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. Estuaries are critical areas environmentally: population pressure is increasing, particularly near the coast. On top of these anthropogenic impacts, estuaries and nearshore ocean regions display striking natural variations on timescales from tidal to seasonal to interannual. The circulation in these regions drives many of the science headlines today: How fast will sea level rise? If there is an oil spill in Coos Bay, where will it disperse? What drives hypoxia and dead zones on the Oregon shelf? What impact does the ocean have on ice sheets?

Since coming to the University of Oregon, we have focused on two specific regions: (1) the high-latitute fjords of Greenland that connect the coastal ocean to the Greenland ice sheet, and (2) Coos Bay, a small, seasonally variable PNW estuary on the southern Oregon Coast. Although we are now starting a project in SE Alaska.

Interested in joining the lab?

NEWS (archived news)

  • Coos Bay research featured on Around the O, and other news sites...

  • New paper published on hydrography and dissolved oxygen variability in Coos Bay, OR, based on Molly's MSc thesis. Congrats Molly!

  • Congrats to Twila on getting a faculty position! She'll be starting at the University of Bristol this May 2016.

  • New NSF project funded! The focus is on LeConte Glacier in SE Alaska, as an analogue for Arctic ice-ocean processes, as it is a more accessible and well-studied system. Collaborators include Jason Amundson (UAS), Roman Motyka (UAF), Jonathan Nash (OSU), and Eric Skyllingstad (OSU). More to come!

Check out other marine science happening at the UO!

(atop skinner's butte)



Dave Sutherland
dave Dave's CV (.pdf) and publication list.

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.

Current Graduate Students

Dustin Carroll, PhD candidate, website
dustin Dustin comes to UO with a MSc in Physical Oceanography from Moss Landing Marine Labs. His interests here lie in high-latitude oceanography, particularly in ice-ocean interactions in Greenland fjords. He has developed 2-D and 3-D models of both Rink Isbrae and KS fjords in the Uummannaq Fjord region of west Greenland using the MITgcm, and participated in field work there since 2013.

- Dustin's 2015 JPO paper came out on MITgcm modeling (JPO link here)

Dan Sulak, MSc candidate, website

Dan will be working on iceberg dynamics using data we are collecting with our iceberg trackers near Jakobshavn Isbrae, Rink Isbrae, and in Sermilik Fjord. Dan comes back to school after a bit of a hiatus and working at various places--he got his undergrad degree from the University of Hawaii. Aloha!

Past students and postdocs

Twila Moon, NSF Postdoctoral Fellow
twila Twila finished her PhD at UW/APL working with Ian Joughin on Greenland Ice Sheet dynamics in 2014. She spent the last year doing a postdoc with Ted Scambos at NSIDC in Boulder, CO, and joined us in July 2015 as a NSF Ocean Sciences funded postdoc. Welcome Twila! Check out her own webpage here

George Roth, finished MSc, Spring 2014
george George received a BS in Oceanography from UW. His research is looking at the impact of icebergs on fjord stratification and using icebergs as drifters to characterize the circulation in these fjords.

- George's 2014 paper on icebergs in Sermilik Fjord is out in GRL
- First job after graduation: Polar Geospatial Center

Molly O'Neill, finished MSc, summer 2014
molly Molly obtained a BS in Earth and Environmental Sciences from Lehigh, as well as a M.Ed in Secondary Education. She is the leader of our observational work in Coos Bay, OR, working with scientists from the Oregon Institute of Marine Biology and the South Slough to understand the impacts of estuarine circulation on dissolved oxygen variability.

- Molly's manuscript on Coos Bay hydrography and dissolved oxygen, is now published in ECSS, 2016
- First job after graduation: FTI Consulting on the environmental side of things


I am looking for new PhD and MSc students for Fall 2016. I have opportunities in 1) high latitude physical oceanography, ice-ocean interactions, and fjord circulation, and (2) coastal and estuarine oceanography in Coos Bay, OR. If you are interested please contact me with your research interests and general background (CV, transcript, etc.). I am always looking to talk to motivated students with strong math, physics, or computer science backgrounds (and some interest in marine science)! Students can participate through Geological Sciences (applications taken on a rolling basis, please contact me!) or through the Environmental Science Institute.









UO Campus address:
204 Volcanology
map here

Mailing address:
1272 University of Oregon
Eugene, OR 97403

phone: (541) 346-8753

UO home
Geological Sciences home
ENVS home


last updated 23-may-16


         - New project on LeConte Glacier in SE Alaska funded! Check here for more to come...student opportunities exist!
         - 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

         - Oregon Institute of Marine Biology: new NSF grant funded with A. Shanks and R. Emlet on wintertime spawning
         - Link to Puget Sound modeling work (MoSSea)
         - Article on development of Coos Bay model

         - My thesis and first publications were on the East Greenland Coastal Current
         - Check out the Arctic-Subarctic Ocean Fluxes (ASOF) program and links therein


Classes taught with sample syllabi:


Oceanography Links


Marine Science at UO
Oregon Institute of Marine Biology (OIMB)
Oregon State Physical Oceanography
South Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve


Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI)
UW Oceanography
Parker MacCready, UW
Fiamma Straneo, WHOI
Bob Pickart, WHOI