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20-9. Satellite remote sensing of coastal 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.



Recent advances in remote sensing show promise to transform the field of coastal science from a ‘data-poor’ field into a ‘data-rich’ field with the proliferation of remotely-sensed coastal data products.  Notable recent advances in coastal remote sensing include (1) the application of airborne Structure-from-Motion photogrammetry to observe coastal change (Warrick et al., 2016) as an affordable alternative to LIDAR and (2) satellite-derived shoreline observations (Luijendijk et al., 2018, Vos et al., 2019), with repeat coverage from 1-14 days and spatial pixel resolution now at the sub-meter level.  These remote sensing efforts have increased the spatiotemporal resolution of coastal change data by several orders of magnitude compared to traditional survey methods. Yet, more work is needed to (1) quantify uncertainty of remotely-sensed data products, (2) improve the accuracy, scale, and ease of obtaining such remotely-sensed data, and (3) to ensure that the newfound data is intelligently integrated with models.

Advancing USGS capabilities of making satellite observations of coastal change with high spatiotemporal resolution is the primary goal of the proposed Research Opportunity.  This RO seeks proposals that address the numerous research and technical challenges associated with developing a standardized satellite-based workflow to extract coastal change observations, such as historical shoreline positions and other stakeholder-informed data products.  We preferentially seek research and solutions that leverage cloud computing in order to ensure scalability of the analyses to eventually span the nation’s coasts. Ultimately, the intent of this effort is to integrate these data with USGS models and share these data through a public-facing application.

Proposals are expected to make fundamental research contributions in satellite remote sensing of historical and/or near-real-time coastal change. Strong candidates are expected to possess demonstrated knowledge of coastal systems via the application of remote-sensing technologies to research problems.

Possible topics of research include (but are not limited to):

  • Satellite-derived shoreline observations and other remote-sensing analyses of coastal change on the cloud
  • Advancing machine learning / deep learning algorithms for satellite-derived coastal data extraction
  • Evaluating and improving the accuracy of satellite-derived coastal data products
  • Uncertainty quantification of satellite-derived coastal data products
  • Satellite remote sensing analyses across a range of resolutions from 30 m-Landsat imagery to high-resolution commercial satellites (e.g., Planet, WorldView).
  • Coastal data products and analyses derived from altimetry or Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) satellites

The approach and tools developed as part of this Research Opportunity should be applicable to a variety of coastal geologic settings including California, the Pacific Northwest, the US East and Gulf Coasts, the Arctic, Hawaii, and the Great Lakes, providing a truly national perspective on coastal change vulnerabilities and hazards.

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

Proposed Duty Station: Santa Cruz, California

Areas of PhD: Oceanography, civil & environmental engineering, coastal engineering, geology, geography, applied mathematics, atmospheric science, computer science, data science, 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 Geographer, Research Oceanographer.

(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:  Veronica Guerrero-Nunez, 916-278-9405,