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21-29. Analysis of dynamic coastal change through geospatial approaches


Closing Date: November 1, 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.

Please communicate with individual Research Advisor(s) on the right to discuss project ideas and answer specific questions about the Research Opportunity.

How to Apply


Much of the coast is comprised of dynamic landforms shaped by wind, waves, water levels, currents, sediment supply, and vegetation. Complex, sometimes nonlinear relationships among natural processes and attributes, including disturbances (e.g., storms, fire, human alterations from jetties and groins to dune building and beach replenishment), substrates, and biological communities create distinct geomorphological and ecological (hereafter, ‘ecogeomorphological’) coastal environments.  Although landscape configurations are expected to shift in these dynamic coastal settings, climate change is anticipated to cause faster, more abrupt changes in ecomorphological state (i.e., non-linear response thresholds such as an upland transitioning to a marsh, or beach to tidal flat) through increasing rates of sea-level rise (SLR) and more intense storms. Ecogeomorphological changes have important implications for ecosystem services and can lead to loss of property, recreational opportunities, cultural landmarks, and habitat.  

There are several foundational gaps in our understanding of ecomorphological state changes in coastal environments, including: a) the impacts of oceanographic drivers at both weather- and climate-timescales in reshaping coastal landscapes, as multiple variables together can lead to nonlinear response thresholds; b) ecological feedbacks that affect the landscape response (e.g., accelerated bioaccumulation with increasing SLR in marshes; invasive species expansion such as phragmites) and associated temporal thresholds where rapid, irreversible ecosystem change will occur; and c) the effects of connectivity and long-distance interactions among coastal ecosystems and associated impacts on ecogeomorphological state change.  

We seek a USGS Mendenhall Fellow to conduct research to advance our understanding of coastal ecogeomorphological state change. In particular, there is a critical need for remote sensing studies to identify and characterize observable ecogeomorphological changes to provide data on recent historical trends that can be used to evaluate modeling capabilities and understanding.  Remote sensing products that might be considered include but are not limited to unmanned aerial system imagery, satellite imagery, and lidar. Example research topics could include, but are not limited to, the following: 

  1. What are the key characteristics and environmental correlates of coastal ecogeomorphological states? 

  1. What thresholds (e.g., in sea level, storm frequency, inundation rates, combinations of variables) result in transitions among states? 

  1. Can we detect early signs of impending state change? 

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

Proposed Duty Station(s): Woods Hole, Massachusetts; St. Petersburg, Florida 

Areas of PhD: Geography, geographical sciences, ecology, geology 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 following qualification:  Research Geographer

(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:  Jes Welsh, 703-648-7414,

Apply Here