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

Contact Information


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

Courses Taught

  • ENVIRON 370A: Physical Oceanography
  • ENVIRON 393: Research Independent Study
  • ENVIRON 476A: Data and Time Series Analysis in Marine Sciences
  • ENVIRON 593: Independent Studies and Projects
  • ENVIRON 770A: Physical Oceanography
  • ENVIRON 849A: Doctoral Student Seminar and Professional Development
  • 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
  • MARSCI 204A: Integrative Oceanography
  • MARSCI 476A: Data and Time Series Analysis in Marine Sciences

In the News

Representative Publications

  • Yu, X., J. H. Rosman, and J. L. Hench. “Boundary layer dynamics and bottom friction in combined wave-current flows over large roughness elements.” Journal of Fluid Mechanics 931 (January 25, 2022). https://doi.org/10.1017/jfm.2021.941.
  • Grottoli, A. G., R. J. Toonen, R. van Woesik, R. Vega Thurber, M. E. Warner, R. H. McLachlan, J. T. Price, et al. “Increasing comparability among coral bleaching experiments.” Ecological Applications : A Publication of the Ecological Society of America 31, no. 4 (June 2021): e02262. https://doi.org/10.1002/eap.2262.
  • Duvall, M. S., J. H. Rosman, and J. L. Hench. “Estimating Geometric Properties of Coral Reef Topography Using Obstacle- and Surface-Based Approaches.” Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans 125, no. 6 (June 1, 2020). https://doi.org/10.1029/2019JC015870.
  • James, A. K., L. Washburn, C. Gotschalk, S. Maritorena, A. Alldredge, C. E. Nelson, J. L. Hench, J. J. Leichter, A. S. J. Wyatt, and C. A. Carlson. “An Island Mass Effect Resolved Near Mo’orea, French Polynesia.” Frontiers in Marine Science 7 (January 30, 2020). https://doi.org/10.3389/fmars.2020.00016.
  • Duvall, M. S., J. L. Hench, and J. H. Rosman. “Collapsing Complexity: Quantifying Multiscale Properties of Reef Topography.” Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans 124, no. 7 (January 1, 2019): 5021–38. https://doi.org/10.1029/2018JC014859.