Estuaries are dynamic environments where complex interactions between the atmosphere, ocean, watershed, ecosystems, and human infrastructure take place. They serve as valuable ecological habitat and provide numerous ecosystem services and recreational opportunities. However, they are modified by physical processes such as storms and sea-level rise, while anthropogenic impacts such as nutrient loading threaten ecosystem function within estuaries. This project collects basic observational data on these processes, develops numerical models of the processes, and applies the models to understand the past, present, and future states of estuaries.
Measuring parameters such as water velocity, salinity, sediment concentration, dissolved oxygen and other constituents in watersheds, tidal wetlands, estuaries, and coasts is critical for evaluating the socioeconomic and ecological function of those regions. Technological advances have made it possible to autonomously measure these parameters over timescales of weeks to months. These measurements are necessary to evaluate three-dimensional numerical models that can represent the spatial and temporal complexity of these parameters. Once the models adequately represent relevant aspects of the physical system, they can be used to evaluate possible future scenarios including sea-level rise, streamflow changes, land-use modifications, and geomorphic evolution.
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“Preparing for sediment transport measurement (Credit: Tom Malatesta)”