Rich Pawlowicz


ESB 3019
(604) 822-1356
Accepting students

I am interested in understanding how the oceans work. Heat goes in (and out), fresh water and different chemicals are added (and subtracted), and resulting changes in density create pressure gradients that drive currents - which are in turn modified by the tidal effects of the moon, the spin of the earth, and friction against the solid boundaries. All of this is hidden below the surface - even trying to decide where the water goes can be difficult, never mind the why!

Currently I have a number of different research interests, mostly based in the beautiful and fascinating waters around British Columbia. The deep fjords and many islands provide many interesting oceanographic problems and the dynamics of the region are immensely important to the people of BC for both economic and social reasons.

The approach taken towards understanding these problems is to combine complex fieldwork with careful mathematical analysis at my desk (think of it as brawn and brains). I go to sea in ships ranging in size from the 7m department whaler to the 80m CCGS J. P. Tully (and sometimes fly above the sea in small planes and helicopters). As well as using standard techniques for sampling the ocean temperature and salinity I am also actively developing new methods for flow visualization using acoustics and optics.

Recently I have been involved in the development of the new seawater standard, TEOS-10 (This is not as boring as it sounds - a brief introduction to TEOS-10 is available here, or if you want to read about the history of how a small group of the right people can solve a complex problem try reading the Preface article here).

Finally, I have written a number of Matlab software packages useful for oceanographers and other geoscientists, you can get them here:

Important Information for prospective students:

Please feel free to contact me about graduate opportunities, since they come up more often than web pages get updated. HOWEVER, be aware that physical oceanography is a mathematical field, which really does require being able to develop (and solve) partial differential equations in order to interpret field data. Knowledge of linear algebra and time series analysis are also helpful, but not quite as necessary.

Generally speaking, a math background as far as (and including) partial differential equations in the 3rd or 4th years of an undergraduate degree is a pre-requisite for graduate work. Math or physics degrees often have this kind of content. Other degree programs may also be suitable, but your email has a much better chance of being answered if you can clearly outline your math skills. 





B.Sc. (Hons) (1987) Queen's University;
Ph.D. (1988-1994) WHOI/MIT Joint Program;
Postdoctoral: 1994-1996 Institute of Ocean Sciences, BC;
Faculty Member, UBC (1996 - ).

Chair, Ocean Observatory Council (Ocean Networks Canada)
Chair, Joint SCOR/IAPWS/IAPSO Committee on the Properties of Seawater (JCS)
Chair, IAPWS Subcommittee on Seawater