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Pacific Coastal & Marine Science Center


Center News, April 2014

Briefing for U.S. Ambassador in Republic of the Marshall Islands on Sea-Level Rise and Climate Change Impacts on Pacific Island Atolls

Photo of overwash damage on Majuro; photo by UH-SeaGrant.USGS research geologist Curt Storlazzi will brief Ambassador Armbruster and his staff at the U.S. Embassy on Majuro in the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI) on May 8–9, 2014. Storlazzi will explain the project he leads, “The Impact of Sea-Level Rise and Climate Change on Department of Defense Installations on Atolls in the Pacific Ocean,” as well as other USGS efforts to understand climate-change and sea-level-rise impacts on atolls. RMI consists mainly of low-lying atolls already threatened by sea-level rise and changing climate. In March 2014, a combination of unusually high tides and waves flooded the capital for the third time in a year and led RMI’s president to declare a state of emergency. For more information, contact Curt Storlazzi, 831-460-7521.

Continued Investigation of Sea-Level-Rise and Climate-Change Impacts on Pacific Ocean Atolls

Kwajalein fieldwork: Photo of Curt Storlazzi installing wave/tide gauge mounts on the reef flat off Roi-Namur.USGS scientists from the Pacific Coastal and Marine Science Center will conduct fieldwork on Kwajalein Atoll in the Republic of the Marshall Islands with collaborators from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) April 20–May 7, 2014. Scientists from NOAA’s National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science (NCCOS) and Center for Coastal Fisheries and Habitat Research (CCFHR) will join the USGS researchers to gather data on bathymetry, topography, tides, waves, run-up, and the resulting wave-driven inundation of the atoll islands. The work is part of a project funded by the Department of Defense (DoD) to assess the impacts of sea-level rise and climate change on Pacific atolls that house DoD installations. The findings will also be useful to Pacific island nations already threatened by sea-level rise and changing climate. For more information, contact Curt Storlazzi, 831-460-7521.


2014 Archive

March Center News

USGS a Key Contributor to Tsunami Preparedness Exercises

Map showing maximum current speeds for the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.As part of National Tsunami Preparedness Week, March 23 to 29, the San Francisco [California] Department of Emergency Management is conducting a 3-day functional exercise to practice the city’s tsunami alert and warning procedures, response capabilities, and recovery operations. USGS marine geophysicist Stephanie Ross is representing the USGS at this exercise, which is based on the SAFRR Tsunami Scenario developed by USGS scientists and collaborators and released September 2013. NOAA's annual PACIFEX tsunami-warning exercise on March 27 is also based on the SAFRR Tsunami Scenario. Some of the organizations and communities holding PACIFEX-related exercises include Washington State and California's San Mateo, Marin, and Orange Counties. The National Institutes of Health will hold a recovery-phase exercise on April 7. For more information, contact Stephanie Ross, 650-329-5326.

USGS Participates in Public Tsunami Preparedness Walks

Volunteers with the San Francisco Neighborhood Emergency Response Team walk away from Ocean Beach in San Francisco, California, during the 2013 inaugural SF Tsunami Walk.As part of National Tsunami Preparedness Week, March 23 to 29, many coastal communities are holding Tsunami Walks, starting at the coast and walking uphill out of the expected inundation zone. Stephanie Ross, USGS marine geophysicist and coordinator of the SAFRR Tsunami Scenario, will represent the USGS at the San Francisco Tsunami Walk on Saturday, March 29, which begins at 10:30 a.m. on the Marina Green (at Marina and Scott). During this free public event (see event web page), participants will simulate an actual tsunami evacuation, walking away from San Francisco Bay toward higher ground (the Marina Branch Library at Chestnut and Webster). In California, other tsunami walks are being held in Crescent City, Muir Beach, Huntington Beach, Seal Beach, and San Diego. For more information, contact Stephanie Ross,, 650-329-5326.

USGS Paleontologists Will Participate in “BioBlitz” Species Inventory

Photomicrograph of the benthic foraminifera Haynesina germanica--Ehrenberg, 1840--found in San Francisco Bay, CA.USGS paleontologists Mary McGann and Scott Starratt will participate in an all-taxa species inventory on March 28–29, 2014, in California’s Golden Gate National Recreation Area. During the “BioBlitz”—sponsored by the National Geographic Society and the National Park Service—teams of volunteers led by expert scientists will find and identify as many species as possible within a 24-hour period. McGann (Pacific Coastal and Marine Science Center) and Starratt (Volcano Hazards Program) will sift through San Francisco Bay-floor sediment to identify foraminifera (McGann) and diatoms (Starratt), one-celled organisms that make shells of calcium carbonate and silica, respectively. These shells can provide information about present ecosystem health and past climate and oceanographic conditions. One BioBlitz goal is to create broader impacts through public outreach, science education, and media coverage of this scientific endeavor. For more information, contact Mary McGann, 650-329-4979.

Studying Marsh Sediment and Drought in San Francisco Bay

Photograph of USGS crew recovering instruments from San Francisco Bay.Jessie Lacy and five other scientists from the USGS Pacific Coastal and Marine Science Center completed fieldwork to measure sediment delivery to marshes near China Camp State Park on San Pablo Bay, the northern extension of San Francisco Bay. From February 25–28, they recovered instruments that measured variations in suspended-sediment concentration in time and space, as well as current speed and direction, to determine transport of sediment. Because of the California drought emergency, they redeployed three instruments for longer term monitoring of salinity and suspended-sediment concentrations in San Pablo Bay. Results of the marsh studies will be used to improve models of marsh response to sea-level rise. The redeployed instruments will measure conditions during this serious drought, which could increase salinity and decrease suspended-sediment concentrations, owing to reduced freshwater flows. For more information contact Jessie Lacy, 831-460-7520.

USGS research geophysicist contacted about tsunami potential of the Cascadia Subduction Zone

Location of epicenter of earthquake offshore of northern California on March 9, 2014.Eric Geist was contacted regarding how tsunamis generated by the Cascadia Subduction Zone (off northern California, Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia) could affect the U.S. west coast. The questions followed a magnitude-6.8 earthquake that occurred offshore of northern California on March 9, 2014 (local time). The earthquake occurred in the Gorda subplate, a tectonic plate that is subducting beneath the Pacific Northwest at a rate of about 23 millimeters/year. Los Angeles Times staff writer Rong-Gong “Ron” Lin II interviewed Geist, and KTVU meteorologist Mark Tamayo contacted him for information (no interview). For more information, contact Eric Geist,, 650-329-5457.

USGS scientist provides tsunami animations for public broadcasting stories on Oregon earthquake and tsunami threats

Screen shot of an animation of a hypothetical tsunami triggered by a magnitude-9 earthquake in the Cascadia Subduction Zone.Eric Geist was contacted by Ed Jahn, reporter and producer of Oregon Public Broadcasting’s OPB NEWS/Oregon Field Guide, for animations of a hypothetical tsunami triggered by a magnitude-9 earthquake in the Cascadia Subduction Zone (off northern California, Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia). Jahn saw Geist’s original tsunami animations in an Oregon Department of Geology and Mineral Industries (DOGAMI) educational video. Geist revised the animations for Jahn, who will use them in several stories on the Cascadia Subduction Zone earthquake and tsunami threat to Oregon. For more information, contact Eric Geist,, 650-329-5457. [See larger version of graphic.]

March Sound Waves Newsletter Highlights

Deep-Sea Corals Record Human Impact on Watershed Quality in the Mississippi River Basin

USGS Scientist Examines Foraminifera Collected from Remote Clipperton Island

Deepwater Canyon Study Among Projects Given Prestigious DOI Partners in Conservation Award


February Center News

Effects of dam removal on coastal and marine ecosystems

Photo of the estuarine environment near the mouth of the Elwha River.USGS ecologist and Mendenhall post-doc Melissa Foley continues to study how the removal of two dams on the Elwha River in Washington state is affecting coastal and marine ecosystems. Foley is working with biologists for the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe to understand how changes in physical factors such as salinity, temperature, and turbidity affect biological productivity in estuaries near the river mouth, which have historically served as nursery habitat for juvenile salmon. In the nearshore, Foley is working with other USGS scientists to identify factors causing the loss of subtidal algae around the mouth of the Elwha River. Foley is measuring light availability, sediment deposition, and scouring frequency to determine if one or a combination of these factors is driving the marked decrease in algal cover since dam removal began in 2011. For more information, contact Melissa Foley, 831-460-7564. Visit the "USGS Science to Support the Elwha River Restoration Project" web site at

USGS Scientists Map Snohomish Delta, Washington

3-D image of the Snohomish Delta from swath bathymetry and acoustic backscatter data.To inform managers tasked with ecosystem restoration, salmon recovery, flood-hazard mitigation, and climate-change planning in Puget Sound, scientists from the Pacific Coastal and Marine Science Center are mapping the Snohomish Delta where data either do not exist or were last collected in the 1960s. Swath bathymetry and acoustic backscatter data will be merged with recent LiDAR data to generate high-resolution (1-meter) onshore-offshore digital-elevation and substrate models to characterize important salmon habitats, sediment budgets, and transport processes, and the effects of artificial levees. Many Pacific Northwest river-delta wetlands have lost habitat due to levees that focus stream flow and sediment offshore, leaving wetlands starved for sediment and vulnerable to sea-level rise while fragmenting nearshore seagrass meadows—both essential habitats for endangered salmon species. The data will provide important boundary conditions for hydrodynamic modeling. For more information, contact Eric Grossman,, 206-526-2529.

Groundwater Studies on Kwajalein Atoll

High-tide at a groundwater sampling site on Roi Namur atoll, November 2013.Peter Swarzenski of the USGS Pacific Coastal and Marine Science Center will continue studies of the coastal aquifer of Roi Namur Island, Kwajalein Atoll, February 23–March 3, 2014. Swarzenski is investigating underground freshwater and saltwater using geochemical and geophysical techniques, including trace metal, nutrient, and carbon geochemistry; radon isotope analysis; piezometry; thermal conductivity; and electrical resistivity. This work is part of a joint study for the Department of Defense, Strategic Environmental Research and Development Program (SERDP) by USGS, NOAA, and the University of Hawaii, to assess impacts of sea-level rise and storm-wave inundation on infrastructure and freshwater under various sea-level rise and climate scenarios. DOD will use the findings to develop climate-change adaptation plans for infrastructure and water resources. The findings also will be useful to Pacific island nations threatened by sea-level rise and climate change. For more information contact Peter Swarzenski,, 831-460-7529.


January Sound Waves Newsletter Highlights

Natural Versus Human Impacts on Marine Ecosystems in Hood Canal

Special Issue of Marine Geology Focuses on San Francisco Bay Coastal System

Michael E. Field Honored by U.S. Coral Reef Task Force

January Center News

Crown of thorns sea star, from the American Samoa National Park Service web site.Threats to Coral Reefs in American Samoa

USGS geologist Curt Storlazzi traveled to the National Park of American Samoa in mid-January 2014 to help the National Park Service address threats to coral reefs on the north side of the island of Tutuila. Threats include pollution caused by historical land-use practices, climate change (coral bleaching has occurred), outbreaks of crown-of-thorns sea stars (pictured here) that can kill coral reefs, and overfishing of grazers that suppress algal overgrowth caused by land-based pollution. Storlazzi also coordinated with academic, NOAA, and EPA scientists and American Samoa officials on research needs for the US Coral Reef Task Force priority study area at Faga'alu on the south side of Tutuila, where excessive land-based pollution threatens reefs. For more information, contact Curt Storlazzi,, 831-460-7521.

USGS Among Recipients of Prestigious DOI Partners in Conservation Award

Photograph of Nancy Prouty collecting water from the Niskin bottles on the CTD after deployment.The multiagency project “Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) Atlantic Deepwater Canyons” is a recipient of the 2013 U.S. Department of the Interior’s Partners in Conservation Award. This study investigated the ecology of deepwater canyons off the U.S. mid-Atlantic coast—pathways for nutrients, sediments, and pollutants from the continental shelf to the deep sea about which little was previously known. Participants came from 17 organizations, including USGS, BOEM, NOAA, WHOI, several universities, private firms, and the North Carolina Museum of Natural Science. Principal USGS participants are Colleen Charles, Amanda Demopoulos, Cheryl Morrison, Christina Kellogg, and Nancy Prouty. Out of many nominations, only 20 partnerships were recognized in 2013 from all nine bureaus of DOI. The Secretary of the Interior presented the awards January 16, 2014, in Washington, D.C. For more information, contact Nancy Prouty,, 831-460-7526.


Sound Waves Newsletter

Thumbnail image from news story.Cover Story:
Decade of Fire Island Research Available

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