Canberra set to become the sand capital of Australia

12 February 2018

Long summer days and memories of the beach: Canberra is set to become the sand capital of Australia, with Geoscience Australia now housing the most comprehensive set of sand samples in Australia.

The 14,500 samples were collected by Professor Andrew Short of the University of Sydney over a 40 year period and include samples from almost every beach around Australia.

Senior science advisor for Geoscience Australia's marine program, Dr Brendan Brooke, said that this is a very unique collection globally, and provides important insights into the mineral and biological components that form Australia's beaches.

"This collection is helping to better understand the long-term geological processes that influence the formation of beaches. It provides important information on the mineral and biological components that make up beach sand, such as the proportion of calcium carbonate from molluscs, algae and coral reefs.

"The samples will be available to researchers to analyse for a range of applications, such as identifying sediment transport pathways on the continental margin and to provide baselines for studies of the impact of acidification of the ocean," said Dr Brooke.

A photo of waves rolling in to a sandy beach with a peninsula covered in trees in the backgroundGeoscience Australia now houses sediment samples from every Australian beach including this one at Twofold Bay, near Eden on the south coast of New South Wales

The beach sediment database is also informing the Australian Coastal(Sediment) Compartment Project (ACCP) project. This leads on from work started in 1974 when Professor Jack Davies defined discrete areas of the entire Australian coast based on sediment budgets and pathways. Mapping the hundreds of coastal compartments provides essential information for coastal risk assessments at national, state and regional levels, and enables a more integrated approach to the management of the coastal zone.

The extensive field work program undertaken to investigate the  beaches and acquire the sand samples was funded by the Australian Research Council, the University of Sydney and the Defence Science and Technology Group. Professor Short completed a beach hazard rating for all 11,761 Australian beaches surveyed which was  supported by Surf Lifesaving Australia (SLSA). This is now freely available through SLSA's Beachsafe app.

To hear more about this amazing collection and the Coastal Compartments Project, Professor Andrew Short will be presenting a Geoscience Australia Wednesday Seminar in Canberra at 11am on 21 February 2018.

Further information