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Spotlight on Sandy

Recent Hires Assist USGS Studies of Barrier Island and Estuarine Responses to Hurricane Sandy

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New personnel have joined U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) teams investigating Hurricane Sandy’s impacts on barrier islands and estuaries and gathering data to understand potential vulnerabilities to future storms: Cathryn Wheaton, who recently completed comprehensive exams and will receive her Bachelor’s degree in May 2014 from Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, Florida, and Alisha Ellis, who graduated in May 2013 with an M.S. from East Carolina University in Greenville, North Carolina. They are assisting two projects with related goals.

The project “Barrier Island and Estuarine Wetlands Physical Change Assessment” aims to develop an assessment of estuarine shoreline changes at Assateague Island, a long barrier island offshore of Maryland and Virginia. (Read about related research in “Linking Coastal Processes and Vulnerability—Assateague Island Regional Study,” this issue.) All of Assateague Island is public land, consisting of the Assateague Island National Seashore, the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge, and Assateague State Park. Project scientists are measuring physical change to marshes on the island and in adjacent estuaries—both at marsh shorelines and in marsh interiors—by using data derived from remote sensing (satellite imagery), aerial imagery, lidar (light detection and ranging), water-level gages, and sediment cores. Results will support the development of a combined shoreline-and-wetland forecast of coastal vulnerability to future storms, expanding the applicability of available USGS regional and national tools to include marsh shorelines. Research oceanographer Nathaniel Plant of the USGS St. Petersburg Coastal and Marine Science Center in St. Petersburg, Florida, leads this project; research geologist Christopher G. Smith, also at the St. Petersburg center, is the co-leader.

Cathryn Wheaton
Above: Cathryn Wheaton [larger version]

The second project, “Estuarine Physical Response to Storms,” is co-led by Smith and research oceanographer Neil Ganju of the USGS Woods Hole Coastal and Marine Science Center in Woods Hole, Massachusetts. Project scientists are measuring and modeling sediment responses to Hurricane Sandy and future storms in several Atlantic estuaries and their adjacent wetlands: Barnegat Bay along the New Jersey coast (read about a related study, "Mapping, Measuring, and Modeling to Understand Water-Quality Dynamics in Barnegat Bay-Little Egg Harbor Estuary, New Jersey"), Chincoteague Bay between Assateague Island and mainland Maryland and Virginia, and Jamaica Bay, adjacent to the southeast shore of Brooklyn, New York. Evaluations of sediment transport, geomorphic change, circulation, wetland stability, and stratigraphic history will support the development of computer models of storm impacts on estuarine health, the vulnerability of adjacent communities, and the sustainability of restored and natural wetlands.

Alisha Ellis
Above: Alisha Ellis [larger version]

Wheaton and Ellis both work at the USGS St. Petersburg Coastal and Marine Science Center. Wheaton is conducting detailed grain-size analysis on sediment samples from Chincoteague Bay and will eventually analyze samples from Barnegat Bay. Ellis is managing grain-size data and assisting with radiochemical extractions for the measurement of naturally occurring geochronometers (radioactive isotopes that can be used to date the sediment samples): polonium-210 (half-life approximately 138 days) and lead-210 (half-life approximately 22 years).

Recruitment activities are underway with faculty at City College of New York (CCNY) to hire interns to support field activities in summer 2014.

Related Sound Waves Stories
Linking Coastal Processes and Vulnerability—Assateague Island Regional Study
March / April 2014
Mapping, Measuring, and Modeling to Understand Water-Quality Dynamics in Barnegat Bay-Little Egg Harbor Estuary, New Jersey
Jan. / Feb. 2013
Lidar Mapping of Vegetation at Assateague Island National Seashore—a First Look
Dec. 2002 / Jan. 2003

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in this issue:

cover story:
Assessing Climate Change Vulnerability of Pacific Atolls

Spotlight on Sandy
Fire Island Oceanographic Study Update

Linking Coastal Processes and Vulnerability at Assateague Island

Recent Hires Assist USGS Barrier Island and Estuarine Studies

EDEN and EVE—Getting the Water Right in Paradise

"Marathon" Bird May Plan Flights Based on Weather Across the Pacific

Warmer Conditions Create New Goose Habitat in Arctic Alaska

25 Years After the Exxon Valdez, Sea Otter Populations at Pre-Spill Levels

USGS Intern Teaches Kids about Ocean Acidification

USGS Scientists Support the National Ocean Science Bowl’s Spoonbill Bowl

Communications Awards Recognize Ocean Chemistry Topics

Three USGS Volunteers in Florida Working on Ocean Acidification

USGS Employee in Florida Recognized for Service on Science Museum Board

Publications New Kid on the Web: USGS CMGP Redesigned Website Goes Live

March / April Publications

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