Murray, a geomorphologist, studies how Earth-surface environments are shaped, and how they
change over time, especially in response to changing forcing. He has addressed phenomena in
desert, artic, alpine, and riverine environments, although most of his recent research focuses on coastal environments. Much of his research addresses couplings between physical and ecological
processes, and couplings between natural and human dynamics. Murray approaches natural
systems, and human/natural coupled systems, with the perspective and techniques developed in
the study of nonlinear dynamics and complex systems, looking for possibly simple, emergent
interactions that could explain apparently complicated behaviors. He develops and uses relatively
simple, numerical models to test such hypotheses, and uses observations in developing
hypotheses and testing models (using strategies and types of model predictions most effective for
testing the usefulness of the type of model in question, in specific scientific contexts). Murray’s
most recent research falls under three umbrellas, investigating: 1) how changes in the size and
shape of river deltas can be driven by couplings between river processes, coastal processes, and
sea-level rise, and by couplings between physical and ecological processes; 2) how coastlines
(sandy and rocky) are shaped and reshaped over time, including the effects of changing storm
climates; 3) how coastal barriers and back-barrier marshes and bays respond to changing rates of
sea-level rise and storm impacts. Some of the research under each of these umbrellas addresses
couplings between human actions and landscape/ecosystem evolution.

School Division

Earth & Ocean Sciences


  • Ph.D., University of Minnesota, Twin Cities (1995)
  • M.S., University of Minnesota, Twin Cities (1990)
  • BIS, University of Minnesota, Twin Cities (1986)
  • B.A., University of Minnesota, Twin Cities (1986)