Engineering insight: Alice Harrison

Now entering her third year as an engineer with WRL, Alice Harrison is one of our more recent recruits that have been privileged to join our Projects Team.

Alice in the wave basinHitting the ground running, Alice has spent the past couple of years working across the many varied projects that WRL is renowned for, as well as representing WRL at a range of conferences and professional forums. Always dynamic, and never knowing what’s next in store, we caught up with Alice to talk about some of her 2017 highlights.

What has been the highlight of being a part of the WRL Projects Team?

“The best part of working at WRL is the huge variety of work we get to be involved in, and the team that you get to work with. While at WRL I haven’t had any two days that have been the same – it can be challenging at times to try and keep up with the many different projects we take on, but the challenge is what makes it fun! Between fieldwork, working in the labs and desktop modelling, there have been plenty of opportunities to learn. We are also lucky at WRL to be surrounded by a great bunch of people who are not only at the top of our field, but are generous enough to give their time to help out when it’s needed.”

Alice studied Civil Engineering and Finance at UNSW, her honours work bridging the two neatly, focusing on 2D wave modelling and economic analysis of the impact of climate change on coastal structures along the New South Wales coast. With this background, Alice was an invited speaker at last year’s Coastal Ocean and Port Engineering Panel (COPEP) Seminar; with the topic being ‘design life and design for life of our coastal assets’. Presenting to nearly 100 members of the coastal and maritime industry, Alice discussed the complexity of economics around decision making for engineering design and maintenance in the face of climate change.

Can you describe a couple of projects that you worked on in 2017?

“I worked as part of our team undertaking a large coastal hazard study for the Eurobodalla Shire coastline, and I enjoyed working through the various aspects of the technical assessment, knowing that the analysis I was undertaking would later underpin management decisions for that piece of our coastline. I was assisting with wave modelling, looking at beach erosion, inundation, and the development of coastal hazard maps - preparing a coastal hazard assessment for 17 of the Eurobodalla Shire Council’s more vulnerable beaches. 

Surveying Teal LagoonRecently a different project has had me working in the field on our canoe in Manly Lagoon, spending several days collecting bathymetry and water level data. Back at the office, these data sets will be incorporated into a numerical model to look at estuarine dynamics and flushing of the lagoon system. This is another great project where the work is very technical, yet always focused on the end goal of practical and real world outcomes – something that is lost in a lot of higher level scientific assessments.“

In Cairns for the Australasian Coasts and Ports Conference mid-2017, Alice presented on another one of her recent projects - a NSW beach photogrammetry database. She has been busy developing a website from the ground up to house and display the NSW Governments invaluable beach survey dataset, with the aim of making it publicly available - watch this space for updates as it goes live.

Any advice you have to offer a budding engineer interested in following the same path?

“Give everything a go; you never know where it might lead you. I didn’t know places like WRL existed when I started studying engineering. Approach people, ask questions, make mistakes and get involved.”


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