Oak McMahon

Oak McMahon


I hold a BSc in Biology (Queen Mary, University of London) and an MSc with Distinction in Applied Marine Science (University of Plymouth). For my MSc thesis, I used a visual model to explore the impact of differing artificial light spectra on camouflage in intertidal animals.

My broad research interests include reef island dynamics and conservation. During my PhD, I hope to further explore the morphological adaptations that reef islands undergo in response to sea level rise and for my research to assist atoll nations in necessary climate change adaptations.

Since graduating, I have been working as a Research Assistant for the Coastal Processes Research Group (University of Plymouth), processing data gathered in the Isles of Scilly and using Delft3D/SWAN to simulate nearshore wave conditions.

Oak McMahon

Geosciences, Resources and Environmental Risk

PhD title: Natural Adaptive Capability of Coral Reef Islands to Sea-level Rise and Implications for Future Human Occupation

It is a widespread expectation that sea-level rise will render low-lying islands formed on coral reef platforms uninhabitable within decades due to increased flooding. Such projections are largely founded on assumptions that islands are geologically inert landforms, whereas in reality they have the ability to morphologically respond to changing sea levels. Specifically, overwash processes can raise the island crest level, implying that islands are dynamic and will not drown in place. Such change in perception has implications for how reef island communities can adapt to climate change. This project will investigate this natural adaptation of coral reef islands to sea-level rise.

Small-scale laboratory experiments will be conducted to investigate how coral reef islands adapt to sea-level rise. The physical model results will be used to validate a morphodynamic numerical model which will be used to further explore the relevant factors controlling island adaption. Informed by fieldwork in the Maldives, the numerical model will be used to evaluate, for different sea-level and wave climate scenarios, the future trajectories of several coral reef island types. Finally, the societal implications of these trajectories will be assessed, and human adaptation strategies will be explored