Dr Daniel Harris

Lecturer in Geography

School of Earth and Environmental Sciences
Faculty of Science
daniel.harris@uq.edu.au
+61 7 336 56084

Overview

I am a coastal geomorphologist who focuses on the morphodynamics of coastal and coral reef systems, or more specifically, the nature of change in coastal geomorphology and the processes responsible for driving such change. This research is conducted on multiple temporal and spatial scales from short-term surf zone processes to the reconstruction of paleo sea levels and coral reef evolution. A major strength of my research is its multidisciplinary nature, encompassing elements of surf science, beach morphodynamics, spatial ecology, and marine geology in combination with effective and novel use of GIS analysis, hydrographic and topographic surveying, high-resolution surf zone measurement, and computer modelling of hydrodynamic processes and geomorphic change. The goal of my research is to produce holistic models of coastal and coral reef response to changing environmental conditions in order to better inform management and planning of our coasts. My work has taken me to some beautiful places in the world with current research field sites including French Polynesian reefs, NSW beaches, the Bahamas, and The Great Barrier Reef.

Before coming to The University of Queensland I completed my PhD at the University of Sydney in Coral Reef Morphodynamics and was an Associate Lecturer in Marine Geoscience. I also spent over two years in Germany working at the Sea Level and Coastal Changes group at the Center for Tropical Marine Ecology (ZMT) and Center for Marine Environmental Science (MARUM) at The University of Bremen. Perhaps equally importantly I grew up on the beaches of the east coast of Australia, I am a surfer and diver, and I have a personal and professional passion for beaches, reefs, surf, and the ocean.

Research Interests

  • Morphodynamics
    My research broadly fits into the topic of morphodynamics, which examines the mutual interactions between physical processes (i.e. waves, tides, and currents) and morphology of coastal systems (e.g. beaches and coral reefs). More simply I study coastal change and the processes driving such change, and attempt to establish conceptual and numerical models that describe coastal and coral reef change.
  • Coral Reefs
    The effects of hydrodynamics and sea level changes on coral reef geomorphology and ecology is the primary focus of my research. This includes a wide range of topics such as: sea level change and geological development of coral reefs, surf zone science, and linking hydrodynamic forcing to changes in ecological assemblages. This work is conducted in collaboration with a wide range of reef ecologists, geologists, and coastal scientists. The aim of this work is to build a sophisticated understanding of coral reef change by incorporating methods from multiple disciplines and ultimately improve our knowledge of coral reef evolution on scales relevant to planners and managers.
  • Coral reefs and coastal protection
    The observed worldwide degradation of reef building corals has led to concerns regarding the provision of ecosystem services provided by coral reefs in the future. Coastal protection is one of the most important services provided by coral reefs and yet is poorly studied. This work attempts to quantify the wave climates and coastal change on tropical coastlines for future scenarios of coral reef health.
  • Beach change and surf zone processes
    This area focuses on collecting and assessing surf zone wave data in order to test the prevailing models that describe surf zone processes in coral reefs and beaches. There are research projects almost constantly available in this area of study looking at coral reefs and the beaches on the Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast.

Qualifications

  • Doctor of Philosophy, The University of Sydney

Publications

View all Publications

Available Projects

  • Research Project in collaboration with CSIRO.

    For more information contact Dr David Blondeau-Patisssier (CSIRO, David.Blondeau-Patissier@csiro.au), Dr Daniel Harris (SEES UQ daniel.harris@uq.edu.au) or Dr Scott N. Lieske (scott.lieske@uq.edu.au, SEES UQ)

    Project Summary

    A large dataset of water column profiles (and continuous surface transects) of water quality parameters, collected from in situ spectrophotometers deployed routinely at sampling stations during field campaigns, has been collected by the CSIRO Aquatic Remote Sensing group over the years. Data were sampled in the waters of the Great Barrier Reef lagoon and northern territory at various locations and seasons. Data collected within the first ~3 m of these profiles has been used to derive relationships for the surface waters, in relation with ocean colour satellite algorithms. A parameter in particular, the total absorption coefficient, was mostly used. But other parameters are available from these profiles, such as the phytoplankton and organic matter absorption coefficients, and at various depths – what story do they tell us? What contributes more to water attenuation: organic matter, phytoplankton or detritus?

    Project Background

    This research project will first help assess how measurements from these in situ spectrophotometers compare to filter pads for parameters other than the total absorption coefficient. Often dismissed, this assessment will help make use of these measurements more routinely. Secondly, measurements at depths below -3m are dismissed because ocean colour remote sensing satellite data is often unable to provide information below the top surface layer. However this information may provide further insights into how the use of in situ profile measurements can complement satellite imagery of the lagoon’s surface waters with the dynamics of the phytoplankton and dissolved organic materials at various depths.

  • Research Project in collaboration with CSIRO.

    For more information contact Dr David Blondeau-Patisssier (CSIRO, David.Blondeau-Patissier@csiro.au), Dr Daniel Harris (SEES UQ daniel.harris@uq.edu.au) or Dr Scott N. Lieske (scott.lieske@uq.edu.au, SEES UQ)

    Project Summary

    This research project will provide an assessment on the impacts of the seasonal and tidal effects on Darwin Harbour’s water quality. The project will utilise satellite imagery from ocean colour sensors collected over the Darwin Region. Rainfall and climate data from the Bureau of Meteorology may also be used in the analysis. The ideal candidate to this position will have an interest in marine biology, remote sensing or climate processes and have a knowledge of, or an interest in using, software such as ArcGIS and Matlab.

    Project Background

    Season vs Tides: what drives water quality, and clarity, in Darwin Harbour? Darwin Harbour is an isolated, macro-tidal coastal region that has amongst the largest tides in the world (7.8 m). It has also a monsoonal climate characterized by a wet season that extends from November to April. During the monsoon, more than three-quarters of the yearly rainfall (~1,700 mm/yr) occurs, thus generating river runoffs that discharge into the Harbour. Rainfall is the main driver of erosion process, therefore any spatial and temporal variability of rainfall affects the sediment delivery and water turbidity.

    Water turbidity has a direct impact on water quality and phytoplankton growth in particular, because it limits light penetration in the water column, affecting algal photosynthesis. It is currently unknown whether the seasonal effect has a larger role on water quality than the tidal cycle in Darwin Harbour. There is a need to determine the main driver, so that we may be able to understand if water quality may be further affected by a changing climate as climate models possibly predict more frequent and intense rainfall in tropical regions.

  • There are projects available at the Honours or Masters level in examining surf zone processes on coral reef flats in the Great Barrier Reef and the Pacific. Ideally, the student would have some understanding of GIS and MATLAB as this work will in general be based in developing a numerical understanding of coral reef surf zones. However, if you are comupter savvy and enthusiastic you are welcome to discuss projects. There are currently no specific plans for field work in this area but there are always plans for addtional data collection. Potential PhD students are also wlelcome to come and discuss projects if interested in this area.

View all Available Projects

Publications

Journal Article

Edited Outputs

Possible Research Projects

Note for students: The possible research projects listed on this page may not be comprehensive or up to date. Always feel free to contact the staff for more information, and also with your own research ideas.

  • Research Project in collaboration with CSIRO.

    For more information contact Dr David Blondeau-Patisssier (CSIRO, David.Blondeau-Patissier@csiro.au), Dr Daniel Harris (SEES UQ daniel.harris@uq.edu.au) or Dr Scott N. Lieske (scott.lieske@uq.edu.au, SEES UQ)

    Project Summary

    A large dataset of water column profiles (and continuous surface transects) of water quality parameters, collected from in situ spectrophotometers deployed routinely at sampling stations during field campaigns, has been collected by the CSIRO Aquatic Remote Sensing group over the years. Data were sampled in the waters of the Great Barrier Reef lagoon and northern territory at various locations and seasons. Data collected within the first ~3 m of these profiles has been used to derive relationships for the surface waters, in relation with ocean colour satellite algorithms. A parameter in particular, the total absorption coefficient, was mostly used. But other parameters are available from these profiles, such as the phytoplankton and organic matter absorption coefficients, and at various depths – what story do they tell us? What contributes more to water attenuation: organic matter, phytoplankton or detritus?

    Project Background

    This research project will first help assess how measurements from these in situ spectrophotometers compare to filter pads for parameters other than the total absorption coefficient. Often dismissed, this assessment will help make use of these measurements more routinely. Secondly, measurements at depths below -3m are dismissed because ocean colour remote sensing satellite data is often unable to provide information below the top surface layer. However this information may provide further insights into how the use of in situ profile measurements can complement satellite imagery of the lagoon’s surface waters with the dynamics of the phytoplankton and dissolved organic materials at various depths.

  • Research Project in collaboration with CSIRO.

    For more information contact Dr David Blondeau-Patisssier (CSIRO, David.Blondeau-Patissier@csiro.au), Dr Daniel Harris (SEES UQ daniel.harris@uq.edu.au) or Dr Scott N. Lieske (scott.lieske@uq.edu.au, SEES UQ)

    Project Summary

    This research project will provide an assessment on the impacts of the seasonal and tidal effects on Darwin Harbour’s water quality. The project will utilise satellite imagery from ocean colour sensors collected over the Darwin Region. Rainfall and climate data from the Bureau of Meteorology may also be used in the analysis. The ideal candidate to this position will have an interest in marine biology, remote sensing or climate processes and have a knowledge of, or an interest in using, software such as ArcGIS and Matlab.

    Project Background

    Season vs Tides: what drives water quality, and clarity, in Darwin Harbour? Darwin Harbour is an isolated, macro-tidal coastal region that has amongst the largest tides in the world (7.8 m). It has also a monsoonal climate characterized by a wet season that extends from November to April. During the monsoon, more than three-quarters of the yearly rainfall (~1,700 mm/yr) occurs, thus generating river runoffs that discharge into the Harbour. Rainfall is the main driver of erosion process, therefore any spatial and temporal variability of rainfall affects the sediment delivery and water turbidity.

    Water turbidity has a direct impact on water quality and phytoplankton growth in particular, because it limits light penetration in the water column, affecting algal photosynthesis. It is currently unknown whether the seasonal effect has a larger role on water quality than the tidal cycle in Darwin Harbour. There is a need to determine the main driver, so that we may be able to understand if water quality may be further affected by a changing climate as climate models possibly predict more frequent and intense rainfall in tropical regions.

  • There are projects available at the Honours or Masters level in examining surf zone processes on coral reef flats in the Great Barrier Reef and the Pacific. Ideally, the student would have some understanding of GIS and MATLAB as this work will in general be based in developing a numerical understanding of coral reef surf zones. However, if you are comupter savvy and enthusiastic you are welcome to discuss projects. There are currently no specific plans for field work in this area but there are always plans for addtional data collection. Potential PhD students are also wlelcome to come and discuss projects if interested in this area.