Leaving ISGS- Headed to Michigan State University

In August 2019, I will be leaving my position at the Illinois State Geological Survey and joining the faculty at Michigan State University as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Geography, Environment, and Spatial Sciences.  My lab at MSU will continue to focus on coastal geomorphology research in the Great Lakes, but will also be starting some cool new projects along the Chesapeake Bay in Virginia and the Outer Banks of North Carolina.  I am currently recruiting MS and PhD students to begin graduate studies at MSU in the Fall of 2020.  I have a fully-funded RA available on a National Science Foundation project examining coastal geomorphic response to winter shore ice in the Great Lakes.  I also have a graduate student position available to study coastal response to an engineering with nature project in Lake Michigan.  Please email a statement of interest and your CV to theuerk5@msu.edu.

Kickoff Meeting for COASTS Site Coordinators 2018

Happy Wednesday everyone! Today we met with many beach managers along the Illinois North Shore participating in the COASTS (Citizens Observing and Surveying The Shoreline) volunteer program. The morning began with a brief presentation on our dynamic coasts, last year’s field season data and overview, and how the program can benefit these communities. Then, we headed out in the chilly April weather to show the community managers how the data is collected, pictured below. We finished off with a lively conversation on the specific goals and needs of each community. The COASTS team is excited about working and interacting with the communities. If you are interested on learning more about this program feel free to browse the COASTS site.

Wetland carbon storage in the Great Lakes

This past fall my research group began a study to investigate the role of erosion and overwash in determining whether freshwater wetlands in the Great Lakes are carbon sinks or sources.  Katie Braun, a student in my research group, is tackling a portion of this work for her senior thesis at Northwestern University.  Katie is exploring whether a fringing wetland along Lake Michigan is presently functioning as a carbon sink or source and what the likely future of carbon storage is at this site.  Her study site is at Illinois Beach State Park, which is located approximately 40 miles north of Chicago, and is a high priority conservation area given that it contains the last remaining stretches of natural shoreline within the Chicago metropolitan region.  Katie is using a combination of sedimentological analyses, geomorphic change mapping, and numerical modeling to quantify carbon storage at this wetland and evaluate the impacts of geomorphic change on the present and future carbon budget.  In October, we collected a series of cores along the wetland to quantify the amount of carbon stored in the wetland as well as its age.  Throughout the fall, we have used an RTK-GPS to map shoreline change as well as the extent of lake overwash.  Katie will be busy this winter analyzing core samples and refining the numerical model used to derive present and future carbon budgets.  Stay tuned for more updates on the progress of this research!

Below are some photos from our field work this fall:

View of our wetland study site at Illinois Beach State Park.  Erosion of wetland peat can be seen at the shoreline.  The sand body in the left of the image is a washover deposit that has buried a portion of the wetland.

Katie collecting a core of the wetland.  This particular core will be used to determine the age and composition of the wetland material that is eroding into Lake Michigan.

The fruits of our labor.  Wetland cores awaiting sampling.


The Great Lakes Coastal Geology Group now has a website!  We will be posting information and findings from our work along the Lake Michigan shoreline and beyond.  Check out the other pages on this site for more information on what we do and who we are.