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Iris Möller MPhil PhD

Iris Möller MPhil PhD

University Lecturer and Deputy Director of the Cambridge Coastal Research Unit

Coastal geomorphologist with a research focus on bio-physical interactions in the intertidal zone, developing nature-based coastal defence solutions, monitoring / predicting long-term coastal morphodynamics and the response of coastal systems to climate change.



  • 2014-present: Lecturer, University of Cambridge
  • 1997-present: Deputy Director, Cambridge Coastal Research Unit
  • 2014-2015: Bye-fellow, Fitzwilliam College, University of Cambridge
  • 2000-2014: College Lecturer, Fitzwilliam College, University of Cambridge
  • 1997-1997: Research Scientist / Numerical Modeller, HR Wallingford Ltd


  • 1993-1996 University of Cambridge, Department of Geography and Magdalene College PhD 'Wave attenuation over saltmarsh surfaces' (NERC Studentship)
  • 1992-1993 University of Wales, Swansea, Department of Geography MPhil 'Post-fire vegetation recovery in mediterranean-type ecosystems'
  • 1989-1992 Oxford University, BA Hons Geography


Dr Möller has developed a range of research interests that can be divided into three topic areas:

Bio-physical linkages in coastal wetlands and the function of wetlands as a natural coastal defence


Dr Möller's research combines field observations, numerical modelling and scale-modelling approaches to better understand the energy dissipation capacity of salt marshes. This research is critically relevant to coastal management and, in particular, managed realignment schemes, which require the quantification of the sea-defence value of intertidal environments. Previous research has shown that the sea defence service provided by salt marshes varies in relation to inundation depths, incident wave conditions, vegetation cover, and meteorological conditions (Möller et al. (2011), Möller et al. (2009), Möller (2006), Möller et al. (2001) and Moeller et al. (1999)). The quantification of vegetation surface roughness using digital vegetation canopy imaging techniques has also formed part of this area of work (Möller, 2006) as this is necessary for improved representation of vegetation effects in hydro- and morpho-dynamic models. In collaboration with Greifswald University (Germany), Dr Möller completed a large-scale field monitoring project on the Baltic shore of Germany to determine the wave buffering capacity of reed beds and salt meadows in these micro-tidal, surge-dominated, coastal settings. How such environments function under scenarios of climate and sea level change is critical in determining their future economic and social value. A large-scale EU-funded (Hydralab+) wave flume study and the NERC-funded BESS and, more recently, BLUEcoast and RESIST are the most recent projects building on this work.

Monitoring coastal habitats and their ecosystem services

Dr Möller coordinated the field monitoring work package within the EU FP7 FAST project (see also main project website) ('Foreshore Assessment using Space Technology'). The monitoring of intertidal morphology and sedimentation in relation to biological activity on mudflats with the use of remote sensing techniques has also formed a key component of Dr Möller's earlier work. The Hysens project (Smith et al., 2004) established relationships between tidal flat characteristics and their spectral signatures as detected from airborne sensors. The EU-funded (Fifth Framework) project on 'Human interference with large-scale coastal morphological evolution' (HUMOR) (Kroon et al., 2008) provided evidence for the dynamics of Winterton Ness on the UK East Coast, including a computer visualisation of morphological changes and Digital Elevation Models constructed from annual aerial photographs. Projects have attracted funding from the Royal Society, the UK Environment Agency and Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), the European Union (Hysens and Hydralab IV), as well as joint funding from the Royal Geographical Society and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).

Long-term (1-10 year) coastal evolution and the impact of extreme events

Over the past few decades, coastal geomorphology has been dominated, on the one hand, by process-based laboratory and modelling studies, and on the other hand, by conceptual models based on empirical relationships between wave and/or sedimentary parameters and coastal morphology. Due to the strongly non-linear behaviour of coastal morphological systems, neither of these approaches have succeeded in improving our ability to predict the long-term (1-10 year) evolution of coastal features at a variety of spatial scales. Although non-linear data-driven numerical modelling techniques have been widely used in other environmental disciplines (e.g. in the modelling of weather patterns or turbulence), they have only recently been used in the study of long-term coastal morphology. Analysis of beach profile data from Duck (Southgate and Möller, 2000) has shown that the long-term behaviour of coastal systems may be self-organised with less input from forcing parameters such as wave or tidal circulation than previously thought.

More recently, Dr Möller's work has shed light on the morphological changes occurring along the Hunstanton to Snettisham coastline using aerial photography spanning a period of more than 15 years, has contributed towards an assessment of the impact of extreme events, such as the 2013 storm surge on the UKs East coast (Spencer et al., 2015) and led to the incorporation of natural coastal ecosystems into coastal flood risk models (see RISC-KIT EU project (see also main project website))

Bridging the gap between coastal science, education, management, and planning

Environmental and social change are creating unprecedented planning and policy challenges for coastal communities. Improving the communication and collaboration between a range of disciplines within the academic community (e.g. environmental science, sociology, psychology, policy, and engineering) as well as between academics and the various 'stakeholders' involved in coastal management and decision-making is key to addressing those challenges. Dr Möller has been actively involved in bridging the disciplines and reaching out beyond academia, e.g. through expert advice on the Water Framework Directive and by acting as scientific reviewer of the UK Climate Change Committee's 'Managing the Land in a Changing Climate' Report, alongside her active involvement in public engagement events and social media communications.

More recently, Dr Möller has contributed to the coastal component of the Toolkit for Ecosystem Service Site-based Assessment (TESSA) and towards 'Valuing the Contribution which COASTal habitats make to human health and WEllBeing' (CoastWEB).

PhD supervision

Supervision of prospective PhD students is broadly restricted to the fields above. For funded studentships, please follow links at


  • PhD student supervision
  • MPhil student supervision
  • Geographical Tripos (Undergraduate level lecturing, supervisions, day and residential field-trips)


[Publications will be loaded automatically from the University's publication database.]