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Dr Colin Whittaker

Post-Doctoral Research Assistant

School of Marine Science and Engineering (Faculty of Science and Engineering)


Postdoctoral Research Assistant (ENFORCE Project).

The winter storms of 2013/2014 have highlighted the vulnerability of coastal infrastructure in the United Kingdom to attack from extreme wave events. Sea level rise due to the effects of climate change may further increase the inundation hazard for many coastal communities, while intensification of coastal development makes the protection of such communities a priority in future years. Current design practice tends to utilise average quantities, rather than considering the effect of a single extreme wave on sea defence structures.

The EPSRC-funded ENFORCE project aims to investigate the coastal response to an extreme wave event, where the extreme event is modelled as a focused wave. The coastal response may be the extent of wave runup on an idealised beach, the volume of water overtopping a coastal structure or the force exerted on the structure by a wave impact. Previous experience has shown that a focused wave is able to reproduce the properties of an extreme event within a random process, without the need for lengthy experiments or numerical simulations. The NewWave profile has been successfully validated as a design wave in offshore engineering application, and this approach will be applied to extreme waves approaching the coast.

Numerical modelling work within the ENFORCE project will be undertaken at the University of Oxford, where the OXBOU numerical model will be extended to include active wave absorption. This will allow the results of random wave simulations to be compared to the focused wave simulations,validating the use of the NewWave profile for this study. The predictions of the OXBOU numerical model will be compared to measurements from the 35 m wave flume in the COAST Laboratory, Plymouth University. Both experiments and simulations will be informed by the analysis of field data.


2013 - present: Plymouth University

Postdoctoral Research Assistant on ENFORCE Project.

2010-2013: University of Canterbury
PhD, 'Modelling of tsunami generated by the motion of a rigid block along a horizontal boundary'
IMBROS Best Student Presentation Award, Physical Oceanography Workshop (Wellington, New Zealand)
PhD Scholarship, Department of Civil and Natural Resources Engineering, University of Canterbury

2006-2009: University of Canterbury
BE (Hons, 1st), Civil Engineering
Third Professional Scholarship, Department of Civil and Natural Resources Engineering, University of Canterbury
Bonded Merit Scholarship, Studylink, New Zealand Government

Professional membership

International Association for Hydro-Environment Engineering and Research (IAHR)

Research interests

Physical modelling of extreme wave events, flow visualisation techniques, tsunami modelling.

Journal papers:

Wolgamot,H., Taylor, P., Eatock Taylor, R., van den Bremer, T., Raby, A., Whittaker,C., Experimental observation of a near-motion-trapped mode: Free motionin heave with negligible radiation, Accepted by Journal of Fluid Mechanics,September 2015.

Whittaker,C., Fitzgerald, C., Taylor, P., Raby, A., The shapeof large waves in the coastal zone, Submitted to Coastal Engineering, July2015.

Fitzgerald,C., Taylor, P., Orszaghova, J., Borthwick, A., Whittaker, C., Raby, A., Irregularwave runup statistics on plane beaches: an application of a Boussinesq-typemodel incorporating a generating-absorbing sponge layer and second-order wavegeneration, Submitted to Coastal Engineering, July 2015.

Whittaker,C., Nokes, R., Davidson, M., Tsunami generation by alow Froude number landslide, Environmental Fluid Mechanics, 2015. DOI: 10.1007/s10652-015-9411-6.

Conference papers:

Wolgamot,H., Taylor, P., Eatock Taylor, R., Fitzgerald, C., van den Bremer, T., Whittaker,C., Raby, A., Experimental observation of near-motion-trapped mode,Proceedings of the International Workshop on Water Waves and Floating Bodies(IWWWFB). Bristol, April 2015.

Whittaker,C., Raby, A., Lagrangian and Eulerian measurements offocused wave groups, Proceedings of the Coastlab 2014 Conference: On theapplication of physical modelling to port and coastal protection. Varna,September 2014.

Whittaker, C., Nokes, R., Davidson, M., Experimental and numerical modelling oflandslide-generated tsunamis, Proceedings of the 18thAustralasian Fluid Mechanics Conference, Launceston, Tasmania, December 2012.

Whittaker, C., Nokes, R., Experimental modelling of landslide-generated tsunamis,Proceedings of the Coastlab 2012 Conference: On the application of physicalmodelling to port and coastal protection. Ghent, September 2012.