland associated linear sandbank: Scarweather Sands, northern Bristol Channel, University College of Swansea (University of Wales)

Award Date: 1 Mar 1985

Oceanography, MSc, University College of Swansea (University of Wales)

Award Date: 1 Jun 1981

Oceanography and Applied Mathematics, BSc (joint honours), University College of Swansea (University of Wales)

Award Date: 1 Jun 1979

External positions

Facility leader, IMOS ocean gliders, IMOS (Integrated Marine Observing System)

2007 → …

Research expertise keywords

  • Coastal circulation and mixing
  • Numerical simulation of coastal currents
  • Remote sensing
  • Sediment transport processes in the coastal ocean
  • Wave analysis

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