Product has been added to the basket

Michael Bernard Collins 1944 2017


Sedimentologist who studied sediment movement based upon field measurements in tidal regimes.

Professor Michael Collins was born in Amersham in 1944, but spent his early life in postwar London where he attended Marylebone High School. He obtained a BSc in Civil Engineering and completed pioneering research on the sediment yields of the Sussex rivers at Brighton Polytechnic - for which he received a DPhil from Sussex University. This led him to Imperial College, London in 1970, to study the sediment transport of the intertidal flats of the Wash.

He was appointed Lecturer in the Sub-Department of Oceanography at Swansea University in 1973, and became Head of Department in 1983.  He moved to the University of Southampton in 1987 where he presided, as Head of Oceanography, over the amalgamation with the Department of Geology and with the National Institute of Oceanography, Godalming, to create the Southampton Oceanography Centre.


Michael had diverse research interests evident in his publication record and in the PhD students under his supervision: many of whom went on to positions of academic importance world-wide. The central theme of his research was the fundamentals of sediment movement based upon field measurements in tidal regimes. He developed innovative field instruments for monitoring sediment transport, including electronic pebbles used to monitor gravel mobility on beaches. These studies were supplemented by laboratory measurements of threshold conditions under combined flows. He also monitored sediment dispersal using satellite (optical) and radar (microwave) sensors, coupled with field tracers such as rhodamine B dispersal to define tidal diffusion.

Michael was skilled at coordinating research teams and synthesising disparate studies into regional reviews of coastal systems, such as Southampton Water and Swansea Bay. His interests subsequently extended to the continental shelf, and he edited with Angel Borja a much praised volume on the Oceanography of the Basque Region, Spain and others on shelf seas. He co-founded the international Journal Continental Shelf Research, which he edited for over 30 years with Richard Sternberg (University of Washington).

Basque Country

He continued to lecture, supervise students and advise academics throughout the world, initially in France, Spain and Greece, and then further afield in Australia, India, China and Africa. In later years, he established close links between the University of Southampton and Oceanography centres in the Basque Countries and became Scientific Adviser to the Marine Research Unit of AZTI, Technalia (San Sebastian) and later Research Professor at Plentzia Marine Station (University of the Basque Country). His was subsequently awarded the title of First Ambassador of that Institute.

Michael’s scientific output was considerable. He attracted large sums of money for marine research programmes which produced 140 peer reviewed papers and over 37 Ph.D. theses. He will be remembered by his colleagues and students for his great kindness, patience and forgiving nature, as well as for his warm hospitality extended especially to overseas students and visiting academics in his family home.

He died of cancer in July, 2017 and is survived by his wife, who as Janice Cairns is a well-known opera singer, by a son and daughter, and by two loving grand-children.

By Graham Evans and Carl Amos