Project Description

Ocean waves are the fundamental drivers of most coastal processes, from mixing to sediment transport and coastal erosion. Research in the creation of waves by wind has progressed well in the past decades, as has our understanding of wave-wave interactions in deep water. However, a knowledge gap exists around the field observation of coastal wave events. Until recently, boulder movement on clifftops were incorrectly ascribed to tsunami waves, since coastal wind waves of sufficient height were believed unrealistic.

Commonly used offshore equipment, like active acoustic sensors, fail in extreme conditions in shallow water due to the excessive aeration of the water. Pressure sensors are more sturdy and less expensive but can only be corrected up to second order accuracy. This project aims to improve the techniques for (extreme) coastal wave measurements. QUB has in the past built rugged pressure sensors and deployed them on the west coast of Ireland. Building on this work, the project will explore the enhancement of those sensors with additional velocity measurement capability.

The project aims to develop a theoretical framework to improve the reconstruction of surface elevation from bottom pressure using co-located velocity data while also building and validating a sensor prototype in the field.

In parallel, remote sensing approaches using stereo photography will also be trialled and cross validated.

QUB has state of the art wave tank test facilities for initial testing of sensors and laboratories/workshops for electronics. Field work can also be supported from our Marine Laboratory in Portaferry with boating and field instrumentation. Across the supervisory team and CASE partners, support and training is available for all required areas, for example in theoretical fluid-dynamics, coastal field work and sensing, boating, hardware design and data analysis.


Candidates should have a strong background in fluid-dynamics/marine/coastal engineering. Competence in data processing, experimental testing, field work in coastal/marine environments and sensing/electronics are also desirable.

The successful candidate will be placed within the Marine Research Group at Queen’s University Belfast. The Marine Research Group is a cross-disciplinary team of engineers, biologists and computer scientists, working on topics ranging from tank and field testing of marine renewable energy devices, environmental impact monitoring and offshore sensing. Students will be offered a place to work at the main campus in Belfast or at the Marine Laboratory in Portaferry.

Photo credit: Pal Schmitt, QUB


Pal Schmitt

Primary Supervisor:

Profile: Pal Schmitt
Institution: Queen's University, Belfast
Department/School: School of Natural and Built Environment

David R. Green

Secondary Supervisor:

Profile: David R. Green
Institution: University of Aberdeen
Department/School: School of Geosciences

Additional Supervisor:

Prof John McAllister, Queen’s University Belfast, EEECS



Systematic Review Shows That Work Done by Storm Waves Can Be Misinterpreted as Tsunami-Related Because Commonly Used Hydrodynamic Equations Are Flawed Cox, R., Ardhuin, F., Dias, F., Autret, R., Beisiegel, N., Earlie, C. S., Herterich, J. G., Kennedy, A., Paris, R., Raby, A., Schmitt, P. & Weiss, R., 05 Feb 2020, In: Frontiers in Marine Science. 7, 18 p., 4.

A nonlinear weakly dispersive method for recovering the elevation of irrotational surface waves from pressure measurements Bonneton, P, Michallet, H & Martins, K & Lannes, D. (2018) Coastal Engineering. 138. 10.1016/j.coastaleng.2018.04.005.


  • earth-systems
  • environmental-management


CASE Partnership with Agri-Food & Biosciences Institute, Fisheries and Aquatic Ecosystems Branch

A CASE Partnership project is delivered in collaboration with an industry partner. The CASE partner organisation contributes finance, expertise, facilities and an internship.

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