Coastal and Estuarine Physical Oceanography
The coastal oceanography research group at the University of Oregon focuses on understanding the dynamics of how estuarine circulation interacts with both the open ocean, on one end, and the terrestrial (or ice) system on the other end. We use a combination of observational oceanography and numerical modeling techniques to investigate how well our current conceptual models of these regions work.
Since coming to the University of Oregon, we have focused on two specific regions: (1) the high-latitute fjord waters (and icebergs) of Greenland, Alaska, and Antarctica that connect the coastal ocean to the icy interiors, and (2) Coos Bay, a small, seasonally variable PNW estuary on the southern Oregon Coast. Check out our publications, research highlights, and news posts below to learn more.
NEWS (older posts: archived here)
Check out other marine science happening at the UO!
Dave is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Geological Sciences, as well as core faculty in the Environmental Studies Program and the new Environmental Science Institute (ESI). He is a coastal physical oceanographer who loves all things ocean, especially when he can dive in himself.
Dustin Carroll, PhD candidate, website
Maria Jose Marin Jarrin, PhD candidate
Ted Conroy, MSc candidate
Past students and postdocs
Dan Sulak, finished MSc summer 2016, website
Dan worked on iceberg distributions in Greenland fjords using satellite data from Rink Isbrae, KS, and Sermilik Fjord. He is taking the next couple months to continue working on a manuscript to be submitted on his thesis research, then staring his job search in earnest. Manuscript submitted, nice job Dan!
Twila Moon, NSF Postdoctoral Fellow until May 2016
George Roth, finished MSc, Spring 2014
- George's 2014 paper on icebergs in Sermilik Fjord is out in GRL
last updated 13-jan-17
Ice-ocean interactions: Many of Greenland's large outlet glaciers empty into deep, narrow fjords, e.g., Helheim Glacier in the Southeast and Jakobshavn Isbrae along the west coast. Interannual variability within these systems supports some common climate forcing impacting the glaciers' accelerations and discharge. We are studying how circulation within these fjords may impact the glacier dynamics and how the coastal ocean may respond to increased meltwater production.
- New project on LeConte Glacier in SE Alaska in progress! Check here for more to come.
- Link to NASA-funded West Greenland project (2012-2015)
- Check out this issue of Annals of Glaciology for the latest on Sermilik Fjord and other ice-ocean topics
Icebergs: We are starting to focus more energy on understanding iceberg melt and movement, as a subset of ice-ocean interactions research. Where and when do these icebergs melt? Is their melt a significant part of a fjord's freswhater budget? This work will be the focus of a new 5-year study funded by NSF and led by Sutherland.
- UO article describing links within my ice-ocean-iceberg research
- WHOI website about icebergs, linking to some work we've done
- George Roth and Dan Sulak both developed MSc thesis work on icebergs, it's a trend!
Estuarine processes: Estuaries are typically thought of as where the river meets the sea, mixing zones of brackish water. Anyone who has lived on the coast knows that estuaries are dynamic regions, supporting an abundance of marine life, huge swings in physical conditions (salinity, temperature, nutrient availability, etc.), but also highly susceptible to environmental stresses. We study how estuaries, such as Coos Bay along the Oregon coast as well as the fjords of Greenland and Puget Sound, work--what forces drive the basic circulation within these regions and what happens when river discharge (or ice melt) changes?
- Sea Grant study on Coos Bay hypoxia, supported three MSc students (in ERTH and GEOG departments)
- Oregon Institute of Marine Biology: new NSF grant with A. Shanks and R. Emlet on wintertime spawning
- Link to Puget Sound modeling work (MoSSea)
- Article on development of Coos Bay model
Ecosystem services: Ecosystem services are the benefits we as humans derive from nature, e.g. fisheries, clean water, aestheric beauty, etc. We often take these services for granted and do not consider them when making land use or economic decisions for a region. This is particularly true in the oceans, where zoning is in its infancy, yet many competing uses are vying for space in the coastal zone (marine sanctuaries, fishing vessels, oil platforms, beachgoers, etc.). We have worked with the the Marine InVEST group of the Natural Capital Project, to being to examine some of these tradeoffs in the ocean context.
Buoyancy driven currents: Along many coastal regions near freshwater sources one can find buoyancy driven currents that follow a consistent pattern, influenced by the low-density freshwater and the Earth's rotation. Examples we have studied here include the East Greenland Coastal Current and the Hudson Strait outflow. They are prevlanet outside many estuaries, with the best example along the US West Coast ebing the Columbia River plume, whose impact is felt both north and south of the river mouth. How do smaller estuaries in the Northwest impact the coastal ocean? How do the meltwater plumes coming from Greenland's fjords impact the larger coastal current found along its east coast? These are questions we are striving to answer.
Classes taught with sample syllabi:
Geocommunication (GEOL 420/520: see syllabus) on writing papers, reading papers, making presentations and maybe even multimedia (video, web content, etc). Taught Fall 2014.
GEOL 410/510, Oceanography of the Oregon Coast (syllabus): focused on physical oceanography of coastal regions with application to our own coast. Meant for upper level undergrads and intro grad students. Taught Winter 2014. Teaching it this Winter 2017!
GEOL 410,Intro to Physical Oceanography (syllabus): focused on introductory physical oceanography concepts with application to our own coast. Meant for 300-level undergrads as a follow on to GEOL 307 for students interested in learning more about ocean circulation. Taught Winter 2016.
Winter 2015: Introduction to Environmental Studies: Natural Sciences, ENVS 202- sample syllabus. Taught Winter 2012, Spring 2014, Winter 2015.
Introduction to Oceanography, GEOL 307 (sample syllabus). Oceanography 101 like class, where we cover all aspects of ocean science from plate tectonics to El Ninos to whales. Taught Spring 2012, Fall 2012, Fall 2013, and Fall 2015. Teaching it this Winter 2017!
Coos Bay / PNW estuaries:
Lecture at SOCC entitled "Estuary circulation in Coos Bay and its link to water quality". (archived online)
Jefferson Exchange radio interview (on Coos Bay and science communication) mp3 file here
Greenland fjord/glacier research:
Wired story on Larsen C ice shelf and its imminent fission
WA Post story featuring Dustin Carroll
LeConte Glacier/Bay research on ice-ocean interactions:
Petersburg Pilot story (featuring myself and Jason Amundson)
Oregon Public Radio Think Out Loud (featuring Jonathan Nash)
KFSK radio interview (featuring Roman Motyka)