[Coral-List] Post-doctoral opportunity: sea-level rise and climate change impacts to atolls

Storlazzi, Curt cstorlazzi at usgs.gov
Mon Jan 5 14:28:40 EST 2015

Dear Colleagues,

We are pleased to announce a USGS Mendenhall Post-doctoral Program (
http://geology.usgs.gov/postdoc/) opportunity to investigate sea-level rise
and climate change impacts to low-lying U.S. atolls.

This USGS-funded competitive 2-year research program provides a US federal
GS-12 base salary plus operational funds (e.g., fieldwork, instrumentation,
meetings, publications). The application deadline for this program is *17
February 2015*.

Some background information and the position description are attached
below. We would greatly appreciate it if you could forward this to any
graduating PhD students or recently-awarded PhDs (in the last 5 years).

Have a wonderful start to 2015!


*USGS Mendenhall Post-doctoral Researcher Opportunity #15-16:*

*The Impact Sea-Level Rise, Storms, and Tsunamis on Low-lying US Atolls*

Observations (e.g., Church and White, 2006) show that global sea level is
rising at a rate almost double the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate
Change’s (IPCC) 2001 report and recent estimates (e.g., Pfeffer et al.,
2008) that include rise due to thermal expansion and ice melting show a
most likely sea level increase by the end of the century of up to 2.0 m.
Sea-level rise is particularly critical for unconsolidated low-lying coral
atoll islets, many of which have maximum elevations of less than 4 m above
present sea level (Woodroffe, 2008; Dickinson, 2009). Subaerial atoll
islets are Holocene features that support 2000 year-old cultures, yet the
amount of land and water available for human habitation, water and food
sources, and ecosystems is limited and extremely vulnerable to inundation
from sea-level rise and waves (Fletcher and Richmond, 2010). Large changes
in sea level relative to the elevation of atoll islets threaten terrestrial
ecosystems (Hatfield et al., 2012) and infrastructure (Hoeke et al., 2013)
by storm wave-induced overwash and inundation by tsunamis. In addition,
storm and tsunami events can contaminate the thin freshwater lens
underlying islets with saltwater (Terry and Falkland, 2010), making the
islands unsuitable for agriculture and/or habitation.

Changes in sea level may also affect the sustainability of tidewater
ecosystems, and rising sea levels may exacerbate the impacts of storm and
tsunami waves on adjacent coral reefs that buffer the atoll islets from
waves (Storlazzi et al., 2011). For example, storm wave- and tsunami-driven
overwash events on US-managed Pacific atolls in 2008, 2009, and 2011 ruined
freshwater drinking supplies, killed crops, destroyed infrastructure, and
killed hundreds of thousands of federally-protected species. At the same
time, our understanding of how short (wind waves) and longer waves
(infragravity and tsunami waves) propagate over complex bathymetry and
topography that has high hydrodynamic roughness due to the presence of
bedrock outcrops and/or corals is limited, and thus our ability to
accurately model overwash and inundation in these settings is poor.

We invite postdoctoral scientists to propose research projects to determine
the impact of accelerated sea-level rise on the critical hydrodynamic and
geologic processes that affect atoll islets. The Mendenhall Fellow will
develop and test innovative means for measuring and predicting rates of
change to atolls using state-of-the-art process-response models, including
impacts of storms and tsunamis, and assimilations of disparate data types
such as lidar- and satellite-derived high-resolution topography and
bathymetry, coastal geomorphology, and historic and real-time oceanographic
and meteorologic measurements. We envision that this research could be
accomplished using a number of different approaches. One approach could be
analysis of existing remote sensing, geologic, and tectonic data on all US
atolls to feed a Bayesian model. Another approach would be fieldwork on an
atoll with a logistical base (i.e., Midway, Wake, Johnston, and Palmyra
NWRs) to acquire topographic, bathymetric, and geologic information
for a process-based
numerical model to be tested on different atoll islet configurations (islet
cross-sectional area, islet proximity to atoll rim, windward or leeward
islet location on atoll, etc.). Specific tools that could be employed
include digital grain-size imaging systems, geophysical subsurface mapping
tools, and high-resolution acoustic and laser mapping systems to understand
current geologic processes and coupled hydrodynamic-sediment
transport-geomorphic numerical models for the longer-term goal of
predicting how future climate change, sea level rise, and extreme wave
events may impact atoll systems. These predictions will form the basis for
determining which DOI- or DOD-managed atolls are most at risk and provide
the foundation for quantifying the impact of sea level rise on specific
atolls under US jurisdiction.

The postdoctoral fellow will have ample opportunities for interdisciplinary
collaborations in geology, oceanography, physics, hydrology, statistics,
spatial data analyses, numerical modeling, remote sensing, and engineering.
She/he will be able to develop partnerships with researchers from different
USGS science areas, other federal agencies (USDA, USFWS, NOAA, USACE), and
academia. The postdoctoral researcher will be at the forefront of
interdisciplinary research and will participate in significantly improving
our understanding of the impact of climate change and sea-level rise on the
sustainability of atoll systems.

*Proposed Duty Station*: Santa Cruz, CA

*Areas of Ph.D.*: Geology, oceanography, computer science, civil
engineering, coastal engineering or related fields (candidates holding a
Ph.D. in other disciplines but with knowledge and skills relevant to the
Research Opportunity may be considered).

*Qualifications*: Applicants must meet one of the following
qualifications: Research
<http://geology.usgs.gov/postdoc/2009/qualifications.html#res_geol>, Research
Oceanographer, Research Hydrologist, Research Geographer, or Civil Engineer
type of research is performed by those who have backgrounds for the
occupations stated above. However, other titles may be applicable depending
on the applicant's background, education, and research proposal. The final
classification of the position will be made by the USGS Human Resources

*Research Advisor(s)*:

Curt Storlazzi,* (*831) 460-7521, cstorlazzi at usgs.gov

Bruce Jaffe, (831) 460-7542, *bjaffe at usgs.gov <bjaffe at usgs.gov>*

Guy Gelfenbaum, (831) 460-7417, ggelfenbaum at usgs.gov

Edwin Elias, *edwin.elias at deltares.nl <edwin.elias at deltares.nl>*

Ap van Dongeren, *ap.vandongeren at deltares.nl <ap.vandongeren at deltares.nl>*

*Human Resources Office Contact:*

Susan Fong-Young, (916) 278-9402, sfyoung at usgs.gov

Curt Storlazzi, Ph.D.
U.S. Geological Survey
Pacific Coastal and Marine Science Center
400 Natural Bridges Drive
Santa Cruz, CA 95060
(831) 460-7521 phone
(831) 427-4748 fax

Staff web page:
Pacific Coral Reefs:
*http://coralreefs.wr.usgs.gov/ <http://coralreefs.wr.usgs.gov/>*
Sea-level Rise and Pacific Atolls:

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