The Team

The RESIST team is a group of scientists and people in the process of becoming one such as Master students and Ph.D. candidates from across northern Europe. We are a mixed bunch of people all with slightly different backgrounds and research objectives all joined by the love for coastal vegetation. Meet the team and learn how the RESIST experiments tie in with other work in the respective research groups.

Meet – Iris Möller, Ben Evans, Elizabeth Christie and Tom Spencer from University of Cambridge (UK)

During her PhD in the mid-1990s, Iris Möller provided the first ever field measurements of waves as they lose their energy when they travel over a mixed salt marsh plant community. The fact that it took many years for this natural buffering function to be recognised as an ‘ecosystem service’ has made her determined to try to speed up the process from science to policy and practice. Thus she led the first GWK experiment on wave dissipation over salt marsh during extreme storm conditions. After these experiments, coastal managers and engineers asked: ‘…but how long will the salt marsh stay in place?’ This sowed the seeds for this new experiment in the GWK flume as well as the NERC funded project RESIST(UK). Iris believes that this fantastic team of researchers can begin to answer that question!

As part of this team, Ben Evans focusses on improving our understanding of salt marsh change and how we can predict it. He uses remotely sensed images of all kinds (satellite, aerial photography and UAV) to do so and through this method links the RESIST experiments to the European FAST (Foreshore Assessment using Space Technology) project. With partners in The Netherlands, Spain and Romania, FAST produced MI-SAFE, an online viewer allowing an assessment of the coastal protection and stabilisation functions of foreshores and floodplains using remote sensing.

Elizabeth Christie is a numerical modeller and wants to improve how sediment dynamics are represented in hydrodynamic models. Her aim is to eventually predict the morphological evolution of salt marsh systems, particularly when these are under pressure from climate change induced sea level rise and changing wave climates. As post-doctoral research assistant on the BLUEcoast project, she is planning to incorporate the outputs from the RESIST experiment into these models.

Tom Spencer is Professor of Coastal Dynamics, Director of the Cambridge Coastal Research Unit (CCRU) and Director of Research, at the Department of Geography at Cambridge. In that position he is continuing the department’s long standing tradition to undertake fundamental, interdisciplinary research on coastal ecosystems and their landforms (i.e. ‘biosedimentary systems’) across a range of space and time scales.

Meet – Ken Schoutens and Stijn Temmerman from University of Antwerp (Belgium)

We all have these nostalgic memories of building castles with sand and mud, but feeling disappointed when it is flushed away by the tides and the waves. But what if we add plants to protect our castle?

The interplay between waves, sediments and pioneer marsh plants is the focus of the PhD research of Ken Schoutens. Within the framework of the Tibass project (tidal bank and services) the aim is to support research on nature-based shoreline development and protection. Ken works together with Stijn Temmerman in the Ecosystem management research group where they contribute to the Global Change Ecology – Excellence Centre and its blog.

Meet – Tjeerd Bouma from NIOZ (the Netherlands)

If you have ever seen the enormous dimensions of the Dutch dikes, it is obvious that the Hans Brinker story is a fable: how could a boy safe a town from flooding by sticking something as small as a finger in such an enormous dike? Protecting our dikes with salt-marshes makes much more sense! How much more explains this cool video. But this requires (1) an in depth understanding of the dynamics of these salt-marshes and (2) being able to restore them. This is a main research theme at NIOZ lead by Tjeerd J. Bouma. Within his team the RESIST project is related to the following ongoing research projects:

Meet – Maike Paul from TU Braunschweig (Germany)

Salt marsh plants have complex shapes with all those twigs and leaves. To understand how exactly these plants help to reduce waves and currents is therefore tricky. In the past, artificial plant models have been used to better understand these processes. But they were always like sticks, consisting of only one material with a uniform shape which is a very simplified view of salt marsh plants. This is why Maike Paul is studying how a non-uniform vertical distribution of the plant parameters biomass, stiffness and buoyancy affects hydraulic resistance (GradVeg, funded by DFG).


Another focus of the project is on the question, how the plant’s location within a meadow (at the very front or among other plants) affects the hydraulic forces acting on it which she will address during the RESIST project.

Meet – Stefanie Nolte, Svenja Reents and Kai Jensen from University Hamburg (Germany)

A lot of researchers are concerned what happens to salt marshes when sea-level rises due to global change. But what happens to salt marshes when air temperatures rise, which is also a predicted global change effect? Stefanie Nolte and Kai Jensen have setup a world-unique whole ecosystem salt-marsh warming experiment (see photos) to find that out. They expect that plants will produce more biomass, that the growing season will be prolonged and the lignin content of the plants will increase which will make the plants stiffer. So overall, this might increase the coastal protection function of salt marshes in a warmer world.

Svenja Reents will join the team in August 2018 for the project “Climate change in salt marshes – Effects of hydrodynamic forcing and higher temperatures on coastal vegetation” (together with Iris Möller, funded by DFG). She will use the RESIST experiments to help interpret the observations made in the warming experiment. Together, the team from Hamburg will assess at which hydrodynamic forces salt marsh plants suffer physical damage. Because they expect these thresholds to depend on species and growth stage, they will test two different species at different development stages (summer and winter).

The last part of the project will then collect wave data at the margin of Wadden Sea salt marshes in the field to determine its spatial and temporal variation at sites differing in exposure and make sure that the results we get from the flume experiments are transferable to conditions in the field.

Meet – Matthias Kudella from FZK (Germany)

Forschungszentrum Küste (FZK) runs the GWK flume where the experiments will take place and Matthias Kudella is the person who knows all about the flume. He helps us to plan the experiments and design the setup in a way that it can withstand the wave forces we are going to expose it to. He is supported by the technical staff at FZK; without their expert knowledge, experience and commitment, these experiments would not be possible.