S. Jeffress Williams

S. Jeffress Williams, a senior scientist emeritus, research coastal marine geologist with the USGS Woods Hole Coastal and Marine Science Center, Woods Hole, MA, has focused his research career on understanding the geologic history and processes of coastal, estuarine, wetland, and inner continental shelf regions.


 He has more than 40 years research experience investigating topics such as the geologic origins and development of coastal, continental shelf, and estuarine regions, as well as Great Lakes coastal systems, Holocene sea-level history, climate-change effects on coasts, and the geologic origins and character of marine sand bodies and their importance to coastal sediment budgets. Williams has led or participated in more than 80 field studies along the Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico, Pacific, Great Lakes coasts, and the Irish Sea, UK and been principal investigator on many offshore geologic mapping investigations. In June 2009, Williams was awarded the Coastal Zone Foundation Award for career achievement in coastal science and the USGS 40-year career service award. In 2010, he was awarded career achievement awards for natural resources research from both the Eastern Regional Director of the National Park Service and the Director of the NPS, one of only 5 such awards presented.

Williams has authored more than 350 scientific publications, including journal papers, reports, and abstracts; and, been a member on more than a dozen high-level national and state science committees including the National Academy of Sciences, National Ocean Partnership Program, 1998 National Oceans Conference, U.S Coral Reef Task Force, Louisiana Wetlands Restoration Task Force, and the Louisiana Sand Task Force. Most recently, he was a lead author for the U.S. Climate Change Science Program, SAP 4.1 report (2009), an assessment of sea-level rise effects on coasts and a lead author on the 2013 U.S. National Climate Assessment report. In addition, he is a frequent lecturer at scientific meetings and speaks often to students, state and local legislatures, and civic groups on coastal hazard and sea-level rise topics.

Prior to his current research positions, Williams directed the USGS Coastal and Marine Geology Program from 1996 to 2000 in Reston, VA. This involved managing and directing 250 staff carrying out more than 100 research projects at USGS research centers in Woods Hole, St Petersburg, and Menlo Park/Santa Cruz. Prior to joining the USGS in 1983, Williams was a research marine geologist with the Coastal Engineering Research Center and an invited visiting scientist at the Institute of Oceanographic Sciences, Taunton, UK. He earned degrees in geology and oceanography from Allegheny College and Lehigh University


M.S., Lehigh University, Geology/Geophysics/Oceanography

B.S., Allegheny College, Geology/Oceanography

Professional Positions:

Present- 2010 Senior scientist emeritus, USGS Woods Hole Science Center, Woods Hole, MA

Present- 2010 Professional coastal scientist, consultant, expert witness

2015-2010 Affiliate Faculty, Un.of Hawaii, Geology & Geophysics Department

2010- 2000 Senior research coastal-marine geologist, USGS Woods Hole Science Center, Woods Hole, MA

2000- 1996 Director and manager, USGS Coastal and Marine Geology Program, Reston, VA

1996-1993 Research geologist, USGS, PI on Lake Pontchatrain and Louisiana erosion and wetland loss studies

1993-1987 Co-cordinator, USGS National Coastal Geology Program and PI on Louisiana barrier island erosion and wetland loss studies

1987-1983 Research geologist, USGS, PI on Louisiana and mid-Atlantic mapping studies

1983-1980 Research geologist, CERC, PI on barrier island study, Ft Belvoir, VA

1980 Visiting scientist, IOS, Taunton, Somerset, UK, PI on geologic mapping Irish Sea

1980-1970 Research geologist, CERC, PI on mid-Atlantic shelf mapping, assessing sand resources, Washington, DC/Ft Belvoir, VA

Recent Scientific and Public Service:

Organized and co-chaired a special session, “Coasts in Crisis: Sea Level Rise and Inundation and the Drivers for Adaptation” for the 2016 AGU Ocean Sciences Meeting (New Orleans, Feb 2016). 

Invited technical expert, Hawaii Sea-Level Rise and Vulnerability workshop (Un. Hawaii, Feb 2016).

Organized and chaired the ‘Sea-level rise and super storms in a warming world’ technical session of talks and posters for the Coastal Sediments 15 Conference in San Diego (May 2015). 

Organized and chaired the ‘Coasts in Crisis’ technical session of talks and posters at the 2014 AGU Ocean Sciences Meeting in Hawaii.

In 2013, Williams was awarded a U.S. Climate Change Research Program Certificate for lead-authorship on chapter 2 of the National Climate Assessment, Coastal Impacts report.

In 2010, he was awarded career achievement awards for natural resources research from both the Eastern Regional Director of the National Park Service and the Director of the NPS, one of only 5 such awards presented. 

Presented the 2009 Coastal Zone Foundation Award by President Orville Magoon at the ASCE-CSCE-ICE Climate Change Conference in St John's Newfoundland for research career achievement in becoming a recognized national and international expert on coastal hazards and sea-level rise topics

Research Interests:

Expert in coastal and wetland restoration due to oil spills and other natural and man-made events.

Expert in offshore marine sand and gravel resources, including geologic mapping of offshore sediment character and understanding marine sand body history and evolution.

Understanding the risk and vulnerability of coastal regions to sea-level rise and increased storm activity, impacts due to climate change.