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Virginia Institute of Marine Science

Coastal Geology

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Coastal response to climate change is non-linear and non-uniform, demanding both qualitative and quantitative approaches to understanding the relationships among global, regional, and local forcings. Unfortunately, much of the scientific discourse regarding the impacts of climate change focuses on a singular component: sea-level rise. In contrast to the common approach of focusing on a singular component of climate change, such as changes in sea level or storminess, our group is working to address the complexities of coastal evolution and the importance of our ability to predict interrelated changes in sea level, climate, and sedimentation and erosion rates in forecasting the impact of climate change on coastal evolution. Specific questions we seek to answer include:
  • What are the carbon-cycle feedbacks between climate and terrestrial sediment export to the coast?
  • How do changes in this fluvial sediment export impact coastal systems?
  • How will diverse coasts respond to the regional variability expected under conditions of accelerated sea-level rise and climate change?
  • Will the magnitude and direction of future changes in sediment supply allow barrier and backbarrier systems to accrete at a rate sufficient to keep up with expected sea-level rise?
We seek to accomplish this through the application of a process-based understanding of coastal evolution, combined with the traditional and modern tools of coastal sedimentology / stratigraphy (ground-penetrating radar, sediment coring and sampling, facies models, etc.) and the cutting-edge tools of compound-specific organic geochemistry.
Explore the links along the left column of this page to learn more about who we are, our past and current research projects, our equipment and facilities, and recent publications. For more information, email: hein@vims.edu.