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, 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.
NEWS (archived news)
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
Past students and postdocs
Dan Sulak, MSc candidate, 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.
Twila Moon, NSF Postdoctoral Fellow
George Roth, finished MSc, Spring 2014
- George's 2014 paper on icebergs in Sermilik Fjord is out in GRL
UO Campus address:
last updated 15-sep-16
- 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 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
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.
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. Teaching it this Fall 2016!
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!
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)