Preliminary Results & Next Steps

As the summer draws to a close, I reflect on the volume of data I was able to to collect. This summer involved a combination of field and lab work that helped me gain new skills and gather data that begin to answer some of my research questions. For example, preliminary data suggest that the tidal flat I am studying will not remain a tidal flat as sea level continues to rise—it is being starved of enough sediment input to continue to build up vertically. This is problematic because coastal geologic features like tidal flats can protect communities and vital coastal infrastructure from the impacts of storms. Tidal flats are home to a diverse array of flora and fauna which thrive in environments where tides come in and out, a process unlikely to exist at the site as its morphology changes.

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Over the river, through the woods…down to the coast

Just two days after spending an extended weekend in coastal Massachusetts, I journeyed to the Blue Ridge in western Virginia with my family. There, we hiked a gorgeous trail along Skyline Drive and afterwards dined on delicious food in nearby Staunton. (What’s a geology adventure without food?).

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Back to the island! Sharing data in paradise

Crawling through traffic on the George Washington Bridge in the Bronx was a lot less stressful last week without the ~5 tons of geological equipment we towed behind our vehicle in June. My advisor’s PhD student, two other undergraduates from our lab, and I rode north last week to join colleagues from an interdisciplinary project. As we drove north we crossed major East Coast rivers and coastal systems including the Potomac River, Susquehanna River, Delaware River, Hudson River, Connecticut River, and the Merrimack River (part of my field site!). Each of these rivers carries varying amounts of sediment either suspended in the water column or carried as bed load. Slowly, but surely, these rivers deposit this sediment at the coastline where it contributes to existing coastal features such as barrier islands, marshes, or tidal flats.

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Searching for the Sands of Time

Each of the cores I collected in June brings to light new information about historical changes in sediment input to my field site from the Merrimack River. Each grain of sediment began its journey somewhere in the extensive Merrimack River watershed, from the rugged, rocky White Mountains of New Hampshire to the eroding, glacially-carved landscapes of the Merrimack Valley and northern Massachusetts. Together, the grains begin to form distinct layers, based on their size, shape, mineral composition, and organic content, among other characteristics. These characteristics track changes discernible by sight and touch, old but useful tools of sedimentology.

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Dispatches from the Field: Massachusetts, Maine, and the Merrimack

Hello from Gloucester Point, Virginia!

I am already missing the cooler weather of New England, having just returned to muggy Virginia from two very intense, very rewarding weeks of field work with my project advisors Dr. Christopher J. Hein and Claudia Shuman, a PhD student at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science.

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