Matt Kirwan

Associate Professor

Email: [[kirwan]]
Phone: (804) 684-7054
Interests: Coastal landscape evolution
Office: Andrews Hall 238
Department: Physical Sciences
Lab Website: {{, Coastal Geomorphology & Ecology Lab}}


B.S., College of William and Mary, 2002

Ph.D., Duke University, 2007

Research Interests

In many environments exhibiting rapid geomorphic change, landscapes evolve by a combination of physical, biological, and anthropogenic forces. In my research, I aim to better understand how these coupled processes influence the formation and survival of large scale landscapes, and how they respond to climate change. 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.

My work currently focuses on applying concepts of eco-geomorphology to better understand: 1) carbon-climate feedbacks in the coastal zone, 2) the response of wetlands to sea level rise, enhanced CO2, and elevated temperatures, and 3) how humans influence wetlands through upland land use change and its effect on wetland migration and sediment delivery to the coast.


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 manipulative field experiments. For specific opportunities, contact me directly to discuss your interests.

Selected Publications

For a complete list, please see my Google Scholar Profile

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.