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20-8. Geomorphic and social influences on coastal resilience to climate change


Closing Date: January 6, 2022

This Research Opportunity will be filled depending on the availability of funds. All application materials must be submitted through USAJobs by 11:59 pm, US Eastern Standard Time, on the closing date.



From a geomorphic perspective, the resilience of coastal systems is a function of sediment availability and flux, or how much sediment is available in a coastal system (McBride et al., 2013) and how quickly sediment can be redistributed within it to allow coastal landforms to adapt to changing climate (Lorenzo-Trueba and Ashton, 2014; Ciarletta et al., 2021). In many places, the timing and nature of changes will be influenced significantly by imbalances in sediment flux due to the relative contributions of cross-shore (e.g., overwash, breaching) and alongshore sediment transport processes (e.g., changes in wave climate) suggesting that geomorphologic state changes of coastal systems due to climate change (e.g., prograding -> stable; stable -> erosional; erosional -> drowning) will not happen uniformly or linearly along the Nation’s coasts. Though the drowning of coastal landforms is the long-term result of deficiencies in sediment supply and/or rapid changes in climate (Lorenzo-Trueba and Ashton, 2014; Moore et al., 2014), it is not an instantaneous response, and coasts may cease to provide economic and ecosystem services long before drowning occurs (Miselis and Lorenzo-Trueba, 2017). Further complicating prediction of future changes is that coastal resilience depends on more than just natural processes. Because humans have altered and will continue to alter coasts (Miselis et al., 2021), socio-economic factors, such as individual and community knowledge and wealth, influence the ability of coastal communities to adapt to changing climate (McNamara et al., 2011; Jin et al., 2021; Kolodin et al., in press). This suggests that the ability to adapt will be spatially-variable, possibly corresponding with the greatest knowledge, interest, and/or wealth rather than the greatest need.

To predict when and to what extent coastal systems are vulnerable to climate change, it is critical to explore and address the interaction of geomorphic and socioeconomic processes along the Nation’s coasts so that decision-makers and the public can make the best use of mitigation and adaptation resources. To this end, the proposed research is expected to be strongly grounded in coastal geomorphology and should couple physical observations and social information. Modeling that integrates existing field data or remotely-sensed observations of coastal systems is encouraged. Research can focus on whole coastal systems (e.g., barrier islands) or on particular environments (e.g., beaches, dunes, marshes) as long as the results provide new insights into the variability of physical and socio-economic factors that influence coastal resilience to climate change. Applicants for this Research Opportunity will 1) estimate and predict coastal sediment flux imbalances leading up to morphologic state changes, 2) explore feedbacks between physical and socio-economic processes in coastal landscapes, and/or 3) predict how the combination of geomorphic and social factors reduce or enhance coastal resilience to climate change. Though research proposals may consider any of the objectives above, those that focus on the integration of any of these components are highly encouraged. Focus on these objectives will support the equity and community preparation for climate-related disasters priorities of the current administration and the improvement of “the resilience of our built and natural environment systems” by “integrating multiple sources of information—including scientific analyses, environmental conditions, and socioeconomic data,” which are priorities of the USGS Natural Hazards Mission Area (Ludwig et al., 2018, pg. 2). Projects that seek to support and engage with underserved communities, which are often most vulnerable to climate change-related hazards (National Climate Assessment, 2018), are highly encouraged.

Interested applicants are strongly encouraged to contact the Research Advisor(s) early in the application process to discuss project ideas.


Ciarletta, D.J., Miselis, J.L., Shawler, J.L., and Hein, C.J., 2021. Quantifying thresholds of barrier geomorphic change in a cross-shore sediment-partitioning model, Earth Surface Dynamics, 9 (2), 183-203,

Jin, D., Hoagland, P., and Ashton, A.D., 2021. Risk averse choices of managed beach widths under environmental uncertainty, Natural Resource Modeling, e12324,

Kolodin, J., Lorenzo-Trueba, J, Hoagland, P., Jin, D., and Ashton, A., in press. Engineered coastal berm-dune renourishment in New Jersey: Can coastal communities continue to hold the line?, Anthropocene Coasts, in press.

Lorenzo-Trueba, J. and Ashton, A.D., 2014. Rollover, drowning, and discontinuous retreat: Distinct modes of barrier response to sea-level rise arising from a simple morphodynamic model, JGR Earth Surface, 119 (4), 779-801,

Ludwig, K.A., Ramsey, D.W., Wood, N.J. and others, 2018, Science for a risky world—A U.S. Geological Survey plan for risk research and applications: U.S. Geological Survey Circular 1444, 57 p.,

McBride, R. A., Anderson, J. B., Buynevich, I. V., Cleary, W., Fenster, M. S., Fitzgerald, D. M., and others (2013). Morphodynamics of barrier systems: A synthesis. In J. F. Shroder, & D. J. Sherman (Eds.), Treatise on geomorphology, Coastal and Submarine Geomorphology (Vol. 10, pp. 166–244). San Diego, California, USA: Academic Press.

McNamara, D.E., Murray, B.A., and Smith, M.D., 2011. Coastal sustainability depends on how economic and coastline responses to climate change affect each other, Geophysical Research Letters, 38 (7), L07401,

Miselis J.L. and Lorenzo-Trueba, J, 2017. Natural and Human-Induced Variability in Barrier-Island Response to Sea Level Rise, Geophysical Research Letters, 44 (3), 922-931,

Miselis, J.L., Flocks, J.G., Zeigler, S., Passeri, D. and others, 2021. Impacts of sediment removal from and placement in coastal barrier island systems, USGS Open-File Report 2021-1062, 94 p,

Moore, L.J., Patsch, K., List, J.H., and Williams, S.J., 2014. The potential for sea-level-rise-indued barrier island loss: Insights from the Chandeleur Islands, Louisiana, USA, Marine Geology, 355, 244-259,

Proposed Duty Station: St. Petersburg, FL

Areas of PhD: Geology, oceanography, geography, coastal processes, or related fields (candidates holding a Ph.D. in other disciplines, but with extensive knowledge and skills relevant to the Research Opportunity may be considered).

Qualifications: Applicants must meet the qualifications for one of the following:  Research Geologist, Research Oceanographer, Research Geographer, Research Physical Scientist, Research Mathematician.

(This type of research is performed by those who have backgrounds for the occupations stated above.  However, other titles may be applicable depending on the applicant's background, education, and research proposal. The final classification of the position will be made by the Human Resources specialist.)

Human Resources Office Contact:  Sinar Santillano Oliveros, 303-236-9585,