Sediment Transport Instrumentation Facility (STIF)- Projects

Science Center Objects

 Field experiments carried out by the Sediment Transport Instrumentation Facility (STIF) include observations offshore of barrier islands and headlands; observations on barrier islands; observations in estuaries; observations in shelf environments; and process studies of sediment transport in the bottom boundary layer.  Experiments typically involved deployment of an array of a variety of instrument systems for several months and were carried out along the U.S. east coast and in the Gulf of Mexico.

Project Summaries:

Oceanographic and Water Quality Measurements Collected in Grand Bay,
Alabama/Mississippi, August, 2016 – January, 2017

In wetlands within and near Grand Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve, portions of the salt
marsh are eroding at relatively rapid rates. To understand the connection between sediment fluxes
and these processes, the USGS made oceanographic measurements to quantify suspended-sediment
concentration and sediment transport in tidal channels and open embayments in the study area. 

Near-bottom Temperature, Conductivity, and Light Transmission Observations in the
Western Gulf of Maine, 2013-2017

Near-seafloor observations were made at 6 locations in western Gulf of Maine to document the
frequency of fine-grained sediment resuspension.  Sensors measuring temperature, conductivity, and
light transmission were deployed approximately 13 meters above bottom on selected moorings of the
University of Maine Ocean Observing System (UMOOS). UMOOS is part the Northeastern Regional
Association of Coastal and Ocean Observing Systems (NERACOOS).

Oceanographic, Atmospheric and Water-Quality Measurements Sandwich Town Neck Beach,
Massachusetts, January – June, 2016 and December 2016 - June, 2017

The objective of collecting these measurements was to enhance understanding of how waves,
currents, tides, and overwash during winter storms effect sediment transport and beach erosion.
Short-duration deployments of portable pressure sensors deployed on the beach, along with sensors
measuring atmospheric pressure and two longer duration deployments of sensors on platforms on the
seafloor north of beach capture the processes contributing to morphological change at this location.

Oceanographic and Water Quality Measurements in Chincoteague Bay, Maryland/Virginia,
2014 – 2015, and in Barnegat Bay, NJ, 2014

The primary objective of the Estuarine Physical Response to Storms (EPR) program was to
measure the physical response of the system to storm events, and identify processes that may affect
estuarine resilience. Bottom landing platforms with instrumentation to measure currents, waves,
water level, optical turbidity, water temperature, conductivity and water quality parameters were
deployed sites in the two study areas. Downward looking altimeters measured changes in elevation of
the seabed. A meteorological station measured atmospheric conditions over the study period at each
location.

Oceanographic and Water-Quality Measurements collected south of Martha’s Vineyard, MA,
July, 2014 – January, 2015 and November – December, 2015

This study part of National Science Foundation “Bottom Stress and the Generation of Vertical Vorticity
Over the Inner Shelf” project. The objective was to measure bottom stress at several locations with
varying bottom depths, sediment types, and bedforms. Seafloor platforms with upward-looking
acoustic Doppler current profilers, pressure sensors, and water-quality sensors were deployed at all
sites to characterize the local environment. At other sites downward-looking acoustic Doppler current
profilers measured near-bottom velocity profiles and sonars mapped centimeter to meter scale bottom
topography. The late autumn 2015 deployment was primarily for evaluating methods for measuring
bottom shear stress, but it also provides useful information on waves, currents, and sediment
transport.

Oceanographic and Water Quality Measurements in two Southern California Coastal
Wetlands, 2013-2014

The objective of this study was to compare an urbanized wetland with limited sediment supply (Seal
Beach) with a less modified marsh (Pt. Mugu) with fluvial sediment supply. Marine temperature,
conductivity, pressure sensors, optical turbidity sensors and acoustic velocity meters were deployed
on bottom platforms to quantify the conditions in the water column.

Oceanographic measurements south of Fire Island, New York, winters of 2012 and 2014
Oceanographic and meteorological observations were made at 7 sites on and around the sand ridges
offshore of Fire Island NY in winter 2012. Surface wave data, full water column current
measurements, and near-bottom beam attenuation, pressure, temperature and salinity observations
were collected. An instrumented buoy collected local meteorological data: air temperature, relative
humidity, solar radiation, wind direction, speed, and gust speed. Then in February through May, 2014
similar measurements were made at 9 sites to further investigate coastal processes that control the
sediment-transport dynamics. Fortuitously, these studies bracketed Hurricane Sandy and allow
some quantification of the storm’s effects.

Oceanographic and water-quality measurements in Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge,
Wells, Maine, March – December, 2013

Observations of suspended-sediment concentration and water flow rates were made in the tidal
channels of the wetlands in the Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge in Wells, Maine. The
objective was to characterize the sediment-transport mechanisms that contribute to the net sediment
budget of the wetland complex. A meteorological tower, optical turbidity sensors, and acoustic
velocity meters were deployed at sites on Stephens Brook and the Ogunquit River.

Water level measurements on Dauphin Island, Alabama and the Chandeleur Islands,
Louisiana, in the 2012 and 2013 hurricane seasons

As part of the Barrier Island Evolution Research (BIER) program, observations of atmospheric
pressure, water levels, and waves were made on two barrier Islands over two hurricane seasons.
Pressure sensors were installed in shallow wells buried in the beach and on structures in air. The
pressure measurements from the wells is converted to water level. Direct water-level measurements
on barrier islands during storms are somewhat uncommon because equipment is often lost, buried,
or destroyed during these high-energy events.