Dr Murray Robert Ford

MSc, PhD (University of Auckland)

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Senior Lecturer


I am a coastal geomorphologist working in a range of coastal settings. At present, I am primarily working on reef island systems in the Pacific. I employ both field and remote sensing approaches to better understand reef island geomorphology in order to be understand the evolution and dynamics of these landforms

Research | Current


  • Reef island geomorphology
  • Coastal processes and sediment transport
  • Coastal management
  • Remote sensing of coastal systems
  • Climate change adaptation in atoll settings 

Reef island shoreline change

The impacts of SLR on atoll shorelines are expected to be profound, potentially destabilising islands and threatening the habitability of islands which have been occupied for over 1000 years. I am currently investigating shoreline change using aerial photos captured between 1945-1978 and recent high resolution satellite imagery collected between 2000 and 2017. Identifying currently eroding shorelines is particularly important for supporting local adaptation and hazard mitigation responses. 

Reef flat hydrodynamics

Along with researchers from the University of Hawaii I have been working to better understand wave processes on atoll reefs. Reef islands are low-lying and highly susceptible to wave-driven inundation. Understanding wave processes on reef flats is important to get a better handle on the water level at island shorelines under various conditions. As part of this project we have been working to better understand the impacts of reef flat mining on wave processes. Large excavation pits are dug into the reef flat in order to mine the hard capstone for use in shoreline protection, roading and other construction projects. By pure good luck we also recorded the 2011 Japanese tsunami as it traveled through the central Pacific.

Teaching | Current

Geog 103(G) - Coordinator S1

GISci 241 - Coordinator S2

Geog 351 - Contributor S1

Geog 746 - Contributor S1

Capstone (GISci and Geog)

Postgraduate supervision

I am always keen to talk to prospective postgraduate students at Honours, Masters and PhD level. See below for a taste of past projects.



Rebecca Cunniffe - Remote sensing of dune evolution at Ahipara.

Spencer Raymond - Bar migration at Pauanui Beach.

Jarryd Hunter - Shoreline change at Namdrik Atoll.

Hannah Giess - The Physical taphonomic alteration of Austrovenus stutchburyi across the intertidal water embayment towards the Miranda Chenier plain.

Olivia Philpott - Cockle Shell Movement at the Miranda Spit.

Chloe Marshall - Shoreline changes on Majuro Atoll.

Sophia Brown - Gravel dynamics at Jones Bay.

Megan Tuck - Inundation of Funafuti Atoll.

Paige Sims - Sediments of Tepuka Island.

Andrew Holdaway - Uncertainty of remote sensing estimates of reef island shoreline change.

Alan Scandrett - Google Earth Engine - Shoreline change analysis

Sarah Stewart - Shoreline change in the Maldives using Planet Imagery

Thomas Mules - Using Google Earth Engine to map intertidal reefs.

NavKaran Parmar - Remote sensing of change of the Hapuku River

Sandy Gatward - Measuring the transport of shells at Miranda using PIT tags

Chris Turner - Assessing the Accuracy of Automated Shoreline Extraction Techniques in Auckland, New Zealand

Ben Steer - An assessment of the accuracy of reef islands shorelines extracted from Planet imagery


Rachel Twomey - Vulnerability to Sea Level Rise in the Auckland Region and the Applicability of Coastal Vulnerability Indices. (co-supervised with Paul Kench)

Alanna Hollier - The impact of taphonomic processes on shell delivery to the modern chenier ridge at Miranda, New Zealand.(co-supervised with Mark Dickson)

Jamie Boyle - An investigation into coastal change at Whites Beach, Auckland, New Zealand. (co-supervised with Paul Kench)

Ses Rini Mardiani - Physical Vulnerability of Reef Islands in Jakarta Bay, Indonesia.(co-supervised with Paul Kench)

Elliot McBride - A land suitability analysis for value-added crops in contemporary and future climate conditions in Samoa, using a multi-criteria evaluation and GIS approach. (co-supervised with Susan Owen)

Olivia Philpott -Roughness controls on reef flat wave transformation. (co-supervised with Paul Kench)

Claire Scott-Knight - Wave processes at Tepuka Island. (co-supervised with Paul Kench)




Christine Liang - Reef island evolution in the Maldives.(2017) (co-supervised with Paul Kench)

Megan Tuck - Physical modelling of reef island response to storms and SLR.(2020) (co-supervised with Paul Kench and Giovanni Coco)

Oliver Knebel - Boron Isotopes in coral (2020). (co-supervised with Paul Kench and Gavin Foster)

Meghna Sengupta - Shoreline change on Pacific Atolls (in progress) (co-supervised with George Perry and Paul Kench)

Roselyn Naidu - Sediment generation on coral reefs in Fiji (in progress) (co-supervised with Paul Kench)

Ben Collings - Automated shoreline change detection in NZ (in progress) (co-supervised with Mark Dickson)

Ben Jones - Vulnerability of archaeological sites to sea level rise (in progress) (co-supervised with Mark Dickson and Emma Ryan)

Selected publications and creative works (Research Outputs)

As of 29 October 2020 there will be no automatic updating of 'selected publications and creative works' from Research Outputs. Please continue to keep your Research Outputs profile up to date.
  • Ford, M., Merrifield, M. A., & Becker, J. M. (2018). Inundation of a low-lying urban atoll island: Majuro, Marshall Islands. Natural Hazards, 91 (3), 1273-1297. 10.1007/s11069-018-3183-5
  • Owen, S., Kench, P., & Ford, M. (2016). Improving understanding of the spatial dimensions of biophysical change in atoll island countries and implications for island communities: A Marshall Islands' case study. Applied Geography, 72, 55-64. 10.1016/j.apgeog.2016.05.004
  • Yao, Y., Becker, J. M., Ford, M. R., & Merrifield, M. A. (2016). Modeling wave processes over fringing reefs with an excavation pit. Coastal Engineering, 109, 9-19. 10.1016/j.coastaleng.2015.11.009
  • Ford, M. R., & Kench, P. S. (2016). Spatiotemporal variability of typhoon impacts and relaxation intervals on Jaluit Atoll, Marshall Islands. Geology, 44 (2), 159-162. 10.1130/G37402.1
  • Ford, M. R., & Kench, P. S. (2015). Multi-decadal shoreline changes in response to sea level rise in the Marshall Islands. Anthropocene, 11, 14-24. 10.1016/j.ancene.2015.11.002
  • Merrifield, M., Becker, J., Ford, M., & Yao, Y. (2014). Observations and estimates of wave-driven water level extremes at the Marshall Islands. Geophysical Research Letters, 41 (20), 7245-7253. 10.1002/2014GL061005
  • Ford, M. R. (2014). The application of PIT tags to measure transport of detrital coral fragments on a fringing reef: Majuro Atoll, Marshall Islands. Coral Reefs, 1-5. 10.1007/s00338-014-1131-8
  • Ford, M. R., & Kench, P. S. (2014). Formation and adjustment of typhoon-impacted reef islands interpreted from remote imagery: Nadikdik Atoll, Marshall Islands. Geomorphology10.1016/j.geomorph.2014.02.006

Contact details

Primary office location

SCIENCE CENTRE 302 - Bldg 302
Level 5, Room 523
New Zealand

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