Alison,  Professor of Environmental Fluid Mechanics  and  Head  of the  COAST Engineering Research Group,  is an expert on the interactions of extreme waves with coastal structures. 

She has been invited to speak at international meetings including to the International Association of Lighthouse Authorities, and has recently edited the prestigious journal publication, Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, bringing together contemporary research findings on these heritage structures.  

Safeguarding  coastal  communities from  natural disasters  

Alison is presently leading the EPSRC-funded STORMLAMP project, a collaboration with UCL and Exeter, examining wave loading on exposed rock lighthouses, and their subsequent structural response. However, her interests in extreme waves also extend to the effects of tsunamis on coastal regions. 

She has played a vital role in a number of collaborative initiatives with the UK Earthquake Engineering Field Investigation Team, aimed at uncovering the precise reasons for the severity of destruction. Following the Japanese tsunami she has produced research findings on comparative design codes for coastal structures, and featured in a National Geographic film about the disaster.

She is currently leading the NERC-funded project C-FLOOD, investigating compound flooding due to cyclones within the northern and eastern provinces of Sri Lanka with partners at UEL and in-country. 

Design wave

Her work has also led to the verification of a design wave, representative of extreme waves in the coastal zone that will inform extreme wave run up and overtopping of structures, both at home and abroad. 

Key to her investigations have been collaborations in the UK and overseas, the University’s own Coastal, Ocean and Sediment Transport (COAST) laboratory, insight from computational fluid dynamics modelling and data provided by the Plymouth Coastal Observatory.

As coastal engineers we understand something about wave transformation on more typical structures like breakwaters. But on these cylindrical structures there is a real lack of information and knowledge. What we needed to understand was the wave transformation on the rocky reefs around the lighthouse and the response of the structure itself to that wave loading. That had not been done before.

Professor Alison Raby