Coastal Geology and Hydrogeology

The coastal regions of the U.S. are among the nation’s most economically productive and ecologically diverse areas.  Based on 2010 U.S. Census data, coastal counties account for 39% of the nation’s population and include many of the largest cities and fastest growing counties.  Natural resources are necessary to support these populations and a reliable quantity and quality of freshwater may be the most important resource at risk due to overpumping of coastal aquifers and the risk of saltwater intrusion.  In addition, coastal erosion associated with sea level rise poses a significant risk to the built infrastructure of communities.


Ground penetrating radar surveys (GPR) were performed at the Wormsloe State Historic Site to establish the hydrogeological framework for the site.

Research projects on the Georgia Coast have included efforts at St. Catherines Island, Jekyll Island, St. Simons Island, Cumberland Island, Tybee Island, and at the Wormsloe State Historic Site on the Isle of Hope.  Shoreline dynamics in response to sea level rise and disruptions to sediment supply have been evaluated at St. Catherines Island using remote sensing, ground collected GPS data, vibracore data and GIS tools.  St. Catherines Island is Georgia’s most erosional barrier island and the undeveloped island offers the opportunity to study coastal erosion on an unhardened shoreline.  Recent research efforts at St. Catherines Island have included a geospatial analysis of the impacts of Hurricane Matthew on the nearshore environments and shoreline of the island.  At Wormsloe, anthropogenic impacts due to the construction of the Diamond Causeway to the intertidal Jones Narrows Marsh system were studied using remote sensing, vibracore data and GIS analysis.  Groundwater systems at St. Catherines Island and Wormsloe have been studied to evaluate the timing, source and magnitude of saltwater intrusion into the surficial aquifer and Upper Floridan Aquifer systems.  In collaboration with Georgia Southern University, a surficial aquifer monitoring well network (19 wells) exists at St. Catherines Island and is being utilized to evaluate temporal and spatial variances in groundwater chemistry.  A surficial aquifer monitoring well network was established at Wormsloe in 2015-2016 and currently provides real-time data to monitor saltwater intrusion and the interactions of surface water and groundwater at the site.


Students using Geoprobe technology to install shallow groundwater monitoring wells at the Wormsloe State Historic Site.

Undergraduate and graduate students have been an integral component of our research in coastal geology and hydrogeology.  Students have published and presented the results of research at numerous conferences including the annual meeting of the Geological Society of America (GSA), Southeastern Section of the Geological Society of America (SEGSA), and Georgia State Undergraduate Research Conference (GSURC).


GSU students Tim Herold (left) and Diana Snyder (right) present their research “Shoreline Dynamics of Jekyll Island, Georgia” at the 2016 Southeastern Section of the Geological Society of America (SEGSA) conference.

Current research is examining the susceptibility of on-site wastewater treatment systems in Bryan County to continued sea level rise (NOAA funding).  Research regarding saltwater intrusion at Wormsloe will be enhanced through the expansion of the existing monitoring well network in 2017-2018, and efforts will continue to develop the hydrologic and environmental history of Wormsloe.  To date, research on the Georgia Coast has been facilitated by funding from the Wormsloe Foundation, the St. Catherines Island Foundation, the Georgia Sea Grant Program, and NOAA.


GSU students Chelsea Bush (left), Diana Snyder (center) and Lori Farley (right) record geochemical data and collect water samples to evaluate interactions of surface water and groundwater at the Wormsloe State Historic Site.

Selected Publications

Dobson, Steven, 2017.  “A Geospatial Analysis: Impacts of Hurricane Matthew, St. Catherines Island, Georgia.” Thesis, Georgia State University.

Braun, E.C., Meyer, B.K., Deocampo, D.M., and Kiage, L.M., 2017.  A 3000 yr Paleostorm Record from St. Catherines Island, Georgia. Journal of Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science,

Meyer, B.K., Vance, R.K., Bishop, G.A., and Dai, D., 2016.  Shoreline Dynamics and Environmental Change Under the Modern Marine Transgression: St. Catherines Island, Georgia, USAEnvironmental Earth Sciences, 75:36; DOI 10.1007/s12665-015-4780-1.

Hughes, Jessie, “An Evaluation of Late Holocene Sea Level Rise and Anthropogenic Impacts; Jones Narrows Marsh, Chatham County, Georgia.” Thesis, Georgia State University.

Meyer, B.K., Carter, B.D., Jackson, C.W., Bush, D.M., Chowns, T.M., Bartholomew, M.J., Rich, F.J., and Renner, J., 2016.  Rising Sea Level On The Georgia Coast.  Georgia Geological Society Guidebooks, Volume 35, Number 1, 88 p.

Meyer, B.K., Vance, R.K., Bishop, G.A., and Deocampo, D.M., 2015.  Origin and Dynamics of Nearshore Wetlands: Central Georgia Bight, USA.  Wetlands Journal, Vol. 35:pp 247–261; DOI 10.1007/s13157-014-0615-1.

Reichard, J.S., Nelson, B.R., Meyer, B.K., and Vance, R.K., 2014.  Evidence for Saltwater Intrusion in the Upper Floridan Aquifer on St. Catherines Island, Georgia.  Southeastern Geology, Volume 50, No. 3, May 2014, p. 109-122.

Rich, F.J., Newsom, L.A., Meyer, B.K., and Vance, R.K., 2014.  Radiocarbon Dates and the Genesis of Phytogenic Near-shore Sediments on St. Catherines Island, Georgia.  Environmental Earth Sciences, Volume 72, Issue 8, pp 2985-2997.

Rich, F.J., Bishop, G.A., Pirkle, F.L., and Meyer, B.K. , 2014.  Field Guide to the Geology of Cumberland Island, Southeastern Geological Society, Fieldguide #62, 49 p.

Meyer, B.K., Vance, R.K., and Bishop, G.A., 2014  Rising Seas: Addressing Eroding Habitats on St. Catherines Island, Georgia (U.S.A.).  The State of the World’s Sea Turtles Report, Volume IX.