Professor Gary John Brierley

BA(Hons) (Durham University), MSc/PhD (Simon Fraser University)

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  • 2000-2004: Department of Physical Geography, Division of Environmental and Life Sciences, Macquarie University – Associate Professor and Head of Department (2004)
  • 1995-1999: Department of Physical Geography, Division of Environmental and Life Sciences, Macquarie University – Senior Lecturer
  • 1992-1995: Department of Physical Geography, School of Earth Sciences, Macquarie University –Lecturer (tenured in 1994)
  • 1989-1992: Research School of Pacific Studies, The Australian National University, Post Doctoral Fellow
  • 1988-1989: Department of Geography, Simon Fraser University, Canada, Sessional Instructor
  • 1981-1988: Department of Geography, Simon Fraser University, Canada, Teaching/Research Assistant
  • 1980: Chemistry Department, Bethlehem University, West Bank, Teaching Assistant
  • 1977-1978: Imperial Chemical Industries, Manchester, England, Laboratory Technician

Research | Current

Gary Brierley is a river scientist who specialises in the use of science in management applications (especially river rehabilitation and conservation). There has been extensive uptake of a research tool that he co-developed (the River Styles framework (

Professor Brierley research extends across both scientific and management fields. His primary interest presently lies in the development and application of coherent scientific guidance with which to promote an era of river repair in a manner that respects the inherent diversity and variability of river systems.

Key themes for Professor Brierley's research output include:

  • Sedimentology
  • Human impacts on river systems
  • Sediment budgets
  • River management
  • Environmental governance and education

Teaching | Current


Professor Brierley teaches a specialist river geomorphology course and co-ordinates the postgraduate Research Methods/Design course. He also runs specialist research project courses in Physical Geography and Environmental Science, and teaches various lectures on transdisciplinary approaches to environmental science.

On several occasions he has linked professional short courses taught for industry personnel to postgraduate courses taught for university students.


Professor Brierley teaches courses across the spectrum of physical geography and environmental science, from 100-300 level. He incorporates rivers field trips into all of these courses. He also presents modules in courses on ecological restoration, environmental management and water resources management.

Postgraduate supervision

Ongoing PhD students
Ines Winz, Petra van Limburg-Meijer, Li Xilai, Claire Gregory, Helen Reid, Daniel Kuo, Deirdre Wilcock

PhD completions
Jo Hoyle (2008), Mick Hillman (2005), Mio Kasai (2004), Kirstie Fryirs (2001), John Jansen (2001), Rob Ferguson (1999), Andrew Brooks (1999), Lesley Rogers (1995), Nasser Ejazul Huq (1993)

Ongoing MSc students
Simon Aiken, Selene Conn, Catherine Frericks, Nick Reid, Ria (Ling) Tung

MSc completions
Evan Benn (2009), Somvang Thammavongsa (2009), Nadine Trahan (2009), Aaron Napier (2009), James Lander (2009), Claire Gregory (2008), Helen Reid (2008), Richard Mairs (2008), Joanne Yee (2007), Michaela Cowie (2007), Liza Inglis (2006), Alexandra Spink (2006), Peter Johnston (2004), Vanessa Gorecki (2004)

Ongoing Honours students
Stephanie Benucci, Jade Hyslop, Ashlee McCormick

Honours completions
Andreas Ehstand (2008), Simon Aiken (2008), Selene Conn (2008), Catherine Frericks (2008), Nick Reid (2008), Aaron Napier (2008), Claire Gregory (2007), Helen Reid (2007), Kahli Macnab (2002), Paul Batten (1999), Louise Kelly (1999), Kirstie I (1998), Kieran Macdonnell (1998), Tim Cohen (1997), Fiona Nagel (1995), Campbell Murn (1994), Andrew Brooks (1994)


  • Visiting Fellowship, National University of Singapore (2009)
  • Advanced Scholar Fellowship, Tsinghua University (2009)
  • Visiting Fellow, Qinghai University (2009)
  • Visiting Fellow, China University of Geosciences (Beijing) (2008)
  • Macquarie University Research Innovation Prize (2007)
  • Visiting fellowship, Universiti Sains Malaysia (2007)
  • IAG Regional Conference Award, Borneo (2007)
  • National University of Singapore Centenary Workshop Visitors Award (2005)
  • Shortlisted for the International River Prize (2004)
  • Hokkaido University Visitor Award (2003)
  • CNRS Visitor Award, Lyon, France (2001)
  • IAG International Conference Award, Tokyo (2001)
  • Shinshu University Visitor Award, Japan (1999)
  • Australia-South Africa River Classification Workshop Award (1994)

Committees/Professional groups/Services

  • Vice Chair, Universitas 21 Water Project (River Restoration theme)
  • Vice Chair, International Geographical Union Commission on “Geomorphic challenges for the C21st” (Since 2000)
  • International Panel Member, International Geographical Union Commission on “Geomorphic responses to land use change” (1998-2000)
  • Section Editor (Environment and Society), Geography Compass (since 2006)
  • Editorial Board Member, Geomorphology (2000-2008), Catena (since 2007), Open Geology Journal (since 2007), International Journal of Sediment Research (since 2009)

Selected publications and creative works (Research Outputs)

  • Fryhs, K. A., Wheaton, J. M., Bizzi, S., Williams, R., & Brierley, G. J. (2019). To plug-in or not to plug-in? Geomorphic analysis of rivers using the River Styles Framework in an era of big data acquisition and automation. WILEY INTERDISCIPLINARY REVIEWS-WATER, 6 (5)10.1002/wat2.1372
  • O'Brien GR, Wheaton, J. M., Fryirs, K., Macfarlane, W. W., Brierley, G., Whitehead, K., ... Volk, C. (2019). Mapping valley bottom confinement at the network scale. EARTH SURFACE PROCESSES AND LANDFORMS, 44 (9), 1828-1845. 10.1002/esp.4615
  • Reid, H. E., Williams, R. D., Brierley, G. J., Coleman, S. E., Lamb, R., Rennie, C. D., & Tancock, M. J. (2019). Geomorphological effectiveness of floods to rework gravel bars: Insight from hyperscale topography and hydraulic modelling. EARTH SURFACE PROCESSES AND LANDFORMS, 44 (2), 595-613. 10.1002/esp.4521
  • Li, X., Perry, G. L. W., & Brierley, G. J. (2018). A spatial simulation model to assess controls upon grassland degradation on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, China. APPLIED GEOGRAPHY, 98, 166-176. 10.1016/j.apgeog.2018.07.003
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: George Perry
  • Nicoll, T., & Brierley, G. (2018). Reworking of basin fill deposits along a tributary of the upper Yellow River: Implications for changes to landscape connectivity. Earth Surface Processes and Landforms, 43 (3), 710-722. 10.1002/esp.4254
  • Brierley, G., Li, X., Qiao, Y., Huang, H. Q., & Wang, Z. (2018). Finding common ground: use of a geographically-framed landscape template as an integrating platform for an international education initiative. Journal of Geography in Higher Education, 42 (1), 25-43. 10.1080/03098265.2017.1334193
  • Fryirs, K. A., & Brierley, G. J. (2018). What's in a name? A naming convention for geomorphic river types using the River Styles Framework. PloS one, 13 (9)10.1371/journal.pone.0201909
  • Brierley, G., Tadaki, M., Hikuroa, D., Blue, B., Šunde C, Tunnicliffe, J., & Salmond, A. (2018). A geomorphic perspective on the rights of the river in Aotearoa New Zealand. River Research and Applications10.1002/rra.3343
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Brendon Blue, Daniel Hikuroa, Jon Tunnicliffe, Anne Salmond


Contact details

Primary office location

SCIENCE CENTRE 302 - Bldg 302
Level 7, Room 717
New Zealand

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