Environmental Fluid Dynamics

Mathew wells
Mathew Wells
Associate Professor
Physical and Environmental Sciences
University of Toronto Scarborough
1265 Military Trail
Toronto, Ontario M1C 1A4
Office number =  456 
Telephone = 416 208 4879

(Note that new building is at 1065 Military Trail - see new environmental science chemistry building. )

Vortices at reversing falls New Brunswick Vortices in shear flows

ballast water
Dispersion of ballast water
My research aims to quantify the mixing in environmental flows, particularly those in large lakes and the coastal ocean where stratification and the Earth's rotation play a dominant role in the dynamics.

I study such mixing and dispersion in both the field studies and the laboratory.

Currently my main areas of research are in the study of turbidity currents, density currents , double diffusive convection, rotating turbulence, Coriolis effects, dispersion in environmental flows and the dynamics of internal seiches in the Great lakes.

In my laboratory I supervise graduate students with interests in physical limnology, coastal oceanography or fundamental fluid dynamics.  Successful graduate students would need to be self motivated, have an undergraduate background in mathematics, physics, geology or engineering, and have good communication skills.

Potential students would be enrolled in the PhD program in Environmental Science at the University of Toronto. I also supervise student projects in the Department of Earth Sciences, the Department of Geography, and the  Department of Physics.

Interested Masters and PhD students are encouraged to contact me directly at wells@utsc.utoronto.ca about potential research projects for 2015.

Eligible students should also apply for Ontario Graduate Scholarship (OGS)  or NSERC graduate fellowships.

------ Research opportunities also exist for undergraduate students through the readings course  EESC24H3 Advanced Readings in Environmental Science  or the course  EESD10Y3 Research Project in Environmental Science. Undergraduate summer research projects that lead into EESD10 are also possible, and students are encouraged to apply for the NSERC Undergraduate Student Research Awards  or the University of Toronto Excellence Awards (UTEA) In the Natural Sciences and Engineering.


Brief CV

2011 - present, Associate Professor, University of Toronto.

2006 - 2011, Assistant Professor, University of Toronto.

2003 - 2005 Research Associate, Department of Geology, Yale University

2001 - 2002 Post Doctoral Fellow, Fluid Dynamics Laboratory, Department of Applied Physics,
            Eindhoven Technical University, The Netherlands

1997 - 2001 PhD in Geophysical Fluid Dynamics, Research School of Earth Sciences,
            Australian National University

1993 - 1996 Bachelor of Science  - First Class Honours
            Australian National University

Peer reviewed publications

All articles are at this Google Scholar Link

52) Midwood JD, Gutowsky LFG, Hlevca B, Portiss, R., Wells, M.G., Doka, S.E. and Cooke, S.J., (2017) Tracking bowfin with acoustic telemetry: Insight into the ecology of a living fossil. Ecol. Freshw. Fish. 2017;00:1–12. doi:10.1111/eff.12340.

51) Rous A.M., Midwood J.D., Gutowsky L.F., Lapointe N.W., Portiss R., Sciscione T., Wells M.G., Doka S.E., Cooke S.J.. (2017) Telemetry-Determined Habitat Use Informs Multi-Species Habitat Management in an Urban Harbour. Environmental Management. 59 (1), 118-128 - doi:10.1007/s00267-016-0775-2

50) Gong, C., Peakall, J., Wang, Y., Wells, M.G. and Xu, J., (2016). Flow processes and sedimentation in contourite channels on the northwestern South China Sea margin: A joint 3D seismic and oceanographic perspective. Marine Geology. (in press)- doi: 10.1016/j.margeo.2016.11.002

49) Davarpanah Jazi, S. and Wells, M.G., (2016). Enhanced sedimentation beneath particle‐laden flows in lakes and the ocean due to double‐diffusive convection. Geophysical Research Letters. 43 (20) - doi: 10.1002/2016GL069547

48) Peat T.B., Gutowsky L.F., Doka S.E., Midwood J.D., Lapointe N.W., Hlevca B., Wells M.G., Portiss R., Cooke S.J. (2016) Comparative Thermal Biology and Depth Distribution of Largemouth Bass and Northern Pike in an Urban Harbour of the Laurentian Great Lakes. Canadian Journal of Zoology. 94(11): 767-776, doi: 10.1139/cjz-2016-0053

47) Veilleux M.A., Lapointe N.W., Webber D.M., Binder T.R., Blanchfield P.J., Cruz-Font L., Wells M.G., Larsen M.H., Doka S.E., Cooke S.J. (2016) Pressure sensor calibrations of acoustic telemetry transmitters. Animal Biotelemetry. 11;4(1):1. doi: 10.1186/s40317-015-0093-0

46) Chowdhury, M.R., Wells, M.G. and Howell, T., (2016). Movements of the thermocline lead to high variability in benthic mixing in the nearshore of a large lake. Water Resources Research, 52(4), pp.3019-3039. doi: 10.1002/2015WR017725

45) Hlevca, B., Doka, S. Cooke, S.  Midwood, J. and  Wells,M.G. (2015) Characterization of water temperature variability within a harbour connected to a large lake. J. Great Lakes Res. 41 (4), 1010-1023 doi: 10.1016/j.jglr.2015.07.013

44) Chowdhury, M., Wells, M.G., and Cossu, R.(2015) Observations and environmental implications of variability in the vertical turbulent mixing in Lake Simcoe J. Great Lakes Res. 41 (4), 995-1009 doi: 10.1016/j.jglr.2015.07.008

43) Cortés, A.,  Wells, M.G, Rueda, F., Fringer, O. and Arthur, B. (2015) Numerical investigation of split flows by gravity currents into two-layered stratified water bodies. Journal of Geophysical Research- Oceans 20 (7), 5254-5271 doi: 10.1002/2015JC010722

42) Sun, Y. and Wells, M.G. (2015) The application of life-history and predation allometry to population dynamics to predict the critical density of extinction. Ecological Modelling 312, 24  136–149 doi:10.1016/j.ecolmodel.2015.04.026

41) Hlevca, B., Wells, M.G. and Parker, S. (2015) Amplification of long-period waves in shallow coastal embayments of the Great Lakes. Environmental Fluid Mechanics doi: 10.1007/s10652-015-9406-3

40) Cossu, R., Wells, M.G. and Peakall, J. (2015) Latitudinal variations in submarine channel sedimentation patterns: the role of Coriolis forces. Journal of the Geological Society 172(2), 161-174, doi:10.1144/jgs2014-043

39) Barth L., Sprules, G.A., Wells M.G. and Coman M.A. (2014) Seasonal changes in the diel vertical migration of Chaoborus punctipennis larval instars. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences 71,  1–10,  doi: 10.1139/cjfas-2013-0440

38) Cortés, A., Rueda F.,  and Wells M.G. (2014) Experimental observations of the splitting of a gravity current at a density step in a stratified water body.  Journal of Geophysical Research- Oceans 119, 1038–1053, doi:10.1002/2013JC009304.

37) Cortés, A., Fleenor, W., Wells M.G., de Vicente I., and Rueda, F. (2014) Pathways of river water to the surface layers of stratified reservoirs. Limnology and Oceanography 59(1), 233-250, doi: 10.4319/lo.2014.59.1.0233

36) Pernica, P.,  Wells, M.G. and Sprules, G.A.  (2013) Internal waves and mixing in the epilimnion of a lake affects spatial patterns of zooplankton in a body-size dependent manner. Limnology and Oceanography: Fluids and Environments 3: 279–294 DOI: 10.1215/21573689-2409149

35) Pernica, P.,  Wells, M.G. and MacIntyre, S.A.  (2013) Persistent weak thermal stratification inhibits mixing in the epilimnion of north-temperate Lake Opeongo, Canada. Aquatic Sciences. DOI 10.1007/s00027-013-0328-1

34) Wells, M.G. and Cossu, R. (2013) The possible role of Coriolis forces in structuring large-scale sinuous patterns in submarine channel/levee systems. Proceedings of the Royal Society A.  371 doi:101098/rsta.2012.0366

33) Sun, Y.,  M.G. Wells, Bailey, S.A. and Anderson E.J. (2013) Physical dispersion and dilution of ballast water discharge in the St. Clair River: Implications for biological invasions. Water Resources Research  I49(5),  2395–2407, doi: 10.1002/wrcr.20201

32) Peakall, J., M.G. Wells, Cossu, R., Kane, I.A., Masson, D.G., Keevil, G.M.,  McCaffrey, W. & Corney, R. (2013). Global (latitudinal) variation in submarine channel sinuosity: REPLY. Geology, 41(5), e288-e288.

31) Cossu, R. and M.G.Wells (2013) The interaction of large amplitude internal seiches with a shallow sloping lakebed: Observations of benthic turbulence in Lake Simcoe, Ontario, Canada  PLOS ONE 8 (3), e57444

30) Cossu, R. and M.G.Wells (2013) The evolution of submarine channels under the influence of Coriolis forces: experimental observations of flow structures. Terra Nova  25(1)  65–71

29) Pernica, P. and M.G. Wells (2012) Frequency of episodic stratification in the near surface of Lake Opeongo and other small lakes. Water Quality Research Journal of Canada. 7 (3-4), 227-237

28) Coman, M.A. and  M.G. Wells (2012) An oscillating bottom boundary layer connects the littoral and pelagic regions of Lake Opeongo, Canada. Water Quality Research Journal of Canada. Vol 47 No 3-4 pp 215–226

27) Coman, M.A. and  M.G. Wells (2012) Temperature variability in the nearshore benthic boundary layer of Lake Opeongo is due to wind-driven upwelling events. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences. 69:(2) 282-296, doi:10.1139/f2011-167

26) Cossu, R. and M.G.Wells (2012) A comparison of the shear stress distribution in the bottom boundary layer of experimental density and turbidity currents. European Journal of Mechanics - B/Fluids. 32,  70–79 doi:10.1016/j.euromechflu.2011.09.006

25) M.G. Wells, S. Bailey and B. Ruddick (2011) The dilution and dispersion of ballast water discharged into Goderich Harbor. Marine Pollution Bulletin 62  1288-1296  doi: 10.1016/j.marpolbul.2011.03.005

24) M.G. Wells, C. Cenedese and C.P. Caulfield (2010) The relationship between flux coefficient  and entrainment ratio  in density currents. J. Phys. Oceanog.  40(12) 2713–2727 doi: 10.1175/2010JPO4225.1 

23) Cossu, R., M.G.Wells and A.K. Wahlin (2010) Influence of the Coriolis force on the velocity structure of gravity currents in straight submarine channel systems. Journal of Geophysical Research- Oceans 115, C11016 doi:10.1029/2010JC006208

22) Cossu, R., and M.G. Wells (2010) Coriolis forces influence the secondary circulation of gravity currents flowing in large-scale sinuous submarine channel systems.  Geophysical Research Letters., 37, L17603, doi:10.1029/2010GL044296.

21) L.A. Wyngaarden, K.M. Vogeli, B. Ciruna, T.P. Yamaguchi, D.Y. Stainier, G.R. Martin, M.G. Wells, A-K Hadjantonakis and S. Hopyan. (2010) Oriented cell motility and division underlie early limb bud morphogenesis. Development 137(15)  2551-2558, doi:10.1242/dev.046987

20) M.G. Wells and S. Parker. (2010)  The thermal variability of the waters of Fathom Five National Marine Park, Lake Huron.  J. Great Lakes Res. 36, 570-576 doi:10.1016/j.jglr.2010.04.009

19) M.G. Wells. (2009)  How Coriolis forces can limit the spatial extent of sediment deposition of a large-scale turbidity current. Sedimentary Geology, 218, 1-5  doi:10.1016/j.sedgeo.2009.04.011    

18) M.G. Wells and P. Nadarajah. (2009)  The intrusion depth of density currents flowing into stratified water bodies. J. Phys. Oceanog. 39, 1935–1947. 

17) M.G. Wells and L, Sealock, (2009) Summer Water Circulation in Frenchman's Bay, a Shallow Coastal Embayment Connected to Lake Ontario,  J.Great Lakes Res., 35(4) 548-559  doi:10.1016/j.jglr.2009.08.009

16) M.G. Wells and J. S. Wettlaufer (2008). The circulation in Lake Vostok: A laboratory analogue study. Geophysical Research Letters. 35, L0350, doi:10.1029/2007GL032162

15) M.G.Wells, H.J.H Clercx and G.J.F. van Heijst (2008)  Mixing and dispersion in laboratory experiments of forced 2D turbulence. in “Transport in Geophysical Flows". Lecture Notes in Physics, Vol. 744 Weiss, J.B. and Provenzale, A. (Eds.)  pp 115-132

14) M.G. Wells and J. S. Wettlaufer (2007) The long-term circulation driven by density currents in a two-layer stratified basin. J. Fluid Mech. 572,  37 - 58

13) M.G. Wells,  H.J.H. Clercx, and  G.J.F. van Heijst (2007)  Vortices in oscillating spin-up. J. Fluid Mech. 573, 339 - 369

12) M.G. Wells (2007)  Influence of Coriolis forces on turbidity currents and their sediment patterns.  Particle-laden flow: from geophysical to Kolmogorov scales. ERCOFTAC Series, 11, B.J. Geurts, H. Clercx, and W. Uijttewaal (Eds.)   pp. 331 –344.

11) M.G. Wells and J. S. Wettlaufer (2005)  Two dimensional density currents in a confined basin Geophys. Astro. Fluid Dyn. 99 , 199-218

10) H.J.H Clercx , G.J.F. van Heijst, D. Molenaar and M.G. Wells (2005)  No slip walls as a vorticity source in 2D bounded turbulence. Dyn. Atmos. Oceans 40, 3-21

9) S. Bryan, A. Cook, J. Evans, P. Colls, M.G. Wells, M. Lawrence, J. Jell, A. Greig and R. Leslie  (2004)  Pumice rafting and faunal dispersion during 2001-2002 in the Sothwest Pacific: record of a dacitic submarine explosive eruption from Tonga.  Earth Planet. Sci. Letts. 227 135-154

8) M.G. Wells  and G.J.F.  van Heijst (2004)  Dipole formation by tidal flow in a channel  in Shallows Flows.  Jirka, G.H. and Uijttewaal, W. (Eds.),  Balkema, Rotterdam. pp. 63-70

7) M.G.Wells and G.J.F. van Heijst (2003)  A model of tidal flushing of an estuary by dipole formation  Dyn. Atmos. Oceans. 37 223-244   

6) M.G.Wells and R.W Griffiths   (2003) The interaction of salt finger convection with intermittent turbulence. J. Geophys. Res. 108 (C3) 10.1029/2002JC001427

5) M.G.Wells and R.W Griffiths (2002)  Localized stirring in a field of salt fingers  Dyn. Atmos. Oceans. 35 (4): 327-350

4) M.G.Wells and B. Sherman  (2001)  Stratification produced by surface cooling in lakes with significant shallow regions    Limn. and Ocean. 46, 1747-1759

3) M.G Wells., R. W. Griffiths, and J. S. Turner (2001)  Generation of density fine structure by salt fingers in a spatially periodic shear. J.  Geophys. Res. 106, 7027 - 7037.

2)  M.G. Wells, R.W. Griffiths and J.S. Turner (1999)  Competition between distributed and localised buoyancy fluxes in a confined volume. J. Fluid Mech. 391, 319 - 336. 

1) A.M. Leitch, G.F. Davies and M.G. Wells (1998) A plume head melting under a rifting margin. Earth Planet. Sci. Lett. 161, 161-177.


M.G. Wells (2001)  Convection, turbulent mixing and salt fingers.  Ph.D. Thesis, Australian National University.


Gravity current demonstration - 2014 - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FzW15qlWey4

BBC World service interview on underwater rivers  - 2014 - http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p025qhmy