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USGS Coastal and Marine Geology Program

News Archive

News Archive - stories from November 2017.

For information about a story, contact Ann Tihansky (202) 208-3342.

Aerial photo showing a section of Kwajalein Atoll, with its narrow island surrounded by beach and coral reef.Computer simulation predicts flooding on coral reef-lined coasts

Scientists have developed a new model called “BEWARE” (Bayesian Estimator of Wave Attack in Reef Environments) for predicting short-term flooding that threatens property and public safety on coral reef-lined coasts. BEWARE also assesses longer term impacts of sea-level rise on coastal flooding. This new tool estimates how combinations of wave, water level, and reef types lead to flooding. It allows users to test “what-if” scenarios and ask questions such as, “How will flood risk change if the coral reef dies, or if sea level rises by more than 1 meter?” The model can be used to project societal and economic risk and damage. The Dutch research institute Deltares, the USGS, and Delft University of Technology developed BEWARE. Read about it in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans and in a news release from Deltares. Contact: Curt Storlazzi,, 831-460-7521posted: 2017-11-30

USGS Research Geologist publishes new AGU article forecasting barrier island response to sea level rise

SPCMSC research geologist Jennifer Miselis and co-author Jorge Lorenzo-Trueba from Montclair State University published a paper entitled "Natural and human-induced variability in barrier island response to sea level rise" in the American Geophysical Union (AGU) journal Geophysical Research Letters. The work combines geomorphological and pre- and post-Hurricane Sandy observations from coastal New Jersey with a morphodynamic model to forecast the response of barrier islands to various rates of sea level rise and explores the impact of human alterations on forecasted behavior. This is particularly important for New Jersey, which is expected to experience rates of relative SLR that are higher than average. The work suggests that human changes to coastal systems will impact the lifespan of barrier islands thereby altering their ability to to protect mainland coasts and sustain coastal communities and economies.

To read the article, visit

posted: 2017-11-30

USGS Research Geologist gives "Geologic Control on the Evolution of Nearshore Environments" Presentation at NOAA office

SPCMSC geologist Jim Flocks presented recent research into the influence of the geologic framework on the evolution of nearshore shore-oblique sand ridges in the northern Gulf of Mexico at the NOAA Southeast Regional Office (SERO) speaker series. These ridges are fairly common in low-slope marine environments and provide important fisheries habitat. While progress has been made in understanding the growth of these ridges, few efforts have considered the influence of underlying geology on shoal formation and evolution. Flocks presented results from a case study of the Gulf Islands National Seashore demonstrating the importance of geology on nearshore shoal evolution. Results of the study were published in the Journal of Continental Shelf Research.

To read the manuscript, visit

posted: 2017-11-30

USGS Researchers presenting protocols for evaluating barrier island restoration effectiveness

Researchers with the Wetlands Aquatic Research Center, St. Petersburg Coastal and Marine Science Center, and Lower Mississippi Gulf Water Science Center, along with collaborators with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, will be presenting protocols they have developed for assessing if barrier island restoration projects are meeting their objectives. These protocols are being created as part of the Mississippi Coastal Improvements Program and will be used to evaluate project success and determine if adaptive management action may be needed to achieve specific goals for habitat restoration and mainland storm protection. USGS is also supporting protocol evaluation through data collection and management and by developing visualization tools.

For more information visit:

posted: 2017-11-30

USGS Scientists continue participation in the "Great American Teach In"

On November 14 and 15, five scientists from the USGS St. Petersburg Coastal and Marine Science Center (SPCMSC) participated in the Pinellas and Hillsborough Counties (Florida) "Great American Teach In." The event has been taking place since 1994 and is an opportunity for members of the community to participate in classes and provide a personal perspective on their career choices and experiences. The SPCMSC has been participating in the Teach In since 1999 ( This year Patricia Dalyander, Jennifer Flannery, Ilsa Kuffner, BJ Reynolds, and Julie Richey visited several area schools including Perkins Elementary, Monroe Middle, Pasadena Fundamental Elementary, and Ridgecrest Elementary. The scientists gave presentations on topics including coastal erosion, coral-reef decline, microfossils, and scientific diving. SPCMSC presentations are always a favorite of the students, who love the hands-on demonstrations.

posted: 2017-11-30

Section of Kwajalein Atoll showing narrow island surrounded by beach and coral reef.USGS geologist chairs discussion of issues facing Department of Defense installations in the Pacific and Arctic

At the request of the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) Strategic Environmental Research and Development Program (SERDP), USGS geologist Curt Storlazzi chaired a session at a conference on issues affecting DoD installations. The Strategic Environmental Research and Development Program (SERDP) and Environmental Security Technology Certification Program (ESTCP) Symposium took place in Washington, D.C., November 28–30. Storlazzi chaired the session Pacific and Arctic Environments—Unique Importance and Challenges, opening it with an invited overview talk. The session highlighted SERDP projects working to better understand how environmental factors affect DoD built and natural resources, and how climate change is projected to impact operations, infrastructure, freshwater availability, and ecosystems. Storlazzi leads the USGS project Impact of Sea-Level Rise and Climate Change on Pacific Ocean Atolls that House Department of Defense Installations. Contact: Curt Storlazzi,, 831-460-7521posted: 2017-11-29

Map of AlaskaUpdated assessment of erosion rates on Alaska's Arctic coast

The USGS updated its shoreline-change rates for Alaska’s north coast between the U.S.-Canadian Border and Icy Cape as part of the National Assessment of Coastal Change Hazards. The previous assessment included data for two time periods, circa-1940s and circa-2000s. The update includes data from two additional time periods, circa-1980s and circa-2010s. The updated assessment confirms that Alaska’s north coast is dominantly erosional, with 84 percent showing shoreline retreat over the long term (1940s–2010s) and 77 percent over the short term (1980s–2010s). Average rates of change increased over the short term and are higher on the Beaufort Sea coast than the Chukchi Sea coast. Read details in USGS Open-File Report 2017-1107. View shoreline change rates along the north coast of Alaska, as well as other U.S. shorelines, in the USGS Coastal Change Hazards Portal. Contact: Ann Gibbs,, 831-460-7540posted: 2017-11-28

Coral collected from reef near polluted groundwater seeps, A, shows more erosion than coral collected away from seeps, B, in these CT scans and photographs. cm = centimeterPolluted groundwater threatens coral reefs

Coral reefs already stressed by ocean acidification are particularly vulnerable to polluted groundwater, according to a recent study by USGS geologist Nancy Prouty and colleagues. Rising atmospheric CO2 is causing a gradual decrease in ocean pH, making it more difficult for corals to grow calcium carbonate skeletons and enhancing rates of dissolution and bioerosion—the breakdown of coral by other organisms. The authors show that polluted groundwater discharging onto coral reefs off west Maui, Hawai‘i, further lowers seawater pH and exposes corals to nitrate concentrations 50 times higher than normal. Such land-based pollution could contribute to the collapse of coastal coral reef ecosystems sooner than predicted just on the basis of ocean acidification. The study was published in the American Geophysical Union (AGU) Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans, featured on AGU’s GeoSpace blog, and reported by the Honolulu Star-Advertiser and the Associated Press. Contact: Nancy Prouty,, 831-460-7526posted: 2017-11-17

USGS researcher announced as judge for Shell Ocean Discovery XPRIZE competition

XPRIZE, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, is the global leader in designing and implementing innovative competition models to solve the world's grandest challenges. XPRIZE announced in a press release the identities of the independent international judging panel that will choose the winners of the Shell Ocean Discovery XPRIZE competition. The panel consists of experts in seafloor mapping, data analysis, marine and drone technologies, and underwater discoveries: Victor Abbott, Ph.D., formerly of the University of Plymouth; Aida Alvera Azcarate, Ph.D., University of Liege; Douglas Au, Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute; Catherine Ball, Ph.D., Remote Research Ranges; Christina Kellogg, Ph.D., United States Geological Survey; David Mearns, Blue Water Recoveries; and Shah Selbe, National Geographic Emerging Explorer.

posted: 2017-11-16

USGS Research Microbiologist interviewed by American Society for Microbiology

During the National Microbiome Data Collaborative (NMDC) workshop, held at the American Society for Microbiology (ASM)'s headquarters, ASM communications staff interviewed Christina Kellogg (SPCMSC Research Microbiologist) about the purpose of the NMDC workshop, her role on the Microbiome Interagency Working Group (MIWG), and the recent release of a USGS fact sheet showcasing USGS microbiome research. The interview will appear in a blog post on the society's website.

For more information:

posted: 2017-11-16

Photo shows two polar bears rummaging around the eroding coastal bluffs of Barter Island in northern Alaska in July of 2016. The bears triggered a motion-activated camera. Photo courtesy of Bruce Richmond, USGS.ABC News speaks to USGS researchers about Arctic coastal change

USGS scientists Li Erikson and Ann Gibbs of the Pacific Coastal and Marine Science Center spoke by phone with producers from ABC News on November 2 about permafrost, coastal erosion, and changing sea-ice conditions at Barter Island on Alaska’s Arctic coast. Durrell Dawson and Doug Vollmayer were making an ABC News television documentary about polar bears and their habitat in Alaska and wanted to learn more about Arctic coastal change described on the USGS web site. The documentary aired in two parts on November 28. Part 1 includes an interview with polar bear researcher Todd Atwood from the USGS Alaska Science Center. Part 2 does not name the USGS but touches on Arctic coastal-change issues that USGS scientists study. Contact: Li Erikson,, 831-460-7563

See a larger version of the polar bear photo.

posted: 2017-11-16

3D point cloud images looking at the Mud Creek slide, first image from airplane photo and second from drone.LA Times story about Big Sur landslide features quotes, imagery from USGS

USGS geologists Jon Warrick (Pacific Coastal and Marine Science Center) and Kevin Schmidt (Geology, Minerals, Energy, and Geophysics Science Center) are quoted in a November 9 Los Angeles Times story titled “Highway 1 was buried under a massive landslide. Months later, engineers battle Mother Nature to fix it.” The story takes readers to Mud Creek on California’s Big Sur coast, where millions of tons of rock and dirt slid toward the ocean last May. It details some of the steps that the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) is taking to stabilize the slide and rebuild the road. Among the illustrations are 3D images of the landslide constructed by Warrick. He and Schmidt have been studying slides along the Big Sur coast and sharing their findings with Caltrans. Contact: Jon Warrick,, 831-460-7569

Learn more about the USGS project, Remote Sensing Coastal Change.

View a larger version of this animation.

posted: 2017-11-15

Gerry Hatcher, left, and Shawn Harrison work on their video camera station atop a hotel in Santa Cruz, California. Photo by Shawn Harrison, USGSEyes on the Coast—Video Cameras Help Forecast Coastal Change

Coastal communities count on beaches for recreation and for protection from large waves, but beaches are vulnerable to threats such as erosion by storms and flooding. Whether beaches grow, shrink, or even disappear depends in part on what happens just offshore. How do features like shifting sandbars affect waves, currents, and the movement of sand from the beach to offshore and back? USGS scientists have installed video cameras pointed at beaches on the coast of western Florida and central California. They’re analyzing the videos to measure features of the beach and ocean so they can improve coastal-change forecasts.

Read the USGS News article from November 8, 2017.

posted: 2017-11-14

USGS Researcher represents DOI/USGS at National Microbiome Data Collaborative Workshop

Christina Kellogg, Research Microbiologist (SPCMSC) was invited to participate in the National Microbiome Data Collaborative Workshop hosted by the American Academy of Microbiology in Washington, DC, from November 9–10, 2017. The workshop brings together subject matter experts from the Federal, academic, and private sectors to review current practices and infrastructure regarding microbiome data, and then seeks to work together to discuss the development needs to best structure and organize a National Microbiome Data Collaborative.

For more information:

posted: 2017-11-09

USGS Researcher co-leads NSF RAPID project to assess risk of waterborne disease in post-hurricane Caribbean island

Sunny Jiang (Professor and Chair, Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of California, Irvine) and Christina Kellogg (Research Microbiologist, SPCMSC) will be conducting field research in St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands from Nov 17–29, 2017 as part of an NSF-funded project titled "Microbial Risk Assessment of Disease Burden in St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands Post Hurricanes Irma and Maria." St. Thomas was devastated by back-to-back category 5 hurricanes, Irma and Maria, in September. Managing waterborne and water-related diseases is one of the most critical factors in the months after hurricane-induced natural disasters. The project will provide much needed water quality data and disease risks on a tropical island in post-hurricanes conditions through: 1) Sanitary and water infrastructure surveys; 2) Surveys of residents' water-use behavior and water-related activities; 3) Quantification of microbial pathogens in water samples from cisterns and coastal waters; 4) Quantiative microbial risk assessment of disease burdens through exposure assessment and dose-response models. Efforts are being made to connect with and establish collaborations with researchers at the University of the Virgin Islands to extend the scope of this work.

posted: 2017-11-09

Bathymetry of the Arctic Ocean, with black rectangle delineating study area. White star marks site where sample in photograph was collected. Its cut surfaces show layers in Fe-Mn crust. Each square in scale beneath sample is 1 centimeter.Seafloor mineral deposits record unique history of the Arctic Ocean, show unusual enrichment in rare metal scandium

Little is known about seafloor mineral deposits in the Arctic Ocean, an ocean dominated by shallow areas of continental shelf and deep basins with limited circulation. USGS scientists and colleagues published the first comprehensive paper on this subject, “Deep-water ferromanganese-oxide deposits reflect the unique characteristics of the Arctic Ocean,” in the American Geophysical Union (AGU) journal Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems (G-cubed). They found that Arctic ferromanganese (Fe-Mn) deposits are highly enriched in the rare metal scandium, for which there is no land-based mine. Scandium is in great demand to amalgamate with aluminum to make light, fuel-efficient aircraft. Arctic Fe-Mn deposits have additional unique characteristics, reflecting the Arctic Ocean’s history. Growth-layer analyses show that over time Arctic Fe-Mn deposits are becoming more like those in other oceans. Contact: James Hein,, 831-460-7419posted: 2017-11-07

3D map of Mud Creek slide derived from video footage collected by drone on October 12, 2017.Video shot from drones yields details about changing landslide on California's Big Sur coast

On October 12, USGS drones collected video footage of the Mud Creek landslide, which buried California State Highway 1 under a third-of-a-mile-wide mass of rock and dirt on May 20. USGS scientists have been monitoring the slide by transforming photos shot from an airplane into 3D maps. They applied the same software to the October 12 drone footage, producing detailed views of how the slide mass has changed. The scientists share their findings with the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) to help that agency assess the slide and plan reconstruction of Highway 1. USGS will continue collecting drone footage of the Mud Creek landslide to supplement broader coverage provided by photos shot during airplane flights along the central California coast. View provisional imagery from the October drone flights. Contact: Jonathan Warrick,, 831-460-7569posted: 2017-11-06

Patrick Barnard and field trip participants above Pacifica State Beach, where future large storms combined with sea-level rise could flood parts of the highway and other infrastructure.Visiting journalists view rapidly eroding coast in and near San Francisco

USGS geologist Patrick Barnard and communications officer Leslie Gordon led a coastal-erosion field trip on October 30 for journalists attending the 10th World Conference of Science Journalists in San Francisco, California. On San Francisco’s Ocean Beach, participants observed erosion that threatens the Great Highway and a $1.2 billion sewage treatment facility. In Pacifica, they saw beach-side infrastructure that could be flooded by future large storms combined with sea-level rise. Finally, they visited the Devil’s Slide promontory, where landslides closed California State Route 1 so often that it has been re-routed through tunnels. This is the most rapidly eroding segment of coast in the state, being heavily influenced by the management of sand resources in San Francisco Bay and the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. Contact: Patrick Barnard,, 831-460-7556, and Leslie Gordon,, 650-329-4006posted: 2017-11-06

Susan Russell-Robinson receives the Department of the InteriorSusan Russell-Robinson Receives Interior's Highest Award

Former associate director of the USGS Coastal and Marine Geology Program Susan L. Russell-Robinson received the Department of the Interior’s Distinguished Service Award, the highest honorary award given to Department employees. Russell-Robinson, who retired from the USGS in July 2016 after 42 years of service, was celebrated for her great effectiveness as a scientist and a skilled, thoughtful manager. The Secretary of the Interior signed the award, and USGS Acting Associate Director John Haines presented it to Russell-Robinson on October 3. Haines lauded Russell-Robinson as an “unfailing force for good, exemplifying the guiding principles of the Survey and federal service.” Contact: John Haines,, 703-648-5464posted: 2017-11-06

Field trip participants beside the Carmel River at the former site of the San Clemente Dam. USGS geologist Amy East is seventh from right. Credit: Tommy Williams, NOAA.Students view evidence of Carmel River recovery after California's first large dam removal

On October 14, 2017, geologist Amy East of the USGS and biologist Tommy Williams of NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service led a field trip to the Carmel River for graduate students from the University of California, Berkeley. Sixteen students enrolled in the course “Restoration of Rivers and Streams” spent the day learning about the Carmel River’s response to the removal of San Clemente Dam nearly two years ago. Demolition of the 32-meter (105-foot)-high dam, completed in November 2015, was the third-largest dam removal in the U.S. so far, and the first removal of a large dam in California. East and Williams showed the students the former dam site as well as evidence of change and recovery both up- and downstream, including increased spawning habitat for steelhead. Contact: Amy East,, 831-460-7533posted: 2017-11-06

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