Category Archives: Blog – people

The Brazilian branch of the Sediment Dynamics Group

Nils and family at Drumheller Fountain, UW-Seattle

Nils outside the UFPA campus in Braganca.








Nils and his family have returned to Bragança, but they’re keeping in touch! Here’s his news on settling back into life and work in Brazil:

After spending one very pleasant and fruitful year at UW-Seattle, I’m back home in Bragança, Brazil where I work at the UFPA campus. Right now, the challenges for science are bigger than ever in Brazil, but the scientific tools I brought from UW are really helping me through. One major challenge is the drastic decrease in public funding for research for all disciplines and levels. I’m overcoming this impediment by taking advantage of all the data collected along the lower Amazon River, Tapajós and Xingu tributaries, as well as along the Brazilian Amazon mangrove belt and at the Amazon shelf. All this data is a result of large cooperative fieldwork efforts during the last five years. This backlog assures us long hours of data analysis at the lab and even more time trying to understand and publish the results. We have been making good progress so far, with the recent publication of papers in journals such as Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science; Earth Surface, Processes and Landforms; and Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta. Several papers are under review as well and are coming out soon.

Stay tuned to our blog to hear more from Nils and get notifications for his upcoming publications!

Hello, Goodbye!

This September is a bittersweet time for the Sed Lab. Nils’ sabbatical is coming to an end. He and his family will return to Brazil at the end of the month. At the same time, Andrea and Hannah will head to Friday Harbor Labs to teach the biannual Marine Sedimentary Processes Research Apprenticeship for the fall. But it’s not all goodbyes, we are also welcoming Evan, a new graduate student! Evan is joining us after finishing his BA at Carleton College (check out his bio on the freshly updated People Page). He will be diving straight into lab work with Aaron, processing samples from the Ayeyarwady.

Stay tuned this fall to hear more from Nils as he continues to publish papers, from Chuck and Evan as they teach Rivers and Beaches, and from Andrea and Hannah in Friday Harbor as they guide students through research projects investigating the Elwha River.

The Sed Lab gathered on Nils’ porch this week for lab meeting.


A sabbatical year at UW-Seattle: Fun and Science!

I’m a Brazilian oceanographer on sabbatical at UW with the Sediment Dynamics Group. So, what does that mean? I’ve come with family to finally write several papers I’ve been postponing and to experience the Seattle culture!  When I came with wife and three kids from the equatorial Amazon area, I knew that acclimation to cold weather would be an issue. We arrived in the autumn, which was actually convenient to our adaptation. The long winter was a good opportunity to stay indoors and work on my papers. Now we have spring and summer to fully enjoy our cultural enrichment. The scientific excellence of the Sediment Dynamics Group at UW and the wonderful natural and cultural scene of the Seattle area (even with the marked seasonal variation) is giving us the perfect combination of experiences.

By: Nils Asp

Nils’ family at Green Lake enjoying Seattle in the rainy Autumn and beautiful Spring.

Visitors from Pathein University, Myanmar

This week the lab is hosting two colleagues from Pathein University in Myanmar, Dr. Cherry Aung and Dr. Thet Naing. Our lab is currently studying the Ayeyarwady River delta, and we completed our second field campaign in March. We work closely with professors and graduate students from Pathein University to collect data in the Bogale and Pathein Rivers. Dr. Aung and Dr. Naing are here to discuss this research and to learn about how we process sediment samples. We have also enjoyed showing them around Seattle and the Cascade Mountains during this lovely, warm spring weather!

One special moment during this visit was the flag raising. The Sediment Dynamics Group hallway is lined with the flags of the countries where we work. On Wednesday, the flag of Myanmar was officially hung up.

Cherry and Thet hang the Myanmar flag

A New School Year Brings A New Academic Family

Over this past school year, the sediment dynamics lab was filled with chatter from undergraduate research assistants, the thunk thunk thunk of the rotap, and hum of vacuum pumps. As the summer quarter rolled in, we had to say goodbye to those who graduated, and the lab has become unusually quiet. But, it won’t stay quiet for long. Our collaborator and friend from Brazil, Nils Asp, is joining us in Seattle soon for a year-long sabbatical and he is bringing his family! Here, we give a big thanks and shout out to our recent grads and welcome our new visitors.

Recent Graduates: Julia Wallace, Caity Fisher, Kaelyn Trapp, and Khadijah Homolka

The long hours and late nights y’all work in the lab can’t be appreciated enough! You all brought excitement and motivation to our group, and we wish you all the best in your future sea fairing adventures!

New Visitors: Nils, Luciane, and their three sons

We are so happy to have you with us! When we visit your family in Bragança, you welcome us with open arms and delicious homemade meals. Now we get to return the favor and show you all that Seattle has to offer.

Moving on to brighter, more humid pastures.

This fall, I will be moving to New Orleans to begin a master’s program in Earth and Environmental Sciences at Tulane University. I will work to chronicle the history of a barrier island complex in southern Louisiana, specifically looking at what sediment makes up the islands, why it’s there, where it came from, where it’s going and how fast, and further projecting if and how best to restore and prevent barrier island loss.

Captain DanThe opportunity to pursue a higher degree in the Earth Sciences is a direct result of what I have learned and the support I have felt during my tenure in the UW sediment dynamics lab. From my introduction, it was clear that this lab places great attention on both the understanding of general principles of field environments and the application of specific skills to better describe those environments.

Through this lab group and its facilities, I was able to learn to use equipment ranging from the mechanical giant box core to the wee mini van veen, and from a massive tripod mounted with ADVs, ADCPs, OBSs, cameras etc. to small individual pressure gauges. Whether it was collecting sediment cores or water column data, the opportunity to apply these new skills came in the form of field work in the Cu Lao Dung mangrove forest of Vietnam and at the mouth of the Elwha River on the Olympic Peninsula, WA.

With the sediment cores available back home, it was time to put the laboratory instruments to use to describe the grain size distributions and the radioisotope signatures. It was also time to start dusting off the old matlab skills and begin the analysis of the water column wave and suspended sediment data. All of these tasks would be daunting on their own, but with the ever-present and ever-patient cohort of professors, grad students, and undergrads available to discuss, advise, and console (as is often the case when learning matlab), the laborious tasks turned into exciting and educational exercises, each exercise directly adding to the skills that now fill out my sediment dynamic utility belt.

Many other useful and fun opportunities were made available to me through the open and nurturing nature of the lab group, such as assisting with a class field trip aboard the R/V Thompson, mucking through the muddy flats of Willipa Bay, and attending the 2014 AGU conference in San Francisco. One thing that stands out to me the most was the tremendous opportunity to take graduate level classes through the University in an effort to build up the breadth of my fundamental knowledge.

Application of the skills and knowledge base I gained here at the UW will be invaluable assets to the design, deployment, analysis, and publication of my upcoming Mississippi based project. I am eager and anxious for my upcoming challenges, but equally calm and relieved knowing the support, both academic and interpersonal, that will follow me.


Update from Kevin – Sed Lab work and grad school plans

My work in the UW Sediment Dynamics Lab began about 2 years ago after spending a quarter in a research apprenticeship with Andrea Ogston and Emily Eidam. Since then, I’ve spent most of my time doing grain-size analysis on sediment samples from the Mekong River in Vietnam, the Amazon River in Brazil, and the Elwha River in northwestern Washington. My experiences and knowledge gained through working in this lab have been incredible, and they set the stage very well for my upcoming transition to graduate school.

This summer I begin working towards my next big goal, a Master’s degree in Geology from Boston College. A whole new set of challenges awaits, and I have this lab job to thank for my preparedness and eagerness to tackle them. The time spent with the people in this lab group has taught me a lot about research and grad student life, as well as the best way to process a sediment sample containing both gravel and mud.

When I graduated from UW last spring, my options were wide open and I had no idea what I would end up doing. My plan was to not really have one. Chuck Nittrouer and Andrea Ogston kept me in their lab, providing me with a stable job over the past year. Also, Andrea put me in touch with my soon-to-be advisor/PI at Boston College, Gail Kineke. This group has provided me with much support, from writing letters of recommendation to introductory Matlab skills, and plenty of samples to analyze to keep me busy.

I am eager to take what I’ve learned in this lab and apply it during my next journey. Because of the nurturing environment this lab group has created, I feel very well prepared to become a graduate student.

“It’s not dirt, it’s sediment!”

– Kevin Simans

Kevin explores the bottom of former Lake Mills on the Elwha River (Washington State, Olympic Peninsula). The remains of Glines Canyon Dam can be seen in the background.

Kevin explores the bottom of former Lake Mills on the Elwha River (Washington State, Olympic Peninsula). The remains of Glines Canyon Dam can be seen in the background.

Congrats to Dr. Dan!

Congratulations to Dr. Dan Nowacki!  Dan turned in his dissertation, entitled “Sediment dynamics in tidal environments spanning a range of fluvial influence”, over the winter break.  His dissertation research covers a wide range of environments from the shallow tidal flats of Willapa Bay, to the intertidal channel environments along the tidal Amazon River, to the distributary channels of the Mekong tidal river and estuary.  The next step for Dan is a prestigious Mendenhall Postdoctoral Research Fellowship.  In March, he moves to Woods Hole, Massachusetts to join the USGS Coastal and Marine Science Center.  Congratulations, Dan, on a job well done!


Rip Hale, PhD

A big congratulations to Rip Hale, who successfully defended his dissertation on August 22! Rip’s dissertation was titled “Investigating sediment transport on the Waipaoa margin: linking in situ observations with preserved deposits.” Areas of focus included river-ocean coherence of sediment transport events, signal propagation in Poverty Bay, mechanics of wave-supported fluid muds, and identification of past event deposits through digital analyses. Rip is now headed to Vanderbilt University in Nashville for a post-doctoral position focusing on the Ganges-Brahmaputra River dispersal system. Way to go, Rip!!!