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Department of Physical Sciences

The Physical Oceanography Group within the Department of Physical Sciences focuses on water motion in estuaries and on the continental shelf along with the associated transport of buoyancy, suspended particles, nutrients and pollutants. Physical Oceanography at VIMS is extremely interdisciplinary, with ongoing collaboration with chemists and geologists within our department, biologists and resource managers elsewhere at VIMS, and scientists from various disciplines through the country and around the world. We have ongoing field projects in the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries as well as on the shelves of the east and west coasts of the U.S., and we are applying three dimensional numerical models to study circulation and associated dissolved and particulate transport in estuarine and shelf environments. Cooperative research projects are underway with scientists from countries including Korea, The Netherlands, Taiwan, and the U.K. Some of the major focal areas of scientists in our group include:

  • wind- and buoyancy-driven circulation on the inner shelf;
  • effects of stratification on the bottom boundary layer;
  • the dynamics of estuarine fronts;
  • three dimensional modeling of estuarine sediment transport and water quality,;
  • the association of characteristic density- and tidally-driven estuarine circulation patterns with the fate and transport of pollutants;
  • wind wave evolution in estuaries and on shelves;
  • and the physics governing sediment transport on shelves and in the surf zone.
  • Funding sources of ongoing research include the Commonwealth of Virginia, the National Science Foundation, the Office of Naval Research, Sea Grant, and the Army Corps of Engineers.

    The Geological Oceanography Group within the Department of Physical Sciences conducts local and international research on a variety of both disciplinary and interdisciplinary topics. Research sites span the full range of marine/nearshore environments from the coastal plain and river floodplains, through the estuaries and across the margin to the base of the continental rise. Although much of our effort addresses questions in Chesapeake Bay and surrounding areas, federal funding supports research in many other areas in the U.S. and around the world, which generates generic knowledge about geological phenomena in the coastal ocean. Some of the major focal areas include:

    • sediment transport and boundary layer processes;
    • sediment flux and fate;
    • seabed dynamics;
    • shoreline erosion / sand resource issues;
    • and Quarternary stratigraphic development.

    Interdisciplinary research efforts involve faculty from the Departments of Biological Sciences, Environmental Sciences and Resource Management and Policy, as well as collegues from other institutions worldwide.

    Research is conducted with funding from a variety of federal, state and private sources including: National Science Foundation, Office of Naval Research, Sea Grant, and Minerals Management Service.

    The Chemical Oceanography/Marine Geochemistry Group within the Department of Physical Sciences at VIMS is comprised of a diverse faculty with numerous cross-disciplinary interests. Work is currently being concocted across groundwater, riverine, estuarine, continental margin and open ocean environments on a variety of projects intended to help us better understand the cycling of organic materials (both natural and anthropogenic) and both major and trace elements.

    Individual faculty and students with the Chemical Oceanography/Geochemistry group collaborate actively not only with other groups in the Department of Physical Sciences, but also with the Departments of Biology, Environmental Sciences, Fisheries Science and Resource Management and Policy. There is also increasing interaction with several of the departments and with the newly established Environmental Sciences and Policy cluster on the main campus of the College of William and Mary, located 20 minutes away. Examples of current and on-going projects within the Chemical Oceanography/Geochemistry group include:

  • cycling and diagenesis of dissolved and particulate organic matter in estuaries and open ocean settings;
  • physio-chemical exchanges of organic contaminants across various aqueous and particle interfaces in groundwaters and estuaries;
  • and sorptive/desorptive processes controlling the movement and availability of trace metals and organic contaminants in sediment matrices.
  • Funding for research conducted in the Chemical Oceanography/Geochemistry comes from a variety of sources including the National Science Foundation, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Department of Energy, and Office of Naval Research, as well as from the Commonwealth of Virginia for a number of on-going programs related to the marine and environmental sciences.