USGS - science for a changing world

Pacific Coastal and Marine Science Center

Featured Photos & Videos

September 2018

Synchronized mappers

USGS and Washington State Department of Ecology scientists are geared up and ready to start a topographic survey at the mouth of the Elwha River, using handheld computers and backpack-mounted GPS equipment. From left to right are Owen Warrick (USGS Volunteer), Jon Warrick (USGS), Andy Ritchie (USGS), Heather Weiner (WA State Dept. of Ecology), Diana McCandless (WA State Dept. of Ecology), Alice Henderson (WA State Dept. of Ecology), and Andrew Stevens (USGS).

Seven smiling people stand side-by-side holding hand-held computers in their left hands and wearing backpacks with equipment.

July 2018

The Long and Winding... River

A winding strip of rainbow colors shows the bathymetry (depth) of the bed of the Mokelumne River just above its confluence with the San Joaquin in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta east of San Francisco Bay. USGS scientists mapped the channel as part of a project to assess the impact of invasive aquatic vegetation on sediment movement in the Delta. Orange colors are shallowest areas; blue colors are deepest. Note sand waves (rippled texture) produced by strong currents in the deep stretch left of center. Aerial photo, USGS National Map.

View from the sky looking down on the land in shades of gray and a river with its depth represented in different colors.

May 2018

I spy with my little (eagle-) eye . . .

After a successful beach survey and installation of remote-sensing cameras on a nearby island, scientists Shawn Harrison and Andrew Stevens spotted this bald eagle near the mouth of the Skagit River, Washington.

Bald eagle sits atop a leafless tree, overlooking a marshy inlet with farmland in the distance.

February 2018

Groovy Science!

Giant grooves discovered on an earthquake fault offshore Costa Rica

Computer image of bedrock grooves (corrugations) derived from 3D seismic imaging offshore of Costa Rica. It shows the megathrust fault surface of the Cocos Plate diving beneath the Caribbean Plate, with the upper plate virtually removed. Some of the fault surface has long, straight corrugations; some appears more jumbled. Researchers stretched the image slightly to make the grooves easier to see. The view is roughly from Costa Rica looking offshore. Source: USGS and UC Santa Cruz.

Read more on our news page and
Read the article published online by Nature Geoscience

Computer graphic illustration in rainbow of colors shows the bumpy surface of the seafloor offshore of Costa Rica.

December 2017

Holy Smoke(r)s!

video footage of black smokers on a seafloor volcano

Length: 0:58
Footage courtesy of Schmidt Ocean Institute, ROV ROPOS
Video annotation and editing by Amy West [Transcript]

November 2017

A Current Immersion: Profile of USGS oceanographer Curt Storlazzi

Curt Storlazzi of the USGS explains how the water cycle pulled him into oceanography, and how his personal interests parallel his profession. [Transcript]

October 2017

Drone footage of the Mud Creek Slide along Big Sur coast, California, on July 19, 2017

Length: 1:00 min
Drone footage collected by Shawn Harrison.
View Transcript

USGS drone footage shows the slide from many angles. It points out buried and unburied parts of Highway 1, as well as new roads built across the slide for monitoring purposes.

Click to view the video or right-click to download and save the video file:
.mp4 1920x1080 (143.2 MB)
.mp4 1920x1080 (71.7 MB)
View the Transcript

August 2017

Mapping squadron: scientists survey a beach near the mouth of the Elwha River, Washington

Left to right: In July 2017 Tim Elfers (USGS), Hannah Drummond (WA State Dept. of Ecology), Heather Weiner (WA State Dept. of Ecology), Andrew Stevens (USGS), and Andy Ritchie (USGS) used handheld computers and backpack-mounted GPS equipment to record topography along a beach near the mouth of the Elwha River. Learn more, and watch our fieldwork slideshow!

Photograph of scientists walking on the beach with instrumentation to collect topography data.


May 2017

Eyes on the Coast—Using video imagery to study coastal change

Two video cameras atop the Dream Inn hotel in Santa Cruz, California, overlook the coast in northern Monterey Bay. Camera 1 looks eastward over Santa Cruz Main Beach and boardwalk, while camera 2 looks southward over Cowells Beach. Every half hour, both cameras shoot video for 10 minutes. Check out the latest images!

Snapshot from May 19, 2017, from camera two which looks southward over Cowells Beach in Santa Cruz, California.


April 2017

Hatching an Engineer—a profile of ocean engineer Gerry Hatcher

Filmed and produced by Amy West — See the Transcript

Also at:


January 2017

Atmospheric River Fills California Rivers with Water and Sediment

Photographic panorama showing the San Lorenzo river flowing wide and muddy into the ocean, past the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk.

An atmospheric river, or narrow band of moisture moving from the tropics to the higher latitudes, hit California in early January and brought the first heavy rains of 2017. While these storms help a drought-stricken state, the onslaught of rain triggers floods and mudslides, and fills rising rivers with sediment and debris. Here the San Lorenzo River flows full and muddy past the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. Photo by Andrew Stevens, USGS

November 2016

Breaking Down Reefs, Building Up Beaches

On the remote western coast of Australia lies a UNESCO World Heritage Site above and below the sea. Researchers from the U.S. Geological Survey and University of Western Australia convened here at Ningaloo Reef and Jurabi Coastal Reserve to embark on the most extensive study EVER done into how coral reefs shape our coasts. [Transcript]

Also at:


September 2016

Storms, erosion, and bears, oh my!

During a massive northwesterly storm in September 2016, a USGS team documenting coastal change on Barter Island, Alaska, watched car-sized chunks of permafrost bluffs fall into the ocean. Aside from flooding the runway and delaying their departure, the storm—with winds up to 50 mph pushing 6 to 10 foot seas—also eroded some of the offshore sandy barrier islands where 50 to 60 polar bears spend their late summers. The storm cut a small channel through one island—essentially splitting it into two—leaving just a strip of submerged land for the bears to walk across. A USGS time-lapse camera captured some bears at one of the USGS study sites on Barter Island—a gully the bears use to move from the beach to the bluff top.

See our USGS Coastal and Ocean Science Facebook page, for more photos and a short video!
Photo Album: Measuring Coastal Change... with Animals!
Video: Polar Bear "Walking on Water"

Learn more about how the USGS is studying climate change in the Arctic.

Three photographs from Barter Island, Alaska.

August 2016

Running Rivers—a profile of geologist Amy East


Also at:

June 2016

Cerulean damselfish darting around lettuce coral

Photograph taken underwater, showing lettuce coral with damselfish swimming around it.

Cerulean damselfish dart around lettuce coral off the Cape Range National Park along the Ningaloo Coast in Western Australia. USGS researchers combined forces with Australian colleagues in this UNESCO World Heritage Site to conduct the most extensive study of how erosion of reefs contribute sand to the beaches—a coast’s natural armor. With the threat of a rising sea and changes to the climate, understanding this connection can tell us how resilient the coast will be. Photo by Curt Storlazzi, USGS

April 2016

Sampling seawater off the coral reefs of west Maui

Photograph of scientists running an analysis on sampled seawater, at night.

Scientists from USGS offices in Santa Cruz, California, and St. Petersburg, Florida, sampled seawater off the coral reefs of west Maui in March 2016. Several times a day, they measured conditions such as acidity and nutrient levels to determine whether freshwater from land is seeping from the ocean floor and potentially harming corals. Left to right: Kim Yates and Nate Smiley of the St. Petersburg office. Photo by Nancy Prouty of the Santa Cruz office. [Larger version]

March 2016

Ocean monitoring

Photograph of scientist placing an ocean monitoring system on the floor of Maunalua Bay in Oahu.

Curt Storlazzi places an ocean monitoring system 65 feet down in Oʻahu’s Maunalua Bay during a summer of coral spawning. The device measures a myriad of properties: waves, currents, temperature, salinity, turbidity, all of which help USGS scientists understand what controls coral reef health. Photo by Tom Reiss, USGS. [Larger version]

February 2016

Chillin’ in Monterey Bay

Featured photo; read caption below.

After capturing imagery of the ocean bottom in Monterey Bay in 2014, USGS engineering technician Tim Elfer’s watercraft broke down on the way back to the Santa Cruz Harbor. Sitting still in a dry suit on a hot, 80° day, motivated Tim to plunge into cool water while waiting for a tow. Photo by Andrew Stevens, USGS. [Larger version]

January 2016

Drilling into permafrost on Alaska’s Arctic coast

Photograph of Bruce Richmond using a drill to sample the permafrost.

On remote Barter Island, Alaska, Bruce Richmond (right) and Cordell Johnson drill into 500-foot-thick permafrost using a handheld drill with a 2-inch drill bit—a challenging task! It can take 3 hours to drill nearly 20 feet down. They collect samples of the frozen ground to better understand how climate change is affecting permafrost thaw on Alaska’s Arctic coast. Photo by Peter Swarzenski, USGS. [Larger version]

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