Finding the middle ground: Improving accessibility of technical coastal knowledge and advice

Ms Phebe Bicknell1

1Cardno, Melbourne, Australia


There is an expectation for coastal managers and planners to use the best available data and knowledge to inform their decision making in managing, adapting and protecting our coastlines. Technical experts are regularly engaged to assist through modelling, monitoring and reporting. However, a key challenge as data type and availability increase, is finding ways to translate technical information into meaningful and beneficial applications for coastal managers and planners.

Technically sound and informative studies are potentially being underutilised due to the gap that exists between the science and practical management realities. To maximise the value in work being undertaken, it is important to find a middle ground in presenting findings and technical rigour of these analyses and the real-world application of these results.

Through numerous projects around Australia, Cardno has worked with coastal managers and planners in an effort to achieve this goal. The key steps included identifying barriers that exist in using the available information and making changes to the standard technical output to add value and improve the dissemination of results.

This paper looks to present key learnings in undertaking this process, including the importance of project scope and expectations, terminology, and use of real-world applications. The paper also puts forward some recommendations to improve the resulting product for more beneficial outcomes.


Phebe is an Environmental Engineer with particular expertise in the collection, analysis and management of metocean and environmental data. During her eight years of experience in environmental consulting she has worked in the marine and coastal space across a range of sectors including ports, oil and gas, Defence, water resources, state government and local government.

Her experience includes development of hydrodynamic, morphological and water quality models, data collection programmes, along with studies of coastal processes, climate change, sediment transport, dredge plume dispersion, outfall dispersion and vessel waves. From hard and soft engineering options to planning and strategic decisions, these analyses have been used to inform design, risk management, operational decisions, planning and management options and mitigation possibilities.

In her role at Cardno, Phebe is regularly working with local and state government and land managers to better understand the coast and develop tailored coastal management solutions.

About the Association

The Australian Coastal Society (ACS) was initiated at the Coast to Coast Conference in Tasmania in 2004. The idea was floated as a means for those interested in coastal matters to communicate between conferences and where possible take resolutions of the conference to appropriate levels of government.

The idea was discussed further at the Coast to Coast Conference in Melbourne in 2006 and it was agreed that Bruce Thom develop a constitution of a company limited by guarantee that would operate on a national basis.

This plan was accomplished and in 2008 at the Coast to Coast Conference in Darwin the constitution was ratified and an Executive appointed. The company received charitable status in 2011.

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