Contact Us
Department of Geology
Bryn Mawr College
101 North Merion Avenue
Bryn Mawr, PA 19010
Phone: (610) 526-7392
Fax: (610) 526-5086

Geomorphology/Quaternary Geology

Dr. Don Barber
Marine Sedimentologist

Coastal Geology

don barber on coast in galicia, spain

Students working with Prof. Barber conduct research in coastal processes, geomorphology and stratigraphy.  Much of my coastal work pertains to the geomorphological responses of coastlines to sea level rise, and the stability of coastal landforms (barrier islands, beaches and dunes). See our Geomorphology and Coastal Geology pages for more info.

New Jersey
An initial project that pertains to coastal management has been completed on the southern New Jersey shore.  This MA thesis research project by Kristen Bollman employed repeated, high-resolution, 3-D topographic surveys at six beach sites in Stone Harbor and Avalon, NJ.  By quantifying the short-term beach dynamics at these sites, Bollman evaluated the degree to which groins influence the overall sand budget along beaches. The particular management question addressed by this work is whether groin fields should remain in place after beach nourishment has been adopted as a response to erosion.  Bollman's study suggested that groins offer no benefit, and possibly may accelerate offshore sand loss compared with ungroined beaches.

In a smaller study during spring 2005, Brenda Zera (AB Geology '05) revisited the question addressed by Bollman by mapping variability of the nourished beach at Stone Harbor using GPS and Emery beach profiles.

North Carolina

surveying atop sand dune

Research in coastal North Carolina focuses on the development of barrier shorelines that presently lie within Pamlico Sound or are landward of the present shoreline. A student project by Kira Diaz Tushman measured topography, vegetation and sedimentology to compare dunes in area grazed by cows with ungrazed dunes along the same beach (see 2002 abstract).  

Ongoing projects will use a differentially corrected Trimble® global positioning system to map the present outline of the North Bay barrier and a series of raised shoreline features on Cedar Island, NC; the modern shoreline will be compared with older air photos and charts in ArcGIS™. The internal stratigraphy of the North Bay barrier and the emerged ridge and swales is being investigated with ground-penetrating radar and shallow cores.


An ongoing project begun during 2004-05 by Stephanie Nebel (AB Geology '05) and worked on during summer 2005 by Abby Watson (BMC '08) involved collection, data processing and comparative analysis of offshore seismic profiles and onshore GPR surveys along Bogue and Shackleford Banks. Stephanie presented part of her work as a poster at the March 2005 NE GSA Section Meeting in Saratoga Springs, NY (see abstract). Abby's part of the project has been to analyze sediments collected in vibracores offhshore Shackleford Banks at sites identified by Nebel's geophysical studies. Download the .pdf file and view slides from a talk co-authored with Nebel that Barber gave at the Earth System Processes 2 meeting in Calgary during August 2005. Note that the core analyses are still underway, so this talk focuses mostly on the geophysics.

Shallow Subsurface Geophysical Mapping
I have supervised and/or carried out a series of shallow subsurface stratigraphic investigations using the Bryn Mawr Geology Dept's ground-penetrating radar. This work has included:

  • whether GPR can locate buried stream channels responsible for differential subsidence problems in urban Philadelphia (the short answer is no);
  • how one can quickly discern ground vs. air reflections and ascertain subsurface penetration depths in the field (see Friedman and Barber abstract, 2001);
  • evaluating potential Bronze Age tomb sites in Greece; and
  • mapping the depth and infilling of a stormwater-runoff control pond on the Bryn Mawr campus.