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Dr Holly East

Senior Lecturer

Department: Geography and Environmental Sciences

I undertake research at the intersections between geomorphology and ecology in tropical coastal environments, particularly within seagrass and reef island systems. Specifically, my research is focussed on: (1) reconstructing the development of coral reef islands over millennial to decadal timescales in relation to past environmental change; (2) quantifying reef sediment budgets and contemporary reef-to-island connectivity; (3) understanding seagrass systems in reef island settings, particularly their spatial dynamics, ecosystem services, and relationships with anthropogenic activities; and (4) use of geospatial analysis, through GIS and remote sensing, to improve our understanding of coastal environments.


02/2019 – present: Senior Lecturer in Physical Geography, Northumbria University

08/2017 – 01/2019: Lecturer in Physical Geography, Northumbria University

01/2016 – 07/2017: Lecturer in Physical Geography, University of Exeter

02 - 07/2016: Associate Research Fellow, University of Exeter


PhD (2017), Physical Geography, University of Exeter

MPhil (2012), Environmental Science: GIS and Remote Sensing, University of Cambridge

BA (2011), Geography, University of Cambridge

Holly East

Campus Address

Ellison Building

Research Themes and Scholarly Interests

My research interests are focused on the interface between geomorphology and ecology in tropical coastal environments, particularly within seagrass and reef island systems. My recent work has included reconstructions of past reef island evolution in relation to environmental change, calculation of reef sediment budgets, and analyses of connectivity between seagrass meadows and reef islands.

Key Publications

  • Please visit the Pure Research Information Portal for further information
  • Mainstreaming the Environment: Exploring pathways and narratives to improve policy and decision‐making, Scott, A., Holtby, R., East, H., Lannin, A. 1 Feb 2022, In: People and Nature
  • SizeExtractR: A workflow for rapid reproducible extraction of object size metrics from scaled images, Lachs, L., Chong, F., Beger, M., East, H., Guest, J., Sommer, B. 14 Mar 2022, In: Ecology and Evolution
  • Fine-Tuning Heat Stress Algorithms to Optimise Global Predictions of Mass Coral Bleaching, Lachs, L., Bythell, J., East, H., Edwards, A., Mumby, P., Skirving, W., Spady, B., Guest, J. 7 Jul 2021, In: Remote Sensing
  • Wave exposure shapes reef community composition and recovery trajectories at a remote coral atoll, Lange, I., Benkwitt, C., McDevitt-Irwin, J., Tietjen, K., Taylor, B., Chinkin, M., Gunn, R., Palmisciano, M., Steyaert, M., Wilson, B., East, H., Turner, J., Graham, N., Perry, C. 1 Dec 2021, In: Coral Reefs
  • Evidence of resilience in lagoonal platform islands in response to rising sea level on Huvadhoo Atoll, Maldives, Liang, C., Kench, P., Ford, M., East, H. 31 Dec 2020, Proceedings of Virtual Conference on Coastal Engineering, 2020, Coastal Engineering Research Council
  • Modelling reef hydrodynamics and sediment mobility under sea level rise in atoll reef island systems, East, H., Perry, C., Beetham, E., Kench, P., Liang, Y. 1 Sep 2020, In: Global and Planetary Change
  • Geophysical Visualization of Reef Island Accretion and Stratigraphic Architecture using Ground Penetrating Radar, Liang, Y., Kench, P., Ford, M., East, H. May 2019, Coastal Sediments 2019, World Scientific
  • Mapping the City: participatory mapping with young people, Swords, J., Jeffries, M., East, H., Messer, S. 1 Nov 2019, In: Geography
  • Coral Reef Island Initiation and Development Under Higher Than Present Sea Levels, East, H., Perry, C., Kench, P., Liang, Y., Gulliver, P. 28 Oct 2018, In: Geophysical Research Letters
  • Atoll-scale comparisons of the sedimentary structure of coral reef rim islands, Huvadhu Atoll, Maldives, East, H., Perry, C., Kench, P., Liang, Y. 3 Mar 2016, In: Journal of Coastal Research

PGR Supervision

  • Matthew Floyd Spatial dynamics of Maldivian seagrass meadows and their role in ecosystem services for marine conservation Start Date: 18/01/2021
  • Emily Husband The Formation and Evolution of Caribbean Coral Reef Islands Start Date: 01/10/2020


  • Geography PhD January 09 2018
  • Environmental Science and other Physical Science MPhil June 30 2012
  • Fellow of the Higher Education Academy FHEA

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