Coastal and Estuarine Physical Oceanography
The coastal oceanography research group at the University of Oregon focuses on understanding the dynamics of how estuarine circulation and the shelf interact. We use a combination of observational oceanography and numerical modeling techniques to investigate how well our current conceptual models of these regions work. The coastal ocean is a critical area environmentally: population pressure is increasing, particularly near the coast, which brings additional stress to the nearshore ecosystem. On top of these anthropogenic impacts, estuaries and nearshore ocean regions display striking natural variations on timescales from tidal to seasonal to interannual. Understanding how this variability influences the estuarine and coastal circulation is the primary question driving our group. The circulation in these regions drives many of the headline-grabbing science topics in the news 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 meltwater have on fjord circulation?
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.
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
Interested in graduate or undergraduate research in physical oceanography or interdisciplinary oceanography at UO? Please contact me with your research interests and general background. I am always looking to talk to motivated students with strong math and physics backgrounds! Students can participate through Geological Sciences or through the Environmental Science Institute.
UO Campus address:
last updated 19-feb-14
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.
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?
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.
- New class Winter 2014: GEOL 410/510, Oceanography of the Oregon Coast (flyer): focused on physical oceanography of coastal regions with application to our own coast. Meant for upper level undergrads and intro grad students.
- Introduction to Environmental Studies: Natural Sciences, ENVS 202 (sample syllabus)
- Introduction to Oceanography, GEOL 307 (sample syllabus)