James L Hench

James 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

Contact Information


  • Ph.D. University of North Carolina at 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


estuarine ecosystems
marine science

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: Introduction to Physical Oceanography
  • ENVIRON 876A: Data and Time Series Analysis in Marine Sciences
  • ENVIRON 899: Master's Project
  • EOS 370A: Physical Oceanography
  • EOS 393A: Research Independent Study

In the News

Representative Publications

  • Collin, A; Hench, JL; Pastol, Y; Planes, S; Thiault, L; Schmitt, RJ; Holbrook, SJ; Davies, N; Troyer, M, High resolution topobathymetry using a Pleiades-1 triplet: Moorea Island in 3D, Remote Sensing of Environment, vol 208 (2018), pp. 109-119 [10.1016/j.rse.2018.02.015] [abs].
  • Sridharan, VK; Monismith, SG; Fong, DA; Hench, JL, One-dimensional particle tracking with streamline preserving junctions for flows in channel networks, Journal of Hydraulic Engineering, vol 144 no. 2 (2018) [abs].
  • Herdman, LMM; Hench, JL; Fringer, O; Monismith, SG, Behavior of a wave-driven buoyant surface jet on a coral reef, Journal of Geophysical Research. Oceans, vol 122 no. 5 (2017), pp. 4088-4109 [10.1002/2016JC011729] [abs].
  • Casella, E; Collin, A; Harris, D; Ferse, S; Bejarano, S; Parravicini, V; Hench, JL; Rovere, A, Mapping coral reefs using consumer-grade drones and structure from motion photogrammetry techniques, Coral Reefs, vol 36 no. 1 (2017), pp. 269-275 [10.1007/s00338-016-1522-0] [abs].
  • Knee, KL; Crook, ED; Hench, JL; Leichter, JJ; Paytan, A, Assessment of Submarine Groundwater Discharge (SGD) as a Source of Dissolved Radium and Nutrients to Moorea (French Polynesia) Coastal Waters, Estuaries and Coasts, vol 39 no. 6 (2016), pp. 1651-1668 [10.1007/s12237-016-0108-y] [abs].