People Directory : Andrew Ashton


Andrew Ashton

Associate Scientist w/ Tenure

Geology & Geophysics

Office Phone: +1 508 289 3751

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WHOI Mailing Address:

Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

266 Woods Hole Rd.

MS# 22

Woods Hole, MA 02543-1050


Duke University; Durham, North Carolina
Ph.D. Division of Earth & Ocean Sciences, 2005
Nicholas School of the Environment & Earth Sciences
Concentration in Nearshore Processes and Geomorphology
Certificate in Nonlinear and Complex Systems

Cornell University; Ithaca, New York Bachelor of Science, 1995
School of Civil and Environmental Engineering

Research Interests

Coastal geomorphology

Development of numerical and conceptual models of the formation and evolution of coastal sedimentary environments

Coastal response to climate change, sea-level rise, and anthropogenic activities

Evolution and formation of coastal barriers, deltas, spits, and carbonate environments

Application of ‘reduced complexity’ morphodynamic models to study earth-surface evolution

Research Statement

The coast is one of the Earth’s most dynamic and exciting environments. Yet even as the shore constantly changes, human development is increasingly drawn to this hazardous region. My research goal is to understand how coastal systems work, with a focus on developing fundamental understanding of the processes that sculpt the shore from decades to millennia—the timescales spanning human development to geologic formation. Using numerical modeling and quantitative analysis, combined with field data, I examine the processes and feedbacks that shape active coastal environments, including sandy coastlines, coastal barriers, river deltas, rocky coasts, and carbonate reefs and atolls. I study how coastal features are created and change due to waves, currents, and sea-level rise, while also including the influence of terrestrial inputs (rivers), biologic processes, and anthropogenic alteration.

By developing process-based understanding of how coastal features form and are reshaped, my research has revealed key process-based understanding of coastal dynamics. These findings improve both quantitative predictions of coastal change and conceptual models of landform formation, informing both coastal management strategies as well as sedimentologic and paleoclimatic interpretations, which otherwise may rely upon qualitative or inference-based models for interpretation of the environmental conditions that created a depositional environment. Looking towards the future decades and centuries, quantitative, process-based models will become increasingly necessary to project how coastal sedimentary systems will respond to historically unprecedented sea-level rise rates, wave climate changes, and human alteration, in particular the two-way coupling between natural and anthropogenic processes at the shoreline.