CNCS Center for Nonlinear and Complex Systems
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Allen B. Murray, Professor in the Division of Earth & Ocean Sciences and CNCS: Center for nonlinear and complex systems

Allen B. Murray

I am interested in many surface processes and patterns, including rivers and a range of desert, arctic, and alpine phenomena. My recent efforts have focused on coastal and nearshore processes. The nearshore environment is a spatially extended system that exhibits complex, dynamic spatial patterns, including the arrangement of bars and channels, waves, and often an array of alongshore and cross-shore currents. I approach such systems with the perspective and techniques developed in the study of nonlinear dynamics and complex systems, looking for possibly simple, large-scale interactions that could explain complex behaviors. I use relatively simple, cellular-automata-like models to test such hypotheses. (click here for recent abstracts) Recently I have been applying these methods to beach and surf-zone problems, but I am expanding my focus onshore and offshore, to include studies of storm-driven currents and sediment transport kilometers from shore, as well as the formation and evolution of shoreline-scale features such as cuspate forelands and capes, cuspate spits, and 'sand waves'. Another aspect of my research involves comparing field or laboratory observations with models of complex systems, for which linear statistics concerning the system's behavior may not sensitively reflect the interactions that produced them. I apply and develop nonlinear data analysis techniques to sensitively test how realistic model interactions are. I also advocate using different model-testing strategies for maximally-realistic simulations and highly simplified models. (See model testing for more information.)

Contact Info:
Office Location:  334 Old Chem Bldg, Durham, NC 27708
Email Address: send me a message

Teaching (Spring 2017):

  • EOS 567.01, DATA ANALYSIS Synopsis
    Old Chem 104, WF 01:25 PM-02:40 PM
    Env Hall 1101, F 03:05 PM-04:20 PM
Teaching (Fall 2017):

  • EOS 203S.01, SURFACE OF THE EARTH Synopsis
    LSRC A211, WF 01:25 PM-02:40 PM
    (also cross-listed as VMS 253S.01)
    Env Hall 1101, F 03:05 PM-04:20 PM

Ph.D.University of Minnesota, Twin Cities1995
M.S.University of Minnesota, Twin Cities1990
B.A.University of Minnesota, Twin Cities1986
BIS General ScienceUniversity of Minnesota1986

earth surface processes
shorelines and coastal geology
Research Interests: coastal, river, and landscape processes and pattern formation using relatively simple computer models to test hypotheses arising from field observations.


Biological Evolution • Biomass • Computer Simulation • Ecosystem • Erosion • Geologic Sediments • Geomorphology • Machine learning • Models, Theoretical • Plant Development • Ripples • Time Factors • Water Movements • Wetlands

Curriculum Vitae
Postdocs Mentored

  • Eli Lazarus (2005 - present)  
Recent Publications   (More Publications)

  1. Murray, AB; Gasparini, NM; Goldstein, EB; van der Wegen, M, Uncertainty quantification in modeling earth surface processes: more applicable for some types of models than for others, Computers & Geosciences, vol. 90 (May, 2016), pp. 6-16 [doi]
  2. Lazarus, ED; Ellis, MA; Brad Murray, A; Hall, DM, An evolving research agenda for human–coastal systems, Geomorphology, vol. 256 (March, 2016), pp. 81-90, ISSN 0169-555X [doi]
  3. French, J; Payo, A; Murray, B; Orford, J; Eliot, M; Cowell, P, Appropriate complexity for the prediction of coastal and estuarine geomorphic behaviour at decadal to centennial scales, Geomorphology, vol. 256 (March, 2016), pp. 3-16 [doi]
  4. Hurst, MD; Barkwith, A; Ellis, MA; Thomas, CW; Murray, AB, Exploring the sensitivities of crenulate bay shorelines to wave climates using a new vector-based one-line model, Journal of Geophysical Research. Earth Surface, vol. 120 no. 12 (December, 2015), pp. 2586-2608 [doi]
  5. Brenner, OT; Moore, LJ; Murray, AB, The complex influences of back-barrier deposition, substrate slope and underlying stratigraphy in barrier island response to sea-level rise: Insights from the Virginia Barrier Islands, Mid-Atlantic Bight, U.S.A., Geomorphology, vol. 246 (October, 2015), pp. 334-350 [doi]