School of Civil, Environmental and Mining Engineering

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Tamara Schlosser

Phone: (+61 8) 6488 2446


Start date

Jan 2015

Submission date

Jan 2019

Tamara Schlosser

Tamara Schlosser profile photo


Internal sub-inertial tides and near-inertial waves on shelf physical and biological dynamics on the Tasmanian Eastern Shelf


At high latitudes, the Earth’s rotation has increased influence on the internal wave field. The few studies that have looked at the internal wave field and rotation have mostly been at mid-latitudes, where the influence of rotation is significantly weaker than the Tasmanian Eastern Shelf (TES). Therefore, the influence of rotation at high latitudes on shelf mixing and ecological production is largely unknown. This study aims to elucidate the importance of internal wave mixing to the primary production of high-latitude shelf waters of TES by first understanding the influence of the Earth’s rotation on the internal wave field. At this site, the Earth’s rotation influences both wind-forced near-inertial waves and tide-forced internal sub-inertial tides. The dynamics of each of these processes and their influence on the biological oceanography will be investigated through the analysis of field observations and numerical model output, thereby increasing our understanding of high-latitude shelves.

Specifically, this project will:

 Identify the structure and evolution of sub-inertial internal diurnal tides on the TES, including the generation mechanisms, propagation and decay.

 Assess the evolution of inertial waves across the TES and their proportional contribution to mixing and the cross-shelf energy budget.

 Define the flux of mass (nutrient and suspended matter) both vertically and onto the shelf at the shelf-break as well as its ultimate transport across the shelf due to the sub-inertial tide, inertial waves and mesoscale processes.

Why my research is important

While continental shelves make up only 7% of the world’s ocean, they are of disproportionate importance, providing over 90% of the fish we eat with primary production 3-5 times greater than the open ocean. On shelves, internal waves (forced by both tides and the wind) are an integral link between external energy sources (wind, tides, solar heating) and the local mixing of heat, salt and nutrients that drives primary production. Internal waves are ubiquitous in the ocean, however, their generation, propagation and dissipation mechanisms are difficult to predict and remain a key area of research. Internal waves shoal over shelves and become nonlinear, causing mixing in their passage and in their eventual dissipation, while also potentially transporting nutrients over large distances into nutrient depleted waters. The Tasmanian Eastern Shelf (TES) has little nutrient input from terrestrial sources and so the productivity of phytoplankton is dependent on the flux of nutrients from the open ocean to the shelf through these mechanisms. The TES supports commercially important fisheries and so there is economic as well as scientific merit in understanding the physical conditions responsible for delivering nutrients to the shelf.


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Thursday, 19 September, 2013 11:39 AM