McKenzies Beach is a small, ephemeral pocket beach in Sydney’s Eastern suburbs situated between Bondi and Tamarama beaches. Sometimes it’s there, sometimes it’s not. Sometimes it’s there’s for years, sometimes it can disappear for a decade. When the beach is there, it provides a valuable recreational amenity. So what conditions are associated with the formation of a beach at McKenzies and what conditions cause it to disappear?

The project: Impacts of Wave Climate on a Small ‘Mystery’ Beach explores a range of techniques to determine when a beach has existed at McKenzies. This will involve analysis of historical aerial photographs and use of Google Earth imagery, but primarily it will involve some sleuthing – accessing archival information about the beach, talking to locals and seeking out photographs of the beach.

The timing of when a beach exists at McKenzies and when it disappears can then be correlated with the long-term wave climate statistics that are easily accessible from the Manly Hydraulics Laboratory. Recent studies have shown that beaches in the Sydney region can be influenced by ENSO cycles. Is this the case for McKenzies? What conditions make McKenzies appear and disappear?

Fieldwork for this project includes a topographic survey of McKenzies using a Total Station and RTK-GPS backpack. Students should have, or be able to acquire, some familiarity with GIS software that will enable them to analyse imagery.


The primary aim of this project is to gain an understanding of the morphodynamic behavior of exposed pocket beaches to short and long-term fluctuations in wave climate. A secondary aim is the potential ability to predict optimal conditions for the existence of these types of beaches.

Student benefits

You’ll have the opportunity to tackle analysis that will be of interest to local coastal governments and coastal professionals throughout Australia. The experience of working with a real-world problem is extremely valuable when it comes to getting future jobs in the coastal sector. The skills you’ll gain in data analysis, writing, science communication and presenting are essential for a career in Geoscience.

In this project, you’ll have the chance to work within a team of postgraduate students who are studying similar topics. I also strongly encourage my students to publish their honours work in an international journal, which will help enormously if you choose to apply for a scholarship to undertake postgraduate studies.

I work closely with my honours students because I am always interested in their projects. You’ll receive plenty of guidance, although I won’t spoon feed you. I have a great track record of supervising students to first-class honours results.

Get involved

To learn more about this project, contact Professor Rob Brander. 

T: +61 2 9385 2899