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22-41. Fluxes and fate of carbon within coastal wetlands: Impact of restoration on spatial and temporal ecosystem responses

The postdoctoral scholar will advance carbon cycle science (e.g., stocks, fluxes and transformations) in coastal wetlands as part of a large multi-disciplinary and -institution project that will assess the impacts of various restoration strategies on wetland persistence and resilience. Development of data and products will follow engagement with stakeholders, including land and resource managers. 

Description of the Research Opportunity

Coastal wetlands provide critical ecosystem services, including habitat, recreation, coastal protection and natural carbon capture, and as a result, preservation and restoration of these environments is a key objective of coastal land managers. However, the persistence of these ecosystems is challenged due to multiple factors, including accelerating sea-level rise leading to edge erosion and drowning, reduction in sediment supply due to river diversions reducing mineral deposition, hydrologic alteration impacting biogeochemical processes and accretion, and coastal development reducing potential migration area. Louisiana is home to 40% of U.S. coastal wetlands and is experiencing some of the highest wetland loss rates in the country. Large investments in coastal science and restoration have been made using funds from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill settlement, which is administered by the Louisiana Trustee Implementation Group (LA TIG), with the goal to “Contribute to maintaining and restoring ecosystem-scale condition and resilience at coastwide, basin, and subbasin scales”, with the objective to “maximize the combined benefits of the various Restoration Types and approaches across the overall restoration portfolio.” 

USGS is a key research partner in this effort and is initiating a study to “Quantify wetland net ecosystem carbon balance at pre-spill/post-spill time scales and basin/sub-basin spatial scales, including export to nearshore Gulf of Mexico.” Net ecosystem carbon balance (NECB) is the sum of carbon entering the ecosystem minus the carbon leaving the ecosystem, and includes 3 primary fluxes: 1. vertical gas flux, 2. lateral aquatic flux, and 3. changes to soil carbon storage. The net balance, NECB, determines whether the ecosystem is a net sink (carbon sequestration) or a net source (carbon export). Therefore, NECB serves as an integrative measure of ecosystem productivity and is a strong indicator of ecosystem health. USGS and partners have proposed to develop a decision-support tool that will integrate models of landscape change and carbon dynamics to project both historic and future estimates of NECB, using the Land Use CArbon Simulator (LUCAS) model, to inform management planning of coastal ecosystems at various spatial and temporal scales. Critical to this effort is evaluation of wetland response, including NECB, to ongoing restoration efforts. 

We seek a Mendenhall postdoctoral scholar to develop and improve quantification of carbon fluxes, sources, and fates within coastal wetlands under various restoration scenarios. A successful proposal will develop new insights into environmental and management action controls on coastal wetland carbon cycling utilizing innovative techniques and approaches. The postdoctoral scholar will be able to leverage a large, multi-institution, multi-disciplinary project starting in Louisiana coastal wetlands that will assess all components (e.g., stocks, fluxes) of the net ecosystem carbon budget. The researcher will work within Eagle and Stagg research groups, with full access to a variety of field and laboratory equipment for vertical, lateral, and soil carbon measurements. One significant potential outcome of the research opportunity is improvement in management application for coastal decision-makers tasked with managing coastal landscapes, particularly wetlands, and predicting resiliency benefits under future sea-level rise and water and sediment diversion scenarios. 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


Areas of PhD

Environmental science, chemistry, oceanography, geology, ecology, 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). 



Applicants must meet one of the following qualifications: Research Chemist, Research Geologist, Research Physical Scientist, Research Ecologist, 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.)