Sediment Transport Modeling

Members of the Sediment Transport Modeling Lab at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS) conduct research to improve our ability to quantify and predict sediment transport on continental shelves over a variety of temporal and spatial scales. We are involved in interdisciplinary projects and large experiments with field oceanographers and geologists.  A recent focus has been coupling sediment transport models with ecological and geochemical models.  Current research projects include efforts to:

  • evaluate the role that physical processes play in determining spatial and temporal patterns of erodibility within the York River estuary;
  • develop and use numerical models to quantify sediment processes within the northern Gulf of Mexico, including how suspended sediments impact the dispersal of oil (see the CSOMIO Web-site); and
  • identify the oceanographic transport processes that impact sediment transport off shore of the Ayeryawady Delta, Myanmar.

We are also active in a group of oceanographers and geologists who are working to develop a community sediment transport model by developing and testing numerical models that account for sediment transport and oceanographic circulation, and couple sediment transport to biogeochemical models.

Graduate Research Opportunities

We invite inquiries from students interested in studying sediment dispersal in coastal environments.  Potential research topics include analysis of sediment redistribution offshore of rivers in Myanmar, in Chesapeake Bay, and the impacts of resuspension on biogeochemistry in the Gulf of Mexico. The research will involve analysis of field data, numerical models of sediment transport, written and oral communication skills, and possibly field work. For more details, contact [[ckharris,Dr. Courtney K. Harris]], and review the information for prospective students at VIMS.

  • Courtney Harris, Professor.
    Full C.V.
  • Danielle Tarpley, Ph.D. Candidate.
  • Matthew Fair, M.S. Student.
Past Graduate Students and Post-Docs
  • Aaron Bever, Ph.D. 2010.
  • Justin Birchler, M.S. 2014.
  • Tara Kniskern, Ph.D. 2007; Post-doctoral researcher (2010 - 2017).
  • Yanxia (Amy) Ma, Ph.D. 2009.
  • Julia Moriarty, Ph.D. 2017.
  • J.Paul Rinehimer, M.S. 2008.
  • Kehui Xu, Post-doctoral scientist (2007 - 2008).
Publications since 2008 - 2018
  • Moriarty, J.M., C.K. Harris, M.A.M. Friedrichs, K. Fennel, and K. Xu, (in press, August, 2018).  Role of seabed resuspension on oxygen and nitrogen dynamics in the northern Gulf of Mexico:  a Numerical modeling study.  Journal of Geophysical Research – Oceans.
  • Birchler, J.J., C.K. Harris, T.A. Kniskern, and C.R. Sherwood.  2018.  Numerical model of geochronological tracers for deposition and reworking applied to the Mississippi subaqueous delta.  Journal of Coastal Research;
  • Sherwood, C.R., A.L. Aretxabaleta, C.K. Harris, J.P. Rinehimer, R. Verney, B. Ferré.  2018.  Cohesive and mixed sediment in the Regional Ocean Modeling System (ROMS v3.6) implemented in the Coupled Ocean Atmosphere Wave Sediment-Transport Modeling System (COAWST r1179).  Geoscientific Model Development;


  • Moriarty, J.M., C.K. Harris, K. Fennel, M. Friedrichs, K. Xu, and C. Rabouille. 2017. The roles of resuspension, diffusion and biogeochemical processes on oxygen dynamics offshore of the Rhone River, France: A numerical modeling study. Biogeosciences, 14, 1919-1946, DOI: 10.5194/bg-14-1919-2017.

  • Kuehl, S.A., C.R. Alexander, N.E. Blair, C.K. Harris, K.M. Marsaglia, A.S. Ogston, A.R. Orpin, J.J. Roering, A.J. Bever, E.L. Bilderback, L. Carter, C. Cerovski-Darriau, L.B. Childress, D.R. Corbett, R.P. Hale, E.L. Leithold, N. Litchfield, J.M. Moriarty, M.J. Page, L.E.R. Pierce, P. Upton, J.P. Walsh. 2016. A source to sink perspective of the Waipaoa River margin. Earth-Science Reviews, DOI: 10.1016/j.earscirev.2015.10.001.

  • Xu, K., R.C. Mickey, Q.J. Chen, C.K. Harris, R. Hetland, K. Hu, J. Wang. 2016. Shelf sediment transport during Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Computers & Geosciences, DOI: 10.1016/j.cageo.2015.10.009.

  • Moriarty, J.M., C.K. Harris, and M.G. Hadfield. 2015. Event – to – seasonal sediment dispersal on the Waipaoa River shelf, New Zealand: a numerical modeling study. Continental Shelf Research, 110: 108 – 123, DOI: 10.1016/j.csr.2015.10.005.

  • Xu, K., D.R. Corbett, J.P. Walsh, D. Young, K.B. Briggs, G.M. Cartwright, C.T. Friedrichs, C.K. Harris, R.C. Mickey, and S. Mitra. 2014. Seabed erodibility variations on the Louisiana continental shelf before and after the 2011 Mississippi River flood. Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science, 149: 283-293, DOI: 10.1016/ j.ecss.2014.09.002.

  • Corbett, D.R., J.P. Walsh, C.K. Harris, A.S. Ogston, and A.R. Orpin. 2014. Formation and preservation of sedimentary strata from coastal events: Insights from measurements and modeling. Continental Shelf Research, 86: 1 – 5, DOI: 10.1016/j.csr.2014.06.011.

  • Kniskern, T.A., S. Mitra, A.R. Orpin, C.K. Harris, J.P. Walsh, D.R. Corbett. 2014. Characterization of a flood-associated deposit on the Waipaoa River shelf using radioisotopes and terrigenous organic matter abundance and composition, Continental Shelf Research, 86: 66-84, DOI: 10.1016/j.csr.2014.04.012.

  • Lentz, S.J., B. Butman, and C.K. Harris. 2014. The vertical structure of the circulation and dynamics in Hudson Shelf Valley. Journal of Geophysical Research, Oceans, 119, 3694–3713; doi: 10.1002/2014JC009883.

  • Fall, K.A., C.K. Harris, C.T. Friedrichs, J.P. Rinehimer, and C.R. Sherwood. 2014. Model behavior and sensitivity in an application of the cohesive bed component of the Community Sediment Transport Modeling System for the York River Estuary, VA. Journal of Marine Science and Engineering, 2(2): 413-436; doi: 10.3390/jmse2020413.

  • Moriarty, J.M., C.K. Harris, and M.G. Hadfield. 2014. A hydrodynamic and sediment transport model for the Waipaoa Shelf, New Zealand: Sensitivity of fluxes to spatially-varying erodibility and model nesting. Journal of Marine Science and Engineering, 2(2), 336-369; doi:10.3390/jmse2020336.

  • Bever, A.J. and C.K. Harris. 2014. Storm and fair-weather driven sediment-transport within Poverty Bay, New Zealand, evaluated using coupled numerical models. Continental Shelf Research, 86: 34 – 51, doi: 10.1016/j.csr.2013.07.012. 

  • Harris, C.K., J.P. Rinehimer, and S.-C. Kim.  2012.  Estimates of bed stresses within a model of Chesapeake Bay.  Estuarine and Coastal Modeling; Proceedings of the Twelfth International ConferenceNovember 7 - 9, 2011, St. Augustine, FL.  M.L. Spaulding, editor.  pp 415 - 434.

  • Xu, K., C.K. Harris, R.D. Hetland and J. Kaihatu.  2011.  Dispersal of Mississippi and Atchafalay sediment on the Texas - Louisiana shelf:  Model estimates for the year 1993. Continental Shelf Research.  31 (15):  1558 - 1575.  doi:  10.1016 / j.csr.2011.05.008.
  • Bever, A.J., J.E. McNinch, and C.K. Harris.  2011.  Hydrodynamics and sediment-transport in the nearshore of Poverty Bay, New Zealand:  observations of nearshore sediment segregation and oceanic storms.  Continental Shelf Research.  31(6):  507 - 526.  doi:  10.1016/j.csr.210.12.007.
  • Elliott, D.T., C.K. Harris, and K. Tang.  2010.  Dead in the water:  The fate of copepod carcasses in the York River estuary, Virginia.  Limnology and Oceanography.  55(5):  1821 - 1834.  doi:  10.4319/lo.2010.55.5.1821.
  • Ma, Y., C.T. Friedrichs, C.K. Harris, and L.D. Wright.  2010.  Deposition on  the Waiapu, New Zealand continental shelf by seasonal wave- and current-supported sediment gravity flows interacting with spatially varying bathymetry.  Marine Geology.  275:  199 - 211.  doi:  10.1016/j.margeo.2010.06.001.
  • Bever, A.J., C.K. Harris, C.R. Sherwood and R.P. Signell.  2009.  Deposition and flux of sediment from the Po River, Italy:  an idealized and wintertime numerical modeling study.  Marine Geology.  260 (1-4):  69 - 80.
  • Hawley, N., C.K. Harris, B.M. Lesht, and A.H. Clites.  2009.  Sensitivity of a sediment transport model for Lake Michigan.  Journal of Great Lakes Rsearch.  35 (4):  560 - 576.
  • Kniskern, T.A., S.A. Kuehl, C.K. Harris, and L. Carter.  2009.  Sediment accumulation patterns and fine-scale strata formation on the Waiapu River shelf, New Zealand.  Marine Geology, 270 (1-4):  188-201.
  • Harris, C.K., C.R. Sherwood, R.P. Signell, A.J. Bever, and J.C. Warner.  2008.  Sediment dispersal in the northwestern Adriatic Sea.  Journal of Geophysical Research.  113(C11S03).  doi:  10.1029/2006JC003868.
  • Rinehimer, J.P., C.K. Harris, C.R. Sherwood, and L.P. Sanford.  2008.  Estimating cohesive sediment erosion and consolidation in a muddy, tidally-dominated environment:  model behavior and sensitivity.  Estuarine and Coastal Modeling, Proceedings of the Tenth Conference, M.L. Spaulding (editor).  pp 819 - 838.
  • Warner, J.C., C.R.Sherwood, R.P. Signell, C.K. Harris, and H. Arango.  2008.  Development of a three-dimensional, regional, coupled wave-, current-, and sediment-transport model.  Computers and Geosciences.  34:  1284 - 1309.
  • Wheatcroft, R.A., P.L. Wiberg, C.R. Alexander, S.J. Bentley, D.E. Drake, C.K. Harris, and A.S. Ogston. 2008.  Post-depositional alteration and preservation of sedimentary strata.  Chapter III of Continental Margin Sedimentation:  From Sediment Transport to Sequence Stratigraphy. C.A. Nittrouer et al. (editors).  Blackwell Press.
  • Syvitski, J.P.M., L. Pratson, P. Wiberg, M. Steckler, M. Garcia, R. Geyer, C.K. Harris, E. Hutton, J. Imran, H. Lee, M. Morehead, and G. Parker.  2008.Prediction of margin stratigraphy.  Chapter XI of Continental Margin Sedimentation:  From Sediment Transport to Sequence Stratigraphy.  C.A. Nittrouer et al. (editors).  Blackwell Press.
Contact Us
Dr. Courtney Harris
Virginia Institute of Marine Science
Department of Physical Sciences
P.O. Box 1346 (mailing)
Rt. 1208 (shipping)
Gloucester Point, VA 23062

804-684-7194 (telephone)
804-684-7198 (fax)

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