Risk and Human Interaction

Recreation on the coast carries inherent risk. Research in the coastal lab aims to establish the the inherent risk of recreating on the coast as well as ways the human element increases or diminishes that risk.

Human activity on the coast, especially buildings, wharves, seawalls and dredging will always have an impact on how the coast functions. Research and consulting work at the coastal lab studies historical impacts in order to predict future impacts on the coast.


Specific projects currently underway include:

Rocky Coasts: A Framework for risk assessment in order to reduce drowning

Rocky coasts are dangerous environments with an average of 16 people each year drowning at these locations. This highly innovative project aims to reduce these fatalities through the creation of a wave hazard and risk framework for Australia’s cliffs and shore platforms. Using an innovative analysis of airborne and ground-based laser surveying and wave modelling, the hazard of people being washed into the sea will be quantified. How users perceive waves on shore platforms will be analysed though questionnaires to quantify how perception and use correlates to actual amounts of wave inundation. The integrated risk framework developed will provide a completely new and critically needed understanding of hazards on rocky shores.

Funder: Australian Research Council (Linkage Program)

Key Collaborators: Surf Life Saving Australia, University of Wollongong, Lund University (Sweden)


Estuarine sedimentation

Estuaries are highly sensitive lagoons on the coast and are a focus of human economic and recreational activity. They are a basin which naturally infills with sediment from the surrounding hinterland. As a result they undergo many different geomorphic stages and this can be recorded in the sedimentary record. Coring an estuary gives a record of changes in a catchment, and can help predict both the impact of past and present human activities on estuaries. Estuaries also contain many unique coastal habitats: saltmarsh, mudflats, sandflats, seagrass beds and mangroves. These low lying environments are vulnerable to rising sea levels. The stage of infill of an estuary will also dictate the hazard of flooding events with high rainfall and storm surge. Current research is focused on understanding the evolution of estuarine systems and the human impact on sedimentation.

Key Collaborators: Dr Vanessa Wong, Dr Ruth Reef, Dr Allyson O’Brien, Dr Sarah McSweeney.

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