Kristen Splinter

Senior Lecturer
Water Research Laboratory
Contact details:
(+61 2) 8071 9845

UNSW Water Research Laboratory
Manly Vale Campus

Senior Lecturer in the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering

Water Research Laboratory (WRL)


Academic Background



Geological Oceanography. Oregon State University, USA.

Dissertation: Development of 2D Models to Estimate Nearshore Bathymetry and Sediment Transport.



Marine Resource Management. Oregon State University, USA.



Coastal and Oceanographic Engineering. University of Florida, USA.

Thesis: Effects of Three-Dimensional Forcing on Alongshore Currents:  A Comparative Study. 

B.Sc. (Eng.)


Civil Engineering, Environmental Option. 1st Class Honours. Queen’s University at Kingston, Canada.

Thesis: Developing Protocols For Clinker-based Wetland Cells Used for Removing Phosphorus From Wastewater.

Research interests

I study how our coastline (namely the beaches) erode and recover from changes in the size of waves,sediment supply, and water levels. I develop simple numerical models based on broad-scale observations that can predict how beaches change due to changes in wave height and wave period.  A lot of my modelling work utilizes the equilibrium concept (like a spring) to be able to create dynamic models that can predict the cross-shore movement of sandbars and the shoreline over timescales of days to years.  I'm also fascinated by rips and beach morphology and how it changes over time. You can check out our coastal imaging stations here:

Recently I have also been involved with research projects to examine the hydrodynamics (waves and water levels) over reefs during exteme (cyclone) conditions.  This work is particularly important in the context of rising sea levels and climate change, where Pacific Island Nations may become more vulnerable to these events due to reef submergence and degradation. 

Interest in engineering

Why did you get into engineering?

I wasn’t too sure what I wanted to do at the end of high school. Both my parents had engineering backgrounds and then pursued other careers. They encouraged me to consider this route as it provides a solid education. I like to solve problems and generally ask 'why does that happen ?'. I think engineers are critical thinkers and innovators.  

What are your research goals?

I like to see my work being used by the public to better inform their decision process. I want my work to make a difference and better society.

What do people not understand about you do?

When I tell people I study beaches they think it’s really cool. What they don’t understand is that, as an engineer, I focus on understanding the “why” so there’s a lot of math behind what I do.

Advice for prospective Civil and Environmental engineers

Engineers make the world a better place. Find something you’re passionate about and turn that into your career. I did. Anything is possible in engineering.

Looking for students for projects related to:

I am looking for talented and motivated male/female engineering students with a keen interest in Coastal Engineering topics related to nearshore processes, sediment dynamics, coastal impacts in a changing climate, dune erosion, numerical modelling of coastal processes and  reef-top hydrodynamics.

If you are interested in pursuing Honours thesis or graduate study with me, please fill out the following survey monkey form and the HDR self-assessment (graduate students only). - UNSW HDR Self-Assessment Tool 

Students interested in graduate studies at UNSW are encouraged to use the following resources. 

UNSW Scholarship Application Guidelines – International & Domestic schemes(benefits, equity, work and other income), steps to complete application

FAQs for Scholarship applicants – for all scholarship applicants

UNSW Postgraduate Research Handbook – key information on policies, procedures, scholarships, examination, support etc.


Lectures/Courses taught

CVEN 9640/9640d: Coastal Engineering

CVEN 2501: Principles of Water Engineering

CVEN 9620/9620d: Rivers, Channels, and Estuaries

ENGG1000: Sustainability





Beuzen, T. (2016 –present) Predicting storm erosion on sandy coastlines using a Bayesian Network

Freeman, E. (2015 – present) Testing floating pontoon breakwaters for stability and safety in extreme conditions.

Robinet, A. (U. Bordeaux) (2014 – present) Long-term shoreline modelling combining alongshore and cross-shore processes

Simmons, J.(2014 - present) Examining Storm Scale Response on Beaches. 

Phillips, M. (2014 – present) Examining the Recovery Timescales of Beaches.




Bracs, M. (2016) Monitoring shoreline variability on a regional scale: implications for the establishment of a national coastal observing network. Dept. of Civil and Environmental Engineering. University of New South Wales. Sydney, Australia



Kearney, E. (2015) The design, application, and assessment of rapid-response airborne lidar for monitoring of storm induced beach erosion. Dept. of Civil and Environmental Engineering. University of New South Wales. Sydney, Australia




Drummond, M. (2016) Emperical Parameterization of Wave Runup using a Laser Scanner

Huo, M. (2016) Impact of Reef Width on Extreme Water Levels on Reefs

Killialea, R. (2016) Investigation of armour stability for coastal protection inside a fringing reef.

O-Rourke, M. (2016) The Importance of pre-storm beach profile shape to erosion vulnerability.

Smith, N. (2016) Estimation of nearshore wave properties with a fixed lidar.

Cullins, J. (2015) Wave runup and overtopping on a coral reef.

Hay, A. (2015) The application of Kalman Filters in shoreline modeling.

Tucker, T. (2015) Application of a 2D sandbar model to examine cross-shore sandbar migration at Narrabeen-Collaroy, NSW

Kiernan, B. (2015) A tale of 2 beaches: intersite comparison of Wamberal and Narrabeen

Reinhart, M. (2014) Examining the links between nearshore morphology and shoreline change 

Walters, T. (2014) Recovery time-scales of beaches.

Poole, J. (2013) An assessment of engineering works in Bate Bay using GENESIS under the current and projected wave climate. 

MacKenzie, B. (2013) Forecasting Future Shoreline Change: The application and development of a shoreline change model in response to projected wave climate. 

Stanton, M. (2012) An evaluation of empirical run-up prediction models



Gonzalez, M. Exploring sand-bar migration at a high-energy beach.

Buezen, T. Estimating Shoreline Response to a changing climate. 


Professional Organisations and Consulting positions

American Geophysical Union (AGU)

Australian Coastal Society

Awards, Grants, Patents

Current Grants

Splinter, Turner. Delivering a beach erosion forcasting system. NSW Environtmental Trust. 2017-2019. $144K

Turner, Middleton, Splinter, Reniers, Davidson, Blenkinsopp. Beach Erosion and Recovery: Quantifying the Hazard. ARC Discovery 2015 - 2017. $423K

Castelle, Marieu, Senechal, Ruessink, Idier,Bujan, Ferreira, Splinter (I am a collaborator on 1 part of this grant) Processus cross-shore et longshore comines en morphodynamique littorale (French) ASTRID 2014, Agence de la Reserche (France). 207K euros.

Past Successful Grants

Splinter, Davidson, Blenkinsopp, Turner. Development of a new Coastal Engineering 2-D beach profile model for predicting future coastline response to changing waves and sea-level. UNSW Australia Faculty of Engineering Early Career Research Grant, $20K.

Turner, Middleton, Goodwin, Splinter, Hanslow, Coates. ECL Impacts to beaches. Office of Environment and Heritage NSW Adaptation Research Hub. $66K

Splinter. Development and Application of 2 semi-empirical coastal evolution models to predict coastal change at timescales of days to years along Australian and French wave-dominated coastlines. France-Australia Science Innovation Collaboration (FASIC) Program Early  Career Research Fellowship Australian Academy of Science. $5K.