Watching the tides come in and out of an estuary or getting lost in the swirling, sparkling patterns on the water surface of the coastal ocean can be mesmerizing. But beyond their beauty, water currents underlying these surface patterns in estuaries and the nearshore coastal ocean are important conduits that transport a myriad of things ranging from phytoplankton, the base of the aquatic food chain, to harmful pollutants that endanger our coastal waters. Both humans and a broad array of plants and animals rely on our nearshore environment. Extensive ecosystem alteration such as shoreline alteration and degradation, coastal pollution, and the impending threat of climate change behooves us to improve our scientific knowledge of these delicate environments.

In an attempt to better understand the transport processes in estuaries and oceans and better protect these vital ecosystems, my research examines the physical mechanisms that drive currents in the coastal ocean. I employ a variety of scientific approaches ranging from field experiments that directly measure water movements and water properties to numerical models that simulate the tides, currents, and distribution of properties in the nearshore. Some of the specific transport processes I have investigated include: the intratidal and residual dynamics in strongly forced, strongly stratified estuaries; interactions between shallow regions and deeper channels in estuarine environments; processes that bring offshore harmful algal blooms to the coast; and coastal/estuarine interactions.

My current research directions are focused on linking estuaries and the coastal ocean: how do estuaries impact the coast (via river plumes) and how does the coastal ocean influence estuaries. This includes thinking about bio-physical interactions such as the impact on offshore oceanic conditions (e.g., upwelling/downwelling) on estuarine exchange flow and nutrient and oxygen delivery to estuaries. I am also working on linking to hydrology and water resources as changes in upstream conditions (due to climate change or changing human usage) will reverberate through estuaries into the coastal ocean. Meanwhile I am extending my passion for estuaries and coasts to the community through scientific outreach and teaching.

Estuarine Dynamics

Coastal Ocean