In profile: Ahmed Nashwan Abdul Matheen, PhD Student
Ahmed Nashwan (‘Nash’) Abdul Matheen was lucky enough to grow up in the beautiful Maldives—an archipelago of over 1000 islands situated in the Arabian Sea. In his past job as a Surveying Assistant for consulting firm CDE Pvt Ltd, Nash visited many of the inhabited islands to carry out surveys for development projects. The prevalence of erosion on the islands’ coastlines caught his attention and after observing a lack of comprehensive scientific knowledge on the subject, he set out to better understand his country’s coastlines in order to help protect them.
Fast forward nine years and after a stellar effort completing his Bachelor of Environmental Engineering at UNSW—winning three consecutive Dean’s Awards as well as the University Medal in Environmental Engineering—Nash is now busy developing and testing the science that underpins early warning systems at coastal erosion hot spots. Through his PhD at UNSW Sydney, he is assessing the level of uncertainty within coastal erosion predictions that are generated by numerical models.
“The research that I am currently carrying out targets a key issue which we currently face when predicting storm erosion: how certain are we of our predictions and what needs to be done to improve the accuracy?” asks Nash.
By gaining a better understanding of uncertainty, he hopes that the reliability of early warning systems can be optimised to enable more effective coastal protection.
“By looking carefully at the different sources of data that are used in predicting the erosion, we can identify which of these sources contributes the largest degree of uncertainty to the prediction, and identify the data that is required to carry out reliable erosion predictions along wave-dominated, sandy coastlines,” says Nash.
After finishing his degree in 2016, Nash completed a summer research internship and an honours year at UNSW. During this time he began working with Professor Ian Turner and Dr Mitchell Harley who now supervise his research along with Dr Kristen Splinter and Dr Joshua Simmons. Nash’s relationships with his supervisors and many enlightening early discussions on common research interests helped to enable a fluid transition from undergraduate to a PhD.
Nash’s research is part of a larger Australian Research Council (ARC) Linkage Project to effectively alert coastal communities of impending storm-wave damage. His findings on data uncertainty will be incorporated into a prototype early warning system at Narrabeen-Collaroy beach in NSW that will be evaluated on its performance. The ultimate goal of the ARC Project is to introduce a cutting-edge early warning system that reduces injury, saves lives and prevents billions of dollars in property damage.
Nash’s involvement in the ARC Linkage Project enables him to work closely with many respected industry, local and state Government partners including the Bureau of Meteorology; the Northern Beaches Council; the NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment; the City of Mandurah; the Western Australia Department of Transport; the University of Western Australia and the United States Geological Survey.
Following his PhD, Nash plans to carry out more in-depth research on the morphodynamics (the study of the movement of sediment) of sandy islands.
“The long-term goal that I am aiming for is to better understand the morphodynamics of island systems and come up with a way to model the shoreline behaviour. This can then then be used to inform design choices for coastal projects on islands such as those in the Maldives,” says Nash.