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Woods Hole Coastal and Marine Science Center

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USGS Woods Hole Science Center Featured Research

USGS Coastal and Marine Geology Program

We are part of the USGS Coastal and Marine Geology Program. Please visit our other science centers at:

  1. St. Petersburg Coastal and Marine Science Center
  2. USGS Pacific Coastal & Marine Science Center
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Online Data

Featured Research

map of sample locationsAggregates - The Marine Aggregates (Sand and Gravel Assessment) Project has developed and is implementing a scientifically rigorous series of regional studies mapping the seafloor sedimentary character and assessing marine sand and gravel resources around the United States . Results of the regional assessments will ultimately comprise a national assessment of marine sand and gravel. This study is responding to increasing demand for web-accessible GIS-type data and interpreted geologic map information on the sedimentary character of the seafloor and aggregate resources suitable for beach nourishment and coastal restoration, as well as seafloor sediment texture information for benthic habitat mapping and sediment transport studies. Select data points on the image below to view the data publications.
starfishBenthic Habitats- Recently, increased interest in the management and conservation of marine environments and species has stimulated efforts to produce large-scale maps of the seafloor and, by extension, habitats.
Image of Boston HarborBoston Harbor - Since 1989, the United States Geological Survey (USGS), in cooperation with the MWRA, has been conducting research to understand and predict the fate of contaminants introduced to Massachusetts` coastal waters. The overall objective is to develop a capability to predict the fate of contaminants associated with fine-grained sediments on a regional basis.
map showing trench locationsCaribbean - The objective of this project is to provide the understanding needed to approach the problem of assessment, education and mitigation of tectonic hazards in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. By determining the likely hazards and their causative mechanisms and providing this information to government agencies and the public we may aid in such activities as improvement of building codes, encouraging safer zoning, and assisting public education for response to hazards.
Grid RefinementCarolina Coastal Change Process - This project is investigating the interactions of shoreline, nearshore, and offshore sediment transport processes driving coastal change in the Carolinas using geophysical surveys, oceanographic studies, and predictive models.
SWASH buggy Coastal Erosion - Despite the importance of this measure of coastal change, the methods available for collecting shoreline position data are very limited. The most commonly applied method-shoreline interpretation from aerial photography-is expensive, labor-intensive, and involves a considerable amount of subjectivity in identifying the shoreline. There is a significant need for a method that can provide an unambiguous and repeatable measure of shoreline position, can cover large sections of coast within a single low tide period, is inexpensive to operate, and can be used for both long-term monitoring and rapid-response surveys of storm impacts. In response to this need, theUSGSdevelopedSWASH, a vehicle-based system for measuring shoreline position which utilizes recent advances in the Global Positioning System (GPS).SWASHstands for "Surveying Wide-Area Shorelines."
diagram of model processes Coastal Sediment Transport - The USGS and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute (WHOI) were awarded funding by NOPP, supported by the Office of Naval Research (ONR) and the National Science Foundation (NSF), to plan the development of a coastal sediment-transport model (CSTM) supported, in part, as a NOPP "node". We envisioned a wide and collaborative effort among interested scientists, engineers, modellers, and model users to refine one (or more) of the existing sediment-transport models for use as a test platform. We were funded specifically to broaden the ongoing discussion on building a model and to identify and build partnerships for model development and model testing.
park beach erosionCoastal Vulnerability of National Parks - One of the most important and practical issues in coastal geology is determining the physical response of coastal environments to water-level changes. Two trends may affect shorelines in U.S. national parks: rising global sea level and falling Great Lakes water levels.
Map of the study area Dead Sea - The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Middle Eastern Regional Cooperation Program (MERC) has funded two multinational projects of geophysical study of the Dead Sea rift and its surrounding. The first project was conducted between 1996-1998 by the Geophysical Institute of Israel, the Natural Resources Authority of Jordan, and the U.S. Geological Survey. Its goal was to merge of the Jordanian and Israeli data bases of the gravity field and conduct joint interpretation. The second project was conducted between 2001-2005 by the Geophysical Institute of Israel, Al-Balqa' Applied University of Jordan, Al-Najah University in the Palestinian Authority, and the U.S. Geological Survey. It had two goals, to map the subsurface fault structure using a high-resolution airborne magnetic survey across the international border, and to study the deep structure of the plate boundary and its surrounding highlands using seismic refraction methods.
gas hydrate image Gas Hydrates - Gas hydrate is a frozen form of methane and water that occurs in the sediments of continental margins and permafrost areas. Globally, gas hydrate sequesters huge quantities of methane that might be released to the atmosphere during global warming events, developed as an energy resource, or involved in the failure of submarine slopes. The USGS Gas Hydrates Project studies natural gas hydrates through activities focused on energy and international drilling, climate change, slope failure, and the physical properties of hydrate-bearing sediments.
Jutulstraumen ice stream Glacier Studies -The Glacier Studies Project includes two active tasks: Satellite Image Atlas of Glaciers of the World Task and a Coastal-Change and Glaciological Maps of Antarctica Task. The two tasks are inter-discipline, inter-agency, and international in scope and institutional involvement. Glaciers are one of the four subelements of the cryosphere [the other three are snow cover, floating ice (sea, lake, and river ice), and permafrost]. The cryosphere is particularly sensitive to changes in regional and global climate. Changes in the volume of glacier ice on land produces changes in global (eustatic) sea level. Seasonal changes in sea ice and snow cover and decadal changes in glacier area can be monitored regionally and globally with image and other data from Earth-orbiting satellites. NASA (Goddard Space Flight Center), USGS (Woods Hole Science Center), and Icelandic National Energy Authority scientists are collaborating on satellite remote-sensing studies of glaciers. Information pertaining to the U.S. Geological Survey's Glacier Studies Project is presented, including links to relevant USGS and non-USGS publications. The Glacier Studies Project is funded by the U.S. Geological Survey's Global Change Science Program, a component of the 13 Federal interagency U.S. Climate Change Science Program of which the U.S. Department of the Interior is a member.
map of the study areaLake Mead - Understanding the geology of the lake floor is an important component of the overall study. Some critical issues addressed in this study include measuring sediment accumulation and the distribution of sediment associated pollutants. The study also answers questions about the history of environmental change in the lake and its effects on the dramatic lowering of water elevation on the lake. USGS mapped the lake floor from 1999-2001. A complete description of the mapping techniques can be viewed at the USGS Sea-Floor Mapping website. During 2002, researchers from the University of Nevada Las Vegas will lead efforts to ground-truth this geophysical data using a newly developed coring barge and state-of-the-art laboratories.
USGS Studies in Long Island SoundLong Island Sound - The Long Island Sound Environmental Studies program, initiated in 1995, was designed to understand three main points: 1) the modern sedimentary processes that control the transport of bottom processes and the formation of related habitats, 2) to identify and define benthic habitats throughout the region for future studies and management decisions, and 3) to understand the distribution, transport, and fate of contaminants in sediments of the Sound.
Tunicate colonies of Didemnum sp. growing on the side of a boulder and overgrowing red and green (cf. Halichondria sp.) encrusting sponges.Marine Invasive Species - Within the past few years, the colonial ascidian species Didemnum vexillum has been reported from many parts of the world and has drawn attention as a nuisance species because it reproduces rapidly and fouls marine habitats (including shellfish aquacultures and fishing grounds), ship's hulls, and maritime structures. It has been reported from northern Europe (Ireland, Netherlands, France), the U.S. east coast (New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Maine), offshore of New England on Georges Bank, the U.S. and Canadian west coasts (California, Washington, British Columbia), Japan, and New Zealand.
Map of study areas Massachusetts Seafloor Mapping - The U.S. Geological Survey, in cooperation with the Massachusetts Office of Coastal Zone Management (CZM), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the University of New Brunswick, the University of New Hampshire, and the Canadian Hydrographic Service is conducting geologic mapping of the sea floor to characterize the surface and subsurface geologic framework offshore of Massachusetts.
U.S. Coastal Vulnerability to Sea-Level RiseNational Assessment of Coastal Vulnerability - This project, within the USGS Coastal and Marine Geology Program's National Assessment, seeks to objectively determine the relative risks due to future sea-level rise for the U.S. Atlantic, Pacific, and Gulf of Mexico coasts. Through the use of a coastal vulnerability index, or CVI, the relative risk that physical changes will occur as sea-level rises is quantified based on the following criteria: tidal range, wave height, coastal slope, shoreline change, geomorphology, and historical rate of relative sea-level rise.
New York Bight Apex AreaNew York Bight- Since 1992, the U.S. Geological Survey`s Coastal and Marine Geology Program has been conducting studies offshore of New York designed to map and characterize the sea floor, to understand the transport and fate of sediments and associated pollutants, to map the inner shelf and sand deposits along the southern shore of Long Island, and to understand the recent geologic history. A long-term goal of these geological studies is to develop predictive models and geologic information to guide research and sustainable use of the coastal ocean.
Map of the Outer Banks showimg areas of seafloor characterization completed. North Carolina - The USGS, the State of North Carolina and university researchers, are mapping the regional sedimentary framework of the inner shelf of northern North Carolina to understand recent coastal processes, including erosion and the impacts of shoreline change.
cover art showing study areaSouth Carolina - In 1999, the USGS, in partnership with the South Carolina Sea Grant Consortium, began to investigate processes affecting shoreline change along the northern South Carolina coast, focusing on the Grand Strand and adjacent Long Bay region Figure 1. Coastal areas along the eastern United States with limited sediment supply, similar to areas offshore of South Carolina, are shown to be strongly influenced by the geologic framework of older strata underlying the shoreface and inner-shelf. Based on these findings, the South Carolina Coastal Erosion Study examines how historical and pre-historical geology and present-day physical processes influence coastal erosion patterns and the location of offshore sediment sources.
Map of study areaStellwagen Bank - The sea floor mapping survey of the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary region covers approximately 1100 square nautical miles of seabed located off Boston, Massachusetts and extending from Race Point Channel (just north of Cape Cod) to the southern part of Jeffreys Ledge (north of Cape Ann). It was conducted on four cruises over a two-year period from the fall of 1994 to the fall of 1996 using a multibeam echo sounder installed aboard the Canadian Hydrographic Service vessel Frederick G. Creed.
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This page last modified on Monday, 24-Nov-2014 13:13:28 EST