James L Hench


Associate Professor of Oceanography

Research in my lab focuses on fluid dynamics in the coastal ocean and its effects on transport processes. We use field measurements, computational models, and theoretical analyses to understand fundamental physical processes in these systems. We also work extensively on interdisciplinary problems that have a significant physical component to better understand the effects of water motion on the geochemistry, biology, and ecology of shallow marine systems. 

Much of our research is on coral reef hydrodynamics and our lab leads the Physical Oceanographic component of the Moorea Coral Reef LTER project 

Current projects include: 1) wave-driven circulation and exchange in coral reef, lagoon, and pass systems; 2) extreme events and their effects on coral reef systems; 3) understanding the effects of rough bottoms such as corals on circulation and scalar mixing; 4) the impact of stratification on vertical mixing in a highly stratified wind-driven estuary; 5) larval transport around a coral reef island; 6) sponge excurrents; and 7) the effects of wave forcing on corallivory. 

Appointments and Affiliations

  • Associate Professor of Oceanography
  • Assistant Professor
  • Associate Professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering

Contact Information


  • Ph.D. University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill, 2002
  • M.S. Stanford University, 1992
  • B.S. North Carolina State University, 1991

Research Interests

Environmental fluid mechanics, shallow-water physical oceanography, physical-biological interactions in marine environments, and marine technology

Courses Taught

  • ENVIRON 370A: Physical Oceanography
  • ENVIRON 391A: Independent Study
  • ENVIRON 393A: Research Independent Study
  • ENVIRON 476A: Data and Time Series Analysis in Marine Sciences
  • ENVIRON 593: Independent Studies and Projects
  • ENVIRON 770A: Physical Oceanography
  • ENVIRON 876A: Data and Time Series Analysis in Marine Sciences
  • ENVIRON 886: Current Topics in Marine Conservation
  • ENVIRON 899: Master's Project
  • EOS 370A: Physical Oceanography
  • EOS 393A: Research Independent Study

In the News

Representative Publications

  • Duvall, MS; Rosman, JH; Hench, JL, Estimating Geometric Properties of Coral Reef Topography Using Obstacle- and Surface-Based Approaches, Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans, vol 125 no. 6 (2020) [10.1029/2019JC015870] [abs].
  • Duvall, MS; Hench, JL; Rosman, JH, Collapsing Complexity: Quantifying Multiscale Properties of Reef Topography, Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans, vol 124 no. 7 (2019), pp. 5021-5038 [10.1029/2018JC014859] [abs].
  • Collin, A; Ramambason, C; Pastol, Y; Casella, E; Rovere, A; Thiault, L; Espiau, B; Siu, G; Lerouvreur, F; Nakamura, N; Hench, JL; Schmitt, RJ; Holbrook, SJ; Troyer, M; Daviesk, N, Very high resolution mapping of coral reef state using airborne bathymetric lidar surface-intensity and drone imagery, International Journal of Remote Sensing, vol 39 no. 17 (2018), pp. 5676-5688 [10.1080/01431161.2018.1500072] [abs].
  • Edmunds, PJ; McIlroy, SE; Adjeroud, M; Ang, P; Bergman, JL; Carpenter, RC; Coffroth, MA; Fujimura, AG; Hench, JL; Holbrook, SJ; Leichter, JJ; Muko, S; Nakajima, Y; Nakamura, M; Paris, CB; Schmitt, RJ; Sutthacheep, M; Toonen, RJ; Sakai, K; Suzuki, G; Washburn, L; Wyatt, ASJ; Mitarai, S, Critical information gaps impeding understanding of the role of larval connectivity among coral reef islands in an era of Global Change, Frontiers in Marine Science, vol 5 no. AUG (2018) [10.3389/fmars.2018.00290] [abs].
  • Safaie, A; Silbiger, NJ; McClanahan, TR; Pawlak, G; Barshis, DJ; Hench, JL; Rogers, JS; Williams, GJ; Davis, KA, Author Correction: High frequency temperature variability reduces the risk of coral bleaching., Nature Communications, vol 9 no. 1 (2018) [10.1038/s41467-018-04741-4] [abs].