Leadership changes at UNSW Water Research Laboratory

Duncan Rayner (R) is the new Acting Director of Industry Research at WRL, taking over from Grantley Smith (L)Duncan Rayner started working at the UNSW Water Research Laboratory (WRL) 15 years ago as a graduate engineer. A graduate of UNSW Engineering, he specialises in environmental water; leading numerous investigations on wetlands, rivers and estuaries, and coastal shelf environments, with significant experience in catchment hydrology, acid sulfate soils, groundwater processes, water quality, and contaminant fate and transport. 

His new role as Acting Director of Industry Research at WRL—or leader of the WRL projects team—involves managing the applied research that is undertaken by WRL engineers using the laboratory’s world-class facilities, located at Manly Vale on Sydney’s northern beaches. 

Duncan says that the laboratories at WRL have never been busier.  

“Between a range of applied research studies for industry and government, and fundamental research projects, our physical laboratories and expert engineers are in great demand! We have some large-scale models being constructed and tested to investigate dam hydraulics and infrastructure upgrades, and lots of exciting coastal physical modelling projects underway too. Our 3D wave basin received a major upgrade in 2021, complete with state-of-the-art multi-directional wave paddles, which expands our already significant capabilities to undertaken industry leading research here at Manly Vale”, says Duncan. 

“There is a huge amount of applied research to come out of the lab in 2022.” 

Having extensively studied coastal wetlands and estuarine environments over the past decade, Duncan says that he is particularly excited about the opportunities that blue carbon ecosystems are offering moving forwards. 

“Mangroves, saltmarsh, coastal wetlands… All these sorts of habitats can sequester carbon at a rate far greater than forests and other vegetation while providing huge biodiversity benefits as well,” says Duncan.  

“During my career I’ve spent a lot of time trying to restore degraded wetlands and our research on blue carbon ecosystems presents an exciting opportunity to expand that across Australia and the rest of the world.” 

Duncan has taken over the role from Grantley Smith, one of Australia’s most eminent and innovative water engineers who led the WRL Projects Team for ten years before departing at the end of 2021. 

WRL Managing Director Prof Denis O’Carroll said, “On behalf of all at WRL, I would like to thank Grantley for his brilliantly successful term leading the WRL Projects Team. He has maintained, supported and grown an expert team during one of the most productive and challenging periods of WRL’s extensive history.” 

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