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.

Interested in joining the lab?

NEWS (archived news)

  • New paper accepted in GRL, led by Dustin Carroll, on subglacial-discharge driven plumes across 12 different Greenland systems. Nice work Dustin!

  • Congrats to Dan Sulak, who successfully defended his MSc thesis on characterizing iceberg distributions in three Greenland fjords (Rink, KS, and Sermilik). Congrats Dan! Look for the paper in the next couple months...

  • I am always interested in talking with folks interested in postdoc opportunities or graduate student positions here. Please email me with your questions and information on yourself.

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

Check out other marine science happening at the UO!

(atop skinner's butte)



Dave Sutherland
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 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 recent work on plumes across Greenland fjords accepted in GRL
- Dustin's 2015 JPO paper came out on MITgcm modeling (JPO link here)

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
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. Check out her own webpage here.
- Current position: Lecturer at UBristol Glaciology Centre

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 (now at NPI in Tromso)

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


  1. New postdoctoral opportunities are forthcoming, related to both ice-ocean interactions (in the form of iceberg melt and movement) and PNW estuarine oceanography (Coos Bay circulation and sediment transport). Please contact me for more information.

  2. I am always looking for new PhD and MSc students interested in ice-ocean interactions, estuarine dynamics, or subpolar oceanography and its links to the cryosphere and climate. 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 looking for motivated students with strong math, physics, or computer science backgrounds (and some interest in marine science)! Students can participate through Geological Sciences (applications due in December for the following Fall term) 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 15-sep-16


See publication list or my CV for the most up-to-date information on my research activities.

         - 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 and Media Links

Recent media

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)


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
Jonathan Nash, OSU
Parker MacCready, UW
Fiamma Straneo, WHOI
Bob Pickart, WHOI