Ruth Reef

Assoc Professor

Accepting PhD Students


Research activity per year

Personal profile

Research interests

I head the Coastal Research Group at the School of Earth Atmosphere and Environment

Our principal research interest is in understanding how low energy marine and coastal habitats function and how they are impacted by natural disturbance, anthropogenic impacts, and climate change. The insights gained from our research  provide important guidance for the effective management of these regions into the future.

Coastal habitats will play a vital role in mitigating the effects of sea level rise, through increasing sediment accretion rates and thus surface elevation. In Australia, saltmarshes, mangroves and coral reefs are the primary coastal habitat and are widely distributed along the Australian coastline. Both geological evidence from the Holocene, when sea levels rose quickly and significantly, and models of contemporary sea level rise suggest that coral reefs and vegetated foreshores are able to keep pace with sea level rise when sediment supply is sufficient (including the production of biogenic sediment sources), thus protecting inland habitats from inundation. coral reefs and vegetated foreshores are also very effective at attenuating wave energy during storm surges and are important carbon stores. These habitats are vital for a plethora of species, including dramatically declining migratory shore bird populations.

Our research group has a range of underwater sensors, current meters, plankton and vegetation sampling equipment, UAVs and a range of airborne sensors. We have access to boating and diving equipment at Monash, and access to the school’s extensive field work and sample analysis facilities and 4WD vehicles. We also have a well equipped molecular lab for environmental DNA studies and a lab for coral, vegetation, sediment and water analyses.

Link to Ruth’s Google Scholar publications:  Ruth Reef

Specific Research Interests:

1) The coastal dynamics of coral reefs, vegetated foreshores and shallow water ecosystems

Biophysical interactions between vegetation, corals, topography, wind & wave energy and sediment transport

The response of coasts and the continental shelf to sea level rise

Using biological and chemical markers to identify sources of sediment in coastal zones

2) Using environmental DNA to reconstruct sediment and water transport, to measure biodiversity and to reconstruct historic sea levels

Measuring agricultural runoff into the Great Barrier Reef

Identifying and quantifying sources of blue carbon sequestration

Quantifying fish species diversity in penguin feeding grounds

Reconstructing past sea levels and shoreline positions

3) The biogeographic response of marine and coastal ecosystems to climate change

Modelling wetland area loss and expansion due to sea level rise

Coral bleaching studies

Species distribution modelling (mechanistic and correlative approaches)

4) Solute and gas exchange in coastal and marine environments

Using eddy covariance flux towers to understand the exchange of green house gasses and water across the coast-ocean-atmosphere conitunuum.

Understanding the ecohydrology of coastal systems including groundwater/surface water/ocean water interactions.

Monash teaching commitment


EAE1022: Earth, Atmosphere and Envrionment 2 (teaching physical geography and oceanography)

EAE3311: Oceans and Coasts (unit coordinator)


Community service

Associate Editor, Limnology and Oceanography

Handling Editor, Coastal Futures

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 6 - Clean Water and Sanitation
  • SDG 13 - Climate Action
  • SDG 14 - Life Below Water
  • SDG 15 - Life on Land

Collaborations and top research areas from the last five years

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