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22-46. Addressing coastal change hazards with remote sensing

Coastal regions are exposed to a multitude of storm and climate hazards that may cause flooding, erosion, landcover and habitat changes, and damage to infrastructure. We seek a Mendenhall Fellow to develop innovative remote sensing techniques to better understand these coastal hazards with a focus on underserved communities and/or vulnerable ecosystems.

Description of the Research Opportunity

Coastal regions face a multitude of challenges from population growth, climate change, and sea-level rise. The inherent variability and the increasing frequency and intensity of coastal storms is escalating the risks of flooding, erosion, landcover and habitat changes, and damage to infrastructure in coastal settings worldwide. As these coastal challenges have arisen, rapid changes have occurred in remote sensing technologies that can be used to track and better understand storm impacts and coastal hazards. Multiple technological advances – including the size, resolution, and cost of sensors, and a plethora of platforms for these sensors, including satellites, airplanes, drones, and fixed stations – provide opportunities to better measure status, trends, and implications of coastal changes from storms. Combined with advances in computing power and analysis tools, including photogrammetry and machine learning (ML) models, there are new opportunities to leverage remote sensing data to study coastal storms and the hazards they pose.

The goal of this research opportunity is an innovative application of remote-sensing techniques to better understand coastal changes and hazards. This solicitation for research proposals is broad in nature, and we encourage science-based proposals that use new or developing technologies or the novel application of existing technologies. Proposals should focus on key gaps in the scientific understanding of coastal change and consider how findings may reduce hazard risks in the U.S. with a focus on underserved communities, emergency managers and/or planners, or resource managers of especially vulnerable ecosystems.

The postdoc will work with project members, resources, and data of the USGS Remote Sensing Coastal Change (RSCC) project, which includes participants at all three centers of the USGS Coastal/Marine Hazards and Resources Program (CMHRP). Currently, RSCC activities include mapping coastal change with aerial imagery from small airplanes and drones, satellite-based shoreline mapping, mapping benthic habitats with underwater camera systems, and developing time series of shoreline and ocean properties using fixed camera stations (see USGS Pacific Coastal and Marine Science Center Remote Sensing Coastal Change Science). Additionally, postdocs will be able to draw on several resources available at the USGS, including flight resources and training available through the DOI Office of Aviation Services and the USGS National Uncrewed Systems Office, USGS Advanced Research Computing resources, and a multitude of existing remote sensing data available from the RSCC project and other USGS resources available in USGS ScienceBase, USGS Remote Sensing Coastal Change Data Service, and USGS EarthExplorer. 

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


Proposed Duty Station(s)

Santa Cruz, California

St. Peterburg, Florida

Woods Hole, Massachusetts


Areas of PhD

Remote sensing, geography, geology, oceanography, coastal or civil engineering, landscape 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 Physical Scientist, Research Geographer, Research Geologist, Research Geophysicist, Research Environmental Engineer, Research Oceanographer, or Research Computer Scientist.

(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.)