Reseach & Current Projects
My research falls within the realm of coastal geomorphology and coastal morphodynamics, but in particular I focus on the morphodynamic relationships between waves, currents and sediment transport in the coastal nearshore zone environment. My research tends to be field-based and has recently focussed on two topics:
Rip currents are strong, narrow seaward flowing currents which extend from close to the shoreline, through the surf zone, and out past the line of breaking waves. They are a major mechanism for the offshore transport of sediments and pollutants and represent one of the major hazards to beach swimmers with approximately 50 rip-related drownings every year in Australia alone. It is of significant concern that very little is understood about their behaviour, formation and occurrence on beaches. Much of this is due to the difficulty in placing instruments in these energetic environments.
My research involves studying the adjustment of beaches on small islands to varying wave and tide conditions and recent work has been conducted on Lady Elliot Island and Lizard Island in the Great Barrier Reef, Warraber Island (Torres Strait and the Maldives. This research has been conducted in collaboration with Dr Paul Kench (Auckland), Dr Roger McLean (ADFA), Dr Scott Nichol (Geoscience Australia), and Dr Scott Smithers (JCU).
Coral Reef-Island Beaches
Islands which sit atop coral reefs are usually either shingle cays, having coarse material, or sand cays, having fine material. In both cases, the material which makes up the beaches on the island, and indeed, most of the island itself, has been derived from the breakdown of the corals on the surrounding reef. In other words, the material is all bioclastic (carbonates) and behaves very differently from the quartz-based siliclastic material found on continental beaches. Unfortunately, while much is known about the behaviour of the latter, very little is known about the behaviour of beaches on coral reef-islands. This is significant given the extreme vulnerability of these low-lying islands to major storm waves and potential sea-level rise.
My research involves studying the adjustment of beaches on small islands to varying wave and tide conditions and recent work has been conducted on Lady Elliot Island, Warraber Island (Torres Strait) and the Maldives. The latter is funded by a Marsden Grant awarded to Paul Kench (Auckland University). All of these projects are ongoing.
Science of the Surf
The Science of the Surf Program (SOS) is an educational program developed by Dr Brander aimed at providing a basic understanding of the scientific principles of beaches and surf zones to the Australian and international community. The philosophy of the program is that the only way to make a truly informed decision on whether it is safe to swim or not on any beach in Australia is to have an understanding of the way our beaches work. The Science of the Surf was initiated as a series of community seminars conducted at Tamarama Beach in Sydney in 2002. The seminars have been held each summer since 2001 and have attracted over 3000 people in attendance. The program has received several awards and significant media coverage. In order to reach out to larger audiences, the Science of the Surf recently attained certification from the New South Wales Department of Education's Performing Arts Unit to become a registered School Performance and the seminar is now available to school kids throughout NSW. In 2007 the Science of the Surf was presented to over 60 schools and 6000 school children.
Science of the Surf
Jak McCarroll (PhD candidate)
Indrie Miller (PhD candidate)
Campbell McKay (Honours candidate)
GEOS1701 Environmental Systems and Processes (Course Coordinator)
GEOS2721 Australian Surface Environments and Landforms (Lecturer)
MSCI2001 Introductory Marine Science (Lecturer)
GEOS3731 Coastal Geomorphology (Course Coordinator)
Jago, O.K., Kench, P.S. and Brander, R.W. (2007). Field observations of wave-driven water level gradients across a coral reef platform. Journal of Geophysical Research, 112, C06027, doi:10.1029/2006JC003740
Kench, P.S., Brander, R.W., Parnell, K.E. and McLean, R.F. (2006). Energy gradients across a Maldivian atoll: implications for island formation and change.Geomorphology, 81(1-2): 1-17.
Kench, P.S. and Brander, R.W. (2006). Response of reef island shorelines to seasonal climate oscillations: South Maalhosmadulu atoll, Maldives. Journal of Geophysical Research, 111, F101001,doi:10.1029/2005JF000323.
Kench, P.S. and Brander, R.W. (2006). Wave processes on coral reef flats on Coral Reef Flats: implications for reef geomorphology using Australian case studies. Journal of Coastal Research, 22(1): 209-223.
Kench, P.S., McLean, R.F., Brander, R.W., Nichol, S.L., Smithers, S.G., Ford, M.R., Parnell, K.E., and Aslam, M. (2006). Geological effects of tsunami on mid-ocean atoll islands: The Maldives before and after the Sumatran tsunami. Journal of Geology, 34(3): 177-180.
Daly, M.G.R. and Brander, R.W. (2006). The dynamics of fringing reefs: a review and synthesis. The Hydrographic Journal, 119: 17-23.
Sherker, S., Brander, R.W., Finch, C. and Hatfield, J. (2006). Why Australia needs an effective national campaign to reduce surf-related drowning. Journal of
Science and Medicine in Sport.
Kench, P.S., Nichol, S.L., McLean,R.F., Smithers, S.G. and Brander, R.W. (2006). Impact of the Sumatran tsunami on the geomorphology and sediments of reef islands: South Maalhosmadulu Atoll, Maldives. Atoll Research Bulletin (in press).
Kench, P.S., McLean, R.F., Nichol, S.L., Smithers, S.G. and Brander, R.W. (2007). Tsunami as agents of geomorphic change in mid-ocean reef islands. Geomorphology(in press)
Brander, R.W., Kench, P.S. and Hart, D. (2004). Spatial and temporal variations in wave characteristics across a reef platform, Warraber Island, Torres Strait, Australia. Marine Geology, 207: 169-184. Stephenson, W. and Brander, R.W. (2004). Coastal geomorphology. Progress in Physical Geography , 28 (4) : 1-12.
Baird, M.E., Roughan, M.M., Brander, R.W., Middleton, J.H. and Nippard, G.J. (2004). Mass transfer limited nitrate uptake on a coral reef flat, Warraber Island, Torres Strait, Australia. Coral Reefs , 23: 386-396.
Stephenson, W. and Brander, R.W. (2003). Coastal geomorphology into the 21st century. Progress in Physical Geography, 27(4): 681-697.
Brander, R.W. and Cowell, P.J. (2003). A trend-surface technique for discrimination of surf-zone morphology: rip current channels. Earth Surface Processes and Landforms, 28: 905-918.
Brander, R.W. and Short, A.D. (2001). Flow kinematics of low-energy rip current systems. Journal of Coastal Research, 17(2): 468-481.
Brander, R.W., Cowell, P.J. and Short, A.D. (2001). Morphometric approaches to describing rip current behaviour. Journal of Coastal Research, Special
Issue 34, 128-137.
Brander, R.W. and Short, A.D. (2000). Morphodynamics of a large-scale rip current system, Muriwai Beach, New Zealand. Marine Geology,165: 27-39.
Brander, R.W. (1999). Field observations on the morphodynamic evolution of a low-energy rip current system. Marine Geology, 1999, 157: 199-217.
Brander, R.W. (1999). Sediment transport in low-energy rip current systems. Journal of Coastal Research, 15(3): 839-849.
Short, A.D. and Brander, R.W. (1999). Regional variations in rip density. Journal of Coastal Research, 15(3): 813-822.
Hughes, M., Masselink, G. and Brander, R.W. (1997). Sediment transport in the swash zone on a steep beach. Marine Geology, 138 (1/2), 91-104.
Greenwood, B., Richards, R.G., and Brander, R.W. (1993). Acoustic imaging of sea-bed geometry: A High Resolution Remote Tracking Sonar (HRRTS II). Marine Geology, 112, 207-218.
Brander, R.W. (2004). Rip Currents. In: The Encyclopedia of Geomorphology (Ed. A. Goudie), Routledge.
Brander, R.W. (2004). Coastal Bars. In: The Encyclopedia of Geomorphology (Ed. A. Goudie), Routledge.
Brander, R.W. (2004). Rip Currents. In: The Encyclopedia of Coastal Science (Ed. M. Schwartz), Kluwer Academic Publishers.
Brander, R.W., Osborne, P.D., and Parnell, K. 2004. High-energy beach and nearshore environments. In : The New Zealand Coast : Te Tai O Aotearoa (Eds: H.L. Rouse, J.R. Goff, and S. Nichol), Dunmore Press, Auckland, 119 - 142.
REFEREED CONFERENCE PAPERS
Kench P.S., Parnell K.E. and Brander R.W., 2003. A process-based assessment of engineered structures on reef islands of the Maldives . Proceedings of the Coasts and Ports Australasian Conference, Auckland, p. 280 - 290.
Haas, K.A., Svendsen, I.A., Brander, R.W. and Nielsen, P.
(2002). Modeling of a rip current system on Moreton Island, Australia. Proceedings of the 28th International Conference on Coastal Engineering
, ASCE. View a .pdf version.
Brander, R.W., 2001. Measurements of flow velocity and sediment transport in a low-energy rip current at Palm Beach, NSW, Australia. Proceedings of the 27th International Conference on Coastal Engineering, American Society of Civil Engineers, Sydney, 3395-3408.
Nielsen, P., Brander, R.W., and Hughes, M., 2001. Rip currents: observations of hydraulic gradients, friction factors and wave pump efficiency. Proceedings of Coastal Dynamics '01, ASCE, Lund, Sweden, 483-492.
Nielsen, P. , Hughes, M. and Brander, R.W., 1999. A wave pump model for rip currents.Proceedings of the IAHR Symposium on River Coastal and Estuarine Morphodynamics, Genova, 415-423.
Brander, R.W., Short, A.D., Osborne, P.D., Hughes, M. and Mitchell, D.M., 1999. Field measurements of a large-scale rip current system. Proceedings of Coastal Sediments'99. American Society of Civil Engineers, New York, 562-575.
Short, A.D. and Brander, R.W., 1999. Rip scaling in low- to high-energy wave environments. Proceedings of Coastal Sediments '99. American Society of Civil Engineers, New York, 551-561.
Brander, R.W. and Greenwood, B., 1993. Bedform roughness and suspended sediment transport in the surf zone. Proceedings of the 11th Australasian Conference on Coastal and Ocean Engineering, Townsville, QLD., 241-246. Proceedings No. 90, 102-106.
Brander, R.W. and Greenwood, B., 1993. Bedform roughness and the re-suspension and transport of sand under shoaling and breaking waves: a field study. Proceedings of the 1993 Canadian Coastal Conference, Vancouver, B.C., 587-599.
Brander, R.W., Cowell, P.J. and Short, A.D., 2000. Morphometric approaches to describing rip current behaviour. Proceedings of the International Coastal Symposium, Rotorua, New Zealand.
Brander, R.W., 1998. Sediment transport in low-energy rip current systems. 8th Meeting of the Australia-New Zealand Geomorphology Group (ANZGG), Goolwa, South Australia.
Brander, R.W., 1997. Field monitoring of low-energy rip current systems. Proceedings of the Institute of Australian Geographers and New Zealand Geographical Society Second Joint Conference. Hobart, Tasmania.
Brander, R.W., 1994. Field investigations on the dynamics of rip currents. 6th Meeting of the Australia-New Zealand Geomorphology Group (ANZGG), Hanmer Springs, N.Z.