A scientist for all seasons

28/09/2021 | 3 mins

Keiran McNamara World Heritage Research PhD Scholarship recipient Justin Geldard is a scientist for all seasons.

As a coastal engineering researcher, keen free-diver, surfer and open water swimmer, he is passionate about exploring how to sustainably rehabilitate coral reefs and ecosystems that have been damaged by extreme climactic events. His research uses 3D printing technology to re-create coral structures which are then fitted with sensors for testing wave resilience.

Over the last 6 months Justin has been experimenting in the UWA wave flume with global company Mars and local company Subcon to better understand the stability and hydrodynamic performance of their different coral reef restoration techniques as nature-based solutions to coastal protection. The wave flume is a 54m artificial channel of water that can generate waves of different sizes, strengths and qualities. 24 scaled concrete models of artificial reef modules as well as 110 metal frames with over 1,000 3D printing corals were constructed and assembled before being deployed in the wave flume for testing this year.


Image: 3D printed corals in the UWA wave flume for testing

With the conservation, protection and restoration of World Heritage area, Ningaloo, as his major focus, Justin has just returned from his first field trip to the region where they mapped changes in coral reef characteristics with wave climate from the southern to northern end of the Cape Range National Park. They digitally recreated representative 3D sections of the reef using photogrammetry, which will help guide further testing in the wave flume and establish qualities for reef resilience.

Meeting up with Department of Biodiversity Conservation and Attractions in Exmouth enabled discussion about how Justin’s research could accelerate damaged reef recovery, help build reef resilience in the region and protect the Ningaloo coastline from storm damage. The team also presented to the wider community as part of a well-attended “meet the scientist” night at a local café in Exmouth.

Outside of his research this year Justin also managed to complete the 10 km solo swim at the 2021 Lake Argyle swimming event.

The support provided by the Kieran McNamara Scholarship has been invaluable in allowing Justin to undertake such important experimental testing and fieldwork trips this year …. with some swimming on the side.

The prestigious scholarship was established in honour of Mr Keiran McNamara AO, Director General of the Department of Environment and Conservation (formerly CALM) for 12 years. A highlight of his career was the listing of World Heritage areas at Shark Bay, Purnululu and Ningaloo. A dedicated advocate for conservation, Keiran McNamara achieved a remarkable legacy of biodiversity conservation, park management and environmental protection in Western Australia. This legacy continues through the scholarship’s support of invaluable research like Justin’s within WA’s World Heritage areas. Applications for the scholarship close October 29, more information can be found here.

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