Matt Kirwan homepage

Matt Kirwan

Associate Professor

Email: [[kirwan]]
Phone: (804) 684-7054
Interests: Coastal landscape evolution, geomorphology, ecology
Office: Andrews Hall 229
Section: Coastal & Ocean Processes

Science Article Highlight
Marshes on the Move
Lab Website
Coastal Ecogeomorphology Lab
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B.S., College of William and Mary, 2002

Ph.D., Duke University, 2007

Research Interests

I aim to better understand how physical, biological, and anthropogenic processes influence the evolution of coastal landscapes. Most of my work takes place in salt marshes and other coastal environments, where knowledge of these “eco-geomorphic” feedbacks is often important for human welfare and ecosystem management. This work currently focuses on applying concepts of eco-geomorphology to better predict: 1) how coasts respond to sea level rise, 2) carbon-climate feedbacks, and 3) the impact of humans on coastal resilience.


I'm always interested in building our research group with students, postdocs, and visiting scientists. We incorporate many backgrounds, tools, and skillsets, ranging from numerical modeling to remote sensing to manipulative field experiments. For specific opportunities, contact me directly to discuss your interests.

In the news and media
Selected Publications

For a complete list, please see my Google Scholar Profile

*denotes student or postdoc in my lab

*Valentine, K., *Herbert, E.R., *Walters, D.C., *Chen, Y., *Smith, A.J., and Kirwan, M.L., 2023. Climate-driven tradeoffs between landscape connectivity, ecosystem extent, and the maintenance of the coastal carbon sink. Nature Communications 14, 1137.

*Chen, Y. and Kirwan, M.L., 2022. Climate-driven decoupling of wetland and upland biomass trends on the mid-Atlantic coast. Nature Geoscience 15, 913–918.

Kirwan, M.L., and Gedan, K.B., 2019. Sea-level driven land conversion and the formation of ghost forests. Nature Climate Change 9, 450–457. 

*Schieder, N.W., *Walters, D.C., and Kirwan, M.L. 2018. Massive upland to wetland conversion compensated for historical marsh loss in Chesapeake Bay, USA. Estuaries and Coasts 41, 940-951.

Deaton, C.D., Hein, C.J., and Kirwan, M.L. 2017. Barrier island migration dominates ecogeomorphic feedbacks and drives salt marsh loss along the Virginia Atlantic Coast, USA. Geology 42, 123-126.

Kirwan, M.L., Walters, D.C., Reay, W., and Carr, J.A. 2016. Sea level driven marsh expansion in a coupled model of marsh erosion and migration. Geophysical Research Letters 43, 4366-4373

Kirwan, M.L., Temmerman, S., Skeehan, E., Guntenspergen, G., and Fagherazzi, S. 2016. Overestimation of marsh vulnerability to sea level rise. Nature Climate Change 6, 253-260.

Kirwan, ML and Megongial, JP 2013.  Tidal wetland stability in the face of human impacts and sea-level rise. Nature 504, 53-60. doi:10.1038/nature12856.  

Kirwan, ML and Mudd, SM, 2012. Response of salt-marsh carbon accumulation to climate change. Nature 489, 550-553.

Kirwan, ML, Guntenspergen, GR, 2012. Feedbacks between inundation, root production, and shoot growth in a rapidly submerging brackish marsh. Journal of Ecology100, 764-770.

Kirwan, ML, Murray, AB, Donnelly, JP, and Corbett, DR, 2011. Rapid wetland expansion during European settlement and its implication for marsh survival under modern sediment delivery rates. Geology, v. 39; p. 507–510, doi:10.1130/G31789.1.

Kirwan, ML, Guntenspergen, GR, D’Alpaos, A, Morris, JT, Mudd, SM, and Temmerman, S, 2010. Limits on the adaptability of coastal marshes to rising sea level. Geophysical Research Letters37, L23401, doi:10.1029/2010GL045489.

Kirwan, ML and Murray, AB., 2007. A coupled geomorphic and ecological model of tidal marsh evolution. Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, v. 104, p. 6118-6122 doi:10.1073/pnas.0700958104.