$350K NSF Grant Funds Study of Coastal Marsh Formation and Resilience

November 13, 2015

Tim Lucas, 919/613-8084, tdlucas@duke.edu

DURHAM, N.C. – The National Science Foundation has awarded $350,000 to a new Duke University-led initiative that aims to help scientists better understand the complex forces that shape when, where and how coastal marshes form and how resilient they are to environmental change.

“Our goal is to identify what determines the present, continental-scale extent and distribution of coastal marshes, and how sea-level rise, altered concentrations of suspended sediment and other environmental changes affect this,” says James B. Heffernan, assistant professor of ecosystem ecology and ecohydrology at Duke’s Nicholas School of the Environment.

Using spatial data on marsh extent, sediment cores to learn about marsh age, and new, broad scale models, the team will tests its hypothesis that marsh formation, distribution and resilience is governed by the combined effects of watershed sediment delivery, the shape and size of estuaries, and the feedbacks that operate within the marshes themselves.

Co-principal investigators on the new grant are Marco Marani, professor of ecohydrology at Duke’s Nicholas School; Brad Murray, professor of earth and ocean sciences at Duke’s Nicholas School; and Matthew Kirwan, assistant professor at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science at the College of William and Mary. Kirwan received his Ph.D. in earth and ocean sciences from Duke in 2006.
The three-year grant (#EAR-1530233) was awarded to Heffernan and his colleagues through NSF’s Geomorphology and Land Use Dynamics Program.