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.

NEWS (archived news)

  • Dustin Carroll's work on near-terminus plume circulation using MITgcm and buoyant plume theory has been accepted to JPO. Nice work Dustin! Accepted version here.

  • Molly's paper on Coos Bay hydrography and dissolved oxygen is in review. See a copy here, if you're interested.

  • Congrats to Molly O'Neill (graduated with MSc summer 2014) on getting a job! She'll be starting at FTI consulting soon. Awesome.

  • Check out the new GReenland Ice Sheet Ocean network (GRISO). It's a grassroots effort to improve our understanding of how ocean-glacier systems work around Greenland.

  • Iceberg tracking paper published in GRL! This is based on George's MSc thesis and is the subject of our ongoing research in the lab!

Check out other marine science happening at the UO!


(atop skinner's butte)



Dave Sutherland
dave Dave's CV (.pdf).

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.

Publications: NOTE: also check my CV for the most up to date list.

Graduate Students

Dustin Carroll, PhD candidate
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 accepted JPO paper on MITgcm modeling (JPO link here)

Dan Sulak, MSc candidate

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

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 2013 AGU poster on iceberg tracking in Sermilik Fjord
- 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, in review
- Molly's 2013 Heceta Head poster on Coos Bay hypoxia and hydrography
- First job after graduation: FTI Consulting on the environmental side of things


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.






MyOcean Links



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-jun-15


         - 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


Current class (Winter 2015): ENVS 202, Intro to Environmental Science (course website)


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