I am current involved in 4 primary research and applied projects. These projects all focus on understanding, predicting, and assessing aspects of coastal change and the interaction of these changes with natural or human systems. The projects differ in the focal time scale, which ranges from climate-change time scales (100s to 1000s of years) to event time scales (hours to days). And the projects differ in the balance between fundamental and applied research leading to assessments of coastal vulnerabilities that impact coastal management. My approach is to use applications (e.g., oil spill, hurricane, and endangered species response) to focus fundamental research on objectives that will have intrinsic scientific value as well as societal impact. The common thread for my research efforts are (1) coupling of the interacting physical, biological, and societal systems models, (2) development of these models and increasing their skill and accuracy, and (3) evaluating model-based hypotheses with robust and powerful statistical methods.
Science and Products
We use remote-sensing technologies—such as aerial photography, satellite imagery, and lidar (laser-based surveying)—to measure coastal change along U.S. shorelines.
This project brings together scientists from the disciplines of geology, hydrology, geography, biology, and ecology to address the effects of Sea-Level Rise (SLR) on the Nation’s coasts. The project synthesizes information on coastal environments and uncertainties in knowledge of coastal processes into a Bayesian statistical analysis framework. The Bayesian approach allows researchers to...
Policy-makers, individuals from government agencies, and natural resource managers are under increasing pressure to manage changing coastal areas to meet social, economic, and natural resource demands, particularly under a regime of sea-level rise. Scientific knowledge of coastal processes and habitat-use can support decision-makers as they balance these often-conflicting human and ecological...
The Sea Level Rise Hazards and Decision Support project assesses the potential impacts of sea level rise and provides tools for coastal management decision making. Historical and recent observations of coastal change are combined with model simulations of coastal environments such as barrier islands, wetlands, and coastal aquifers. A variety of methods including Bayesian...
Sea-level rise (SLR) impacts on the coastal landscape are presented here as: 1) level of landscape submergence (adjusted land elevation with respect to projected mean high water levels); and 2) coastal response type characterized as either static (for example, inundation) or dynamic (for example, landform or landscape change). Results are...
As part of the USGS Sea-Level Rise Hazards and Decision-Support project, this assessment seeks to predict the response to sea-level rise across the coastal landscape under a range of future scenarios by evaluating the likelihood of inundation as well as dynamic coastal change. The research is being conducted in conjunction with resource managers and decision makers from federal and state...
This project integrated a wetland assessment with existing coastal-change hazard assessments for the adjacent dunes and beaches of Assateague Island, Maryland, to create a more comprehensive coastal vulnerability assessment.
This project focuses on understanding the magnitude and variability of extreme storm impacts on sandy beaches. The overall objective is to improve real-time and scenario-based predictions of coastal change to support management of coastal infrastructure, resources, and safety.
Research to identify areas that are most vulnerable to coastal change hazards including beach and dune erosion, long-term shoreline change, and sea-level rise.
The Barrier Island Evolution Project addresses a research gap between the short time scale of individual storms (hours to days) and the longer time scales associated with the historic and geologic evolution of the coastal system (decades to millennia).
U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) scientists are at the forefront of research that is critical for decision-making, particularly through the development of models (Bayesian networks, or BNs) that forecast coastal change. The utility of these tools outside the scientific community has been limited because they rely on expensive, technical software and a moderate understanding of statistical...
Executive Summary Traditionally in the USGS, data is processed and analyzed on local researcher computers, then moved to centralized, remote computers for preservation and publishing (ScienceBase, Pubs Warehouse). This approach requires each researcher to have the necessary hardware and software for processing and analysis, and also to bring all external data required for the workflow over the...
Field observations of alongshore runup variability under dissipative conditions in presence of a shoreline sandwave
Video measurements of runup were collected at low tide along several profiles covering an alongshore distance of 500 m. The morphology displayed a complex shape with a shoreline sandwave in the lower beach face of about 250 m long mirrored in the inner sandbar. Wave conditions were stationary and moderate (offshore height of 2 m and...Senechal, Nadia; Coco, Giovanni; Plant, Nathaniel G.; Bryan, Karin R.; Brown, Jennifer; MacMahan, Jamie
Science for a risky world—A U.S. Geological Survey plan for risk research and applications
Executive SummaryNatural hazards—including earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanic eruptions, landslides, hurricanes, droughts, floods, wildfires, geomagnetic storms, and pandemics—can wreak havoc on human communities, the economy, and natural resources for years following an initial event. Hazards can claim lives and cause billions of dollars in damage...Ludwig, K.A.; Ramsey, David W.; Wood, Nathan J.; Pennaz, A.B.; Godt, Jonathan W.; Plant, Nathaniel G.; Luco, Nicolas; Koenig, Todd A.; Hudnut, Kenneth W.; Davis, Donyelle K.; Bright, Patricia R.
Dynamic modeling of barrier island response to hurricane storm surge under future sea level rise
Sea level rise (SLR) has the potential to exacerbate the impacts of extreme storm events on the coastal landscape. This study examines the coupled interactions of SLR on storm-driven hydrodynamics and barrier island morphology. A numerical model is used to simulate the hydrodynamic and morphodynamic impacts of two Gulf of Mexico hurricanes under...Passeri, Davina L.; Bilskie, Matthew V.; Plant, Nathaniel G.; Long, Joseph W.; Hagen, Scott C.
A framework for modeling scenario-based barrier island storm impacts
Methods for investigating the vulnerability of existing or proposed coastal features to storm impacts often rely on simplified parametric models or one-dimensional process-based modeling studies that focus on changes to a profile across a dune or barrier island. These simple studies tend to neglect the impacts to curvilinear or alongshore varying...Mickey, Rangley; Long, Joseph W.; Dalyander, P. Soupy; Plant, Nathaniel G.; Thompson, David M.
Barrier-island and estuarine-wetland physical-change assessment after Hurricane Sandy
IntroductionThe Nation’s eastern coast is fringed by beaches, dunes, barrier islands, wetlands, and bluffs. These natural coastal barriers provide critical benefits and services, and can mitigate the impact of storms, erosion, and sea-level rise on our coastal communities. Waves and storm surge resulting from Hurricane Sandy, which made landfall...Plant, Nathaniel G.; Smith, Kathryn E.L.; Passeri, Davina L.; Smith, Christopher G.; Bernier, Julie C.
The influence of bed friction variability due to land cover on storm-driven barrier island morphodynamics
Variations in bed friction due to land cover type have the potential to influence morphologic change during storm events; the importance of these variations can be studied through numerical simulation and experimentation at locations with sufficient observational data to initialize realistic scenarios, evaluate model accuracy and guide...Passeri, Davina L.; Long, Joseph W.; Plant, Nathaniel G.; Bilskie, Matthew V.; Hagen, Scott C.
Smartphone technologies and Bayesian networks to assess shorebird habitat selection
Understanding patterns of habitat selection across a species’ geographic distribution can be critical for adequately managing populations and planning for habitat loss and related threats. However, studies of habitat selection can be time consuming and expensive over broad spatial scales, and a lack of standardized monitoring targets or methods...Zeigler, Sara; Thieler, E. Robert; Gutierrez, Ben; Plant, Nathaniel G.; Hines, Megan K.; Fraser, James D.; Catlin, Daniel H.; Karpanty, Sarah M.
Examples of storm impacts on barrier islands: Chapter 4
This chapter focuses on the morphologic variability of barrier islands and on the differences in storm response. It describes different types of barrier island response to individual storms, as well as the integrated response of barrier islands to many storms. The chapter considers case study on the Chandeleur Island chain, where a decadal time...Plant, Nathaniel G.; Doran, Kara S.; Stockdon, Hilary F.
Coastal Topography—Assateague Island, Maryland and Virginia, Post-Hurricane Hermine, 10–12 September 2016
Lidar-derived seamless (bare earth and submerged) topography Digital Elevation Model (DEM) mosaic and classified point-cloud datasets were produced from remotely sensed, geographically referenced elevation measurements collected post-Hurricane Hermine on September 10–12, 2016.Fredericks, Alexandra M.; Plant, Nathaniel G.
Correction of elevation offsets in multiple co-located lidar datasets
IntroductionTopographic elevation data collected with airborne light detection and ranging (lidar) can be used to analyze short- and long-term changes to beach and dune systems. Analysis of multiple lidar datasets at Dauphin Island, Alabama, revealed systematic, island-wide elevation differences on the order of 10s of centimeters (cm) that were...Thompson, David M.; Dalyander, P. Soupy; Long, Joseph W.; Plant, Nathaniel G.
Storm-impact scenario XBeach model inputs and tesults
The XBeach model input and output of topography and bathymetry resulting from simulation of storm-impact scenarios at the Chandeleur Islands, LA, as described in USGS Open-File Report 2017–1009 (https://doi.org/10.3133/ofr20171009), are provided here. For further information regarding model input generation and visualization of model output...Mickey, Rangley; Long, Joseph W.; Thompson, David M.; Plant, Nathaniel G.; Dalyander, P. Soupy
A methodology for modeling barrier island storm-impact scenarios
A methodology for developing a representative set of storm scenarios based on historical wave buoy and tide gauge data for a region at the Chandeleur Islands, Louisiana, was developed by the U.S. Geological Survey. The total water level was calculated for a 10-year period and analyzed against existing topographic data to identify when storm-...Mickey, Rangley C.; Long, Joseph W.; Plant, Nathaniel G.; Thompson, David M.; Dalyander, P. Soupy