Coastal Geology Lab

Lab Director: Christopher Hein

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. Our group is working to address the complexities of coastal evolution and is in particular focused on the sources, delivery mechanisms, and climatic and autogenic controls on sedimentation and erosion rates, with the goal of forecasting the impact of future climate change on coastal evolution. Specific questions we seek to answer include:

  • What are the carbon-cycle feedbacks between climate and sediment delivery to and along the coast?
  • How do changes in this fluvial sediment export impact coastal systems?
  • How will diverse coastal systems (barrier island systems, progradational beach and foredune ridge plains, etc.) 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 stable-/radio- isotopic, compound-specific organic geochemistry.

The Coastal Geology Lab also promotes a diverse, equitable, inclusive, and anti-racist academic community. We actively embrace the Principles of Community of both VIMS and the W&M Geology Department, and commit to amplifying the voices of minoritized groups in our community. We listen to and support students, alumni, and geo and marine scientists of color and stands with members of our community who are actively fighting injustice.

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:, check out Chris' webpage or his Google Scholar profile, or follow Chris on Bluesky: