Take 10 with... Murray Ford

Dr Murray Ford from the School of Environment gives us 10 minutes of his time to discuss his research on coastal landforms and how they respond to storms and sea level rise.

Dr Murray Ford, School of Environment
Dr Murray Ford, School of Environment

1.  Describe your research topic to us in 10 words or less.

How do coastal systems adjust to environmental change?

2.  Now explain it in everyday terms!

Broadly, my work is around how coastal landforms, particularly low-lying reef islands in the Pacific, respond to processes such as storms and sea level rise. I use a mix of field and remote sensing approaches (i.e. satellite images) to try and better understand how these systems behave, in the hope that we can use this behaviour to understand future responses to environmental change.

3.  Describe some of your day-to-day research activities.

Day-to-day most of my research time is spent working with satellite imagery, learning new tools and techniques for processing data, chatting with colleagues and collaborators and working with postgraduate students.

4.  What do you enjoy most about your research?

Getting to undertake fieldwork in some of the more remote, email-free parts of the Pacific can be a lot of fun at times.

5. Tell us something that has surprised you in the course of your research.

We have such a limited understanding of how coastal systems behave. Even when exposed to the same environmental conditions, two nearby reef islands might exhibit entirely different behaviours.

6.  How have you approached any challenges you’ve faced in your research?

Funding is always a big challenge in that I have none, but at least I can ignore the emails about Concur training. I am lucky there’s a growing trend of publicly available, high-quality remote sensing data which are distributed freely to researchers by foreign governments and private companies. Some of these datasets have proven invaluable for my work.

7.  What questions have emerged as a result?

I am particularly interested the insights about coastal change that we can gain from data which many would dismiss as being not fit to task.

8.  What kind of impact do you hope your research will have?

It’d be nice to see some of my work contribute to more evidence-driven climate adaptation decisions with atoll settings.

9.  If you collaborate across the faculty or University, who do you work with and how does it benefit your research?

I often work with others in the Coastal Research Group here in School of Environment, the likes of Mark Dickson, Susan Owen, Giovanni Coco and Paul Kench. They’re a sharp and supportive bunch.

10.   What one piece of advice would you give your younger, less experienced research self?

Try and enjoy it.