Experimental work to improve the resilience of vulnerable sand dunes at South Dunedin’s St Kilda Beach fulfils Otago Geography Master’s student Tom Simons-Smith’s desire for his research to directly benefit people.

Passersby will notice three notches of varied dimensions dug at a slight angle into the St Kilda Beach foredune (closest to the water). They are sizeable – the biggest notch took a large digger nearly two hours to complete, the smallest 40 minutes.

Mr Simons-Smith is hoping the change will encourage sand to be deposited in the swale (small valley) between the foredune and the bank in front of John Wilson Ocean Drive.

“This would make the dune broader and more rounded, which may then reduce the risk of severe dune damage in storms. It may also help people access the beach.”

Mr Simons-Smith, who is based in the University of Otago Department of Geography, expects to hand in his thesis by early next year.

Its content will be enhanced by his collaboration with fellow Master of Science (Geography) student Julia Moloney.

Early on still mornings, you can find Ms Moloney flying a drone above St Kilda’s dunes, gathering data for her own investigations into using drones for coastal research, testing her data against current dune surveying methods.

Find out more about their research.