Dr Kelsey Sanborn

Version 2


PhD Candidate

Geocoastal Research Group

The University of Sydney

e: Kelsey.sanborn@sydney.edu.au

Kelsey Sanborn is a PhD candidate in the Geocoastal Research Group at the University of Sydney, supervised by A/Prof Jody Webster and co-supervised by A/Prof Andrea Dutton (University of Florida). Her research specifically investigates coral reef response to past episodes of geologically rapid sea-level change, and how sea level can be reconstructed using the reef record. Kelsey came to Sydney in 2014 after finishing a Bachelor of Science in Geology and Environmental Sciences from Tufts University in Boston, USA, in order to pursue an honours project with Jody Webster investigating the response of Hawaiian drowned reefs to deglacial sea-level rise (specifically meltwater pulse-1A). After obtaining a First Class Honours, Kelsey was given the opportunity to expand on this work in a PhD project with a University of Sydney International Scholarship.

During her undergraduate and postgraduate studies, Kelsey has developed significant research interests in carbonate sedimentary facies analysis, coral taxonomy, carbonate platform geomorphology and evolution, geochemistry (radiocarbon and Uranium-Thorium dating), and coralgal assemblage analysis. This has particularly been investigated over periods of abrupt climatic change, including last deglacial sea-level rise, the post-glacial marine transgression and the Last Interglacial. This has included extensive sedimentary petrographic analysis, and 2D and 3D geologic mapping.


  • Investigating evidence of deglacial meltwater pulse 1A preserved in Hawaiian drowned reef terraces
  • Examining drilled fossil reef cores in the Capricorn Bunker Group, Southern GBR, to examine the early colonizing Holocene initiation communities and geomorphological reef development
  • Drilling and analysing exposed MIS 5e corals from Western Australia to study the response of reefs to sea-level rise and the patterns of sea-level oscillations in the Last Interglacial


  • Sanborn, K.L., Webster, J.M., Yokoyama, Y., Dutton, A., Braga, J.C., Clague, D.A., Paduan, J.B., Wagner, D., Rooney, J.J. and Hansen, J.R., 2017. New evidence of Hawaiian coral reef drowning in response to meltwater pulse-1A. Quaternary Science Reviews175, pp.60-72.
  • Murphy, R.J., Webster, J.M., Nothdurft, L., Dechnik, B., McGregor, H.V., Patterson, M.A., Sanborn, K.L., Webb, G.E., Kearney, L.I., Rintoul, L. and Erler, D.V., 2017. High‐resolution hyperspectral imaging of diagenesis and clays in fossil coral reef material: a nondestructive tool for improving environmental and climate reconstructions. Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems18(8), pp.3209-3230.
  • Kemp, A.C., Hill, T.D., Vane, C.H., Cahill, N., Orton, P.M., Talke, S.A., Parnell, A.C., Sanborn, K. and Hartig, E.K., 2017. Relative sea-level trends in New York City during the past 1500 years. The Holocene, p.0959683616683263.
  • Sanborn, K. L., Webster, J. M., Yokoyama, Y., Eggins, S. M., Braga, J. C., Dutton, A., Clague, D. A., Paduan, J. B., Rooney, J. J., Hansen, J R., Wagner, D. Deglacial sea-level history preserved in Hawaiian drowned reef terraces and implications for understanding global records [abstract]. In: The XIX International Union for Quaternary Science Congress; 26 July- 2 August 2015; Nagoya, Japan. Poster presentation C04-P23.
  • Sanborn, K. L., Webster, J. M., Yokoyama, Y., Eggins, S. M., Braga, J. C., Dutton, A., Clague, D. A., Paduan, J. B., Rooney, J. J., Hansen, J R., Wagner, D. Coral reef response to abrupt sea-level rise in Hawaii: Implications for understanding global reef records and deglacial meltwater history [abstract]. In: PALSEA2 2015 Workshop; 22- 24 July 2015; Tokyo, Japan. Oral presentation abstract p 41.
  • Sanborn, K. L. 2015. Response of Hawaii’s fossil reefs to last deglacial sea-level rise and implications for understanding meltwater history. (Honours thesis)