Associate Professor Rob Brander
Deputy Head of School | Associate Professor
Field of Research: 
Coastal geomorphology, rip currents, beach hazards and safety
Contact details:
+61 2 9385 2899

Room 504
Biological Sciences Building (D26)
UNSW, Kensington 2052



I am a coastal geomorphologist with interests in the morphodynamics (hydrodynamics, sediment transport, morphology) of coastal systems. My past research has involved fieldwork in surf zones of sandy beaches and coral reef-island beaches and reef flats. More recently my interests have shifted towards combining a physical understanding of nearshore coastal processes with a social science approach to improve our understanding of common beach and surf hazards, such as rip currents. I also run a successful community based beach safety education program called ‘The Science of the Surf (SOS)’ and have incorporated aspects of SOS into my active research.

My research interests include:

  • Coastal geomorphology and processes (beach and surf zone morphodynamics)
  • Field-based coastal research
  • Coastal hazards (rip currents, waves, storms and storm erosion)
  • Beach and surf zone safety (hazard assessment, hazard and human interaction, development and assessment of public education interventions, effective communication strategies)
  • Coupled human-environment systems (interactions between beach hazards and socio-demographic and behavioural systems, assessing understanding of the public of common beach hazards)
  • Communicating and promoting science to the public

I am always looking for motivated  PhD and Honours students and those with  a strong interest in research in any of the above areas should contact me via email to discuss potential projects. I am especially interested in students with skills in both physical and social data gathering and analysis techniques.



Rip Currents

Since 2011 my research colleagues and students within the School of BEES have been working on both physical and social aspects of the beach rip current hazard funded by ARC LP 110200134 – Rip Currents: an evidence based approach to managing the greatest beach hazard (2011-2014). This study involves measurements of rip current flow using GPS drifters as well as measurements of swimmer escape strategies using GPS. We have also conducted surveys and interviews of people who have been caught in rip currents. This study has tons of data generated and has been extended to NZ and the US. I always have plenty of ideas when it comes to rip currents!

Bondi Beach Remote Video Imaging

In January 2012 we installed two remote video cameras on a tall building at Sydney’s Bondi Beach to provide time exposures of shoreline and morphological change, rip current and sand bar behaviour at the beach. This has a variety of practical physical and social applications and the study is ongoing.

Beach and Surf Hazards

Recent projects related to surf safety have involved examining fatality statistics and costs of beach hazards relative to other natural hazards, drowning in developing countries, the relationships between tourist accommodation and unpatrolled, hazardous beaches, the role of social and mainstream media in communicating knowledge of coastal hazards, and the role of surfers and bystanders in making rescues on beaches. Much of this work is social science based.



UNSW TV YouTube Video ‘How to Survive Beach Rip Currents’

Don't get sucked in by the rip...

Video of Don't get sucked in by the rip...

 UNSW TV YouTube Video ‘The Beach Survival Guide

The Beach Survival Guide

Video of The Beach Survival Guide

Sydney Morning Herald ‘Rips Biggest Killer’ 27 November 2013

ABC Catalyst ‘Rip Survivor’ 5 April 2012


See also:

The Science of the Surf

Facebook Page: Dr Rip’s Science of the Surf 

Twitter: @Dr_Rip_SOS

 Dr Rip’s Essential Beach Book:



Amelia Roberts (ARC Research Associate) - Room 457 Biological Sciences Building; +61 2 9385 9434


Research Students


Jak McCarroll (PhD candidate) - Nearshore circulation of embayed beaches

Ben van Leeuwen (PhD Candidate) - Quantifying swimmer hazard in rip currents

Ben Aggar (Honours Candidate) – Evaluation of the Rip Buoy project

Anna Attard (Honours Candidate) – Role and value of surfers saving lives

Felicity Bain (Honours Candidate) – Remote video imaging of the morphology of Bondi Beach



Campbell McKay (Honours First Class 2013) – Informal drowning prevention on Ghanaian Beaches

Ben van Leeuwen (Honours First Class 2012) – Flow behaviour of topographic rip currents

Lara Edwards (Honours CivEng 2012) – Rip current morphology from remote video imaging

Erica Davey (Honours CivEng 2011) – Global variation in rip current density

Ben Jones (Honours CivEng 2010) – Swimmer escape strategies in rip currents

Warren Jones (Honours CivEng 2010) – Rip current circulation measurements using GPS drifters

Will Broadfoot (Honours 2009) – Analysis of Bondi Beach lifeguard rescue statistics



GEOS1701 Environmental Systems and Processes (Course Convenor)

GEOS3731 Coastal Geomorphology (Course Convenor)

GEOS2721 Australian Surface Environments and Landforms (Lecturer)

MSCI2001 Introductory Marine Science (Lecturer)

MSCI0501 The Marine Environment (Lecturer)

SCIF1021 Advanced Science Seminar (Guest Lecturer)



For the most up-to-date listing, see



McKay, C., Brander, R.. and Goff, J. (in press). Putting tourists in harms way – coastal tourist parks and hazardous unpatrolled beaches in New South Wales, Australia. Tourism Management.

McCarroll, R.J., Brander, R., MacMahan, J.H., Turner, I.L., Reniers, A.J.H.M, Brown, J., Bradstreet, A. and Sherker, S. (in press). Evaluation of swimmer-based rip current escape strategies. Natural Hazards.

Brander, R., Drozdzewski, D. and D. Dominey-Howes (under review). “Dye in the Water”: exploring a visual method of communicating the rip current hazard. Geojournal (submitted 12/3/13).

Brander, R., Dominey-Howes, R., Champion, C., Del Vecchio, O. and Brighton, B. (2013). A new perspective on the Australian rip current hazard. Submitted to Natural Hazards and Earth System Science, 13:1687-1690.

Hammerton, C.E., Brander, R., Dawe, N., Riddington, C. And Engel, R. (2013). Approaches   for beach safety and education in Ghana: a case study for developing countries with a surf coast. Submitted to International Journal of Aquatic Research and Education(accepted May 30, 2013).

Brander, R. (2013).Can a synthesis of geography save lives in the surf? Australian Geographer. 44(2): 123-127.

Brighton, B., Sherker, S., Brander, R., Thompson, M. and Bradstreet, A. (2013). Rip current related drowning deaths and rescues in Australia 2004-2011. Natural Hazards and Earth System Science, 13: 1069-1075.

McCarroll, R. J., Brander, R.W., MacMahan, J.H., Turner, I.L., Reniers, A.J.H.M., Brown, J.A. and Bradstreet, A. (2013). Assessing the effectiveness of rip current swimmer strategies, Shelly Beach, NSW, Australia. Journal of Coastal Research, SI 65: 784-789.

Drozdzewski, D., Shaw, W., Dominey-Howes, D., Brander, R., Walton, T., Gero, A., Sherker, S., Goff, J. and Edwick, B. (2012). Surveying rip current survivors: preliminary insights into the experiences of being caught in rip currents. Natural Hazards and Earth Systems Science, 12: 1201-1211.

Williamson, A., Hatfield, J., Sherker, S., Brander R. and Hayen A. (2012). A comparison of attitudes and knowledge of beach safety for Australian beachgoers, rural residents and international tourists. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health, 36(4):385-391.

Hatfield, J., Williamson, A., Sherker, S., Brander, R., and Hayen, A. (2012). Development and evaluation of an intervention to reduce rip current related beach drowning. Accident Analysis and Prevention, 46:45-51.

Brander, R.W., Bradstreet, A., Sherker, S. and MacMahan, J. (2011). The behavioural responses of swimmers caught in rip currents: new perspectives on mitigating the global rip current hazard. International Journal of Aquatic Research and Education, 5:476-482.

MacMahan, J., Reniers, A., Brown, J., Brander, R., Thornton, E., Stanton, T., Brown, J. and Carey,       W. (2011). An introduction to rip currents based on field measurements. Journal of Coastal Research, 27(4): 3-6.

Sherker S, Williamson A, Hatfield J, Brander R, Hayen (2010). Beachgoers’ beliefs and behaviours in relation to beach flags and rip currents. Accident Analysis and Prevention, 42: 1785-1804.

Kench, P.S., Parnell, K.E., and Brander, R.W. (2009). Monsoonally influenced circulation around coral reef islands and seasonal dynamics of reef island shorelines. Marine Geology, 266, 91-108.

Fletemeyer, J., Leatherman, S. and Brander, R.W. (2009). Current danger: aquatic professionals need to rethink how they warn and guard against the leading cause of beach drowning. Aquatics International, 21, 6: 14-15.

Kench, P.S., Brander, R.W., Parnell, K.E., and O’Callaghan, J.M. (2009). Seasonal variations in wave characteristics around a coral reef island, South Maalhosmadulu atoll, Maldives. Marine Geology, 262, 116-129.

Kench, P.S., Nichol, S.L., Smithers, S.G., McLean, R.F., and Brander, R.W. (2008). Tsunami as agents of geomorphic change in mid-ocean reef islands. Geomorphology, 95:361-383.

Sherker, S., Brander, R.W., Finch, C. and Hatfield, J. (2008). Why Australia needs an effective national campaign to reduce coastal drowning. Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport, 11:81-83.

Jago, O.K., Kench, P.S. and Brander, R.W.(2007).  Field observations of wave-driven water level gradients across a coral reef platform. Journal of Geophysical Research, 112, C06027, doi:10.1029/2006JC003740

Kench, P.S., Nichol, S.L., McLean,R.F., Smithers, S.G. and Brander, R.W. (2007). Impact of the Sumatran tsunami on the geomorphology and sediments of reef islands: South Maalhosmadulu  Atoll, Maldives. Atoll Research Bulletin, 544.

Kench, P.S., Brander, R.W., Parnell, K.E. and McLean, R.F. (2006). Energy gradients across a Maldivian atoll: implications for island formation and change. Geomorphology, 81(1-2): 1-17.

Kench, P.S. and Brander, R.W. (2006). Response of reef island shorelines to seasonal climate oscillations: South Maalhosmadulu atoll, Maldives. Journal of Geophysical Research, 111, F101001,doi:10.1029/2005JF000323.

Kench, P.S. and Brander, R.W. (2006).Wave processes on coral reef flats on Coral Reef Flats: implications for reef geomorphology using Australian case studies. Journal of Coastal Research, 22(1): 209-223.

Kench, P.S., McLean, R.F., Brander, R.W., Nichol, S.L., Smithers, S.G., Ford, M.R., Parnell, K.E., and Aslam, M. (2006). Geological effects of tsunami on mid-ocean atoll islands: The Maldives before and after the Sumatran tsunami. Journal of Geology, 34(3): 177-180.

Daly, M.G.R. and Brander, R.W. (2006). The dynamics of fringing reefs: a review and synthesis. The Hydrographic Journal, 119: 17-23.

Brander, R.W., Kench, P.S. and Hart, D. (2004). Spatial and temporal variations in wave characteristics across a reef platform, Warraber Island, Torres Strait, Australia. Marine Geology, 207: 169-184.

Stephenson, W. and Brander, R.W. (2004).  Coastal geomorphology. Progress in Physical Geography , 28 (4) : 1-12.

Baird, M.E., Roughan, M.M., Brander, R.W., Middleton, J.H. and Nippard, G.J. (2004). Mass transfer limited nitrate uptake on a coral reef flat, Warraber Island, Torres Strait, Australia. Coral Reefs , 23: 386-396.

Stephenson, W. and Brander, R.W. (2003). Coastal geomorphology into the 21st century. Progress in Physical Geography, 27(4): 681-697.

Brander, R.W. and Cowell, P.J. (2003). A trend-surface technique for discrimination of surf-zone morphology: rip current channels. Earth Surface Processes and Landforms, 28: 905-918.

Brander, R.W. and Short, A.D. (2001).  Flow kinematics of  low-energy rip current systems. Journal of Coastal Research, 17(2): 468-481.

Brander, R.W., Cowell, P.J. and Short, A.D. (2001). Morphometric approaches to describing rip current behaviour. Journal of Coastal Research, Special Issue 34, 128-137.

Brander, R.W. and Short, A.D. (2000).  Morphodynamics of a large-scale rip current system, Muriwai Beach, New Zealand. Marine Geology,165: 27-39.

Brander, R.W. (1999).  Field observations on the morphodynamic evolution of a low-energy rip current system. Marine Geology, 157: 199-217.

Brander, R.W. (1999).  Sediment transport in low-energy rip current systems. Journal of Coastal Research, 15(3): 839-849.

Short, A.D. and Brander, R.W. (1999). Regional variations in rip density. Journal of Coastal Research, 15(3): 813-822.

Hughes, M., Masselink, G. and Brander, R.W. (1997).  Sediment transport in the swash zone on a steep beach. Marine Geology, 138 (1/2), 91-104. 

Greenwood, B.,  Richards, R.G., and Brander, R.W. (1993).  Acoustic imaging of sea-bed geometry: A High Resolution Remote Tracking Sonar (HRRTS II).  Marine Geology, 112, 207-218.



Brander, R.W.  and Hasnoot, T.(in press).Patterns of tides, currents, waves and surf.In: Handbook of Drowning, 2nd Ed (Ed. Joost J.L.M. Bierens), Springer.

Short, A.D. and Brander, R.W. (in press).  Beach hazard and risk assessment.In: Handbook of Drowning, 2nd Ed (Ed. Joost J.L.M. Bierens), Springer.

Brander, R.W. (2011). Book Review: Introduction to Coastal Processes and Geomorphology by Robin Davidson-Arnott. New Zealand Geographer, 67: 227-228.

Brander, R.W. and MacMahan, J.H. (2011). Future challenges for rip current research and community outreach. In: Rip Currents: Beach Safety, Physical Oceanography and Wave Modeling (Eds. S. Leatherman and J. Fletemeyer). CRC Press, Boca Raton, Florida. pp. 1-29.

Brander, R.W. (2010). Dr Rip’s Essential Beach Book; everything you need to know about surf, sand and rips. UNSW Press, Sydney, Australia.

Brander, R.W. (2005). Rip Currents. In: The Encyclopedia of Coastal Science (Ed. M. Schwartz), Kluwer Academic Publishers, pp. 811-813.

Brander, R.W., Osborne, P.D., and Parnell, K. (2003). High-energy beach and nearshore environments. In : The New Zealand Coast: Te Tai O Aotearoa  (Eds: H.L. Rouse, J.R. Goff, and S. Nichol), Dunmore Press, Auckland, 119-142.

Brander, R.W. (2003). Rip Currents. In: The Encyclopedia of Geomorphology (Ed. A.S. Goudie). Routledge Publishers, London, pp. 855-857.

Brander, R.W. (2003). Coastal Bars. In: The Encyclopedia of Geomorphology (Ed. A. S. Goudie). Routledge Publishers, London, pp. 54-56.