PNNL’s Coastal Sciences Division develops and deploys coastal science and engineering capabilities to empower a scientific approach to energy, environment, and security. Our capabilities include Earth system science modeling, ultratrace detection, comprehensive numerical modeling, development and testing of marine energy technologies, environmental monitoring, and water quality and biogeochemical process modeling. The division has one group, Coastal Research, which is made up of 6 technical teams. The teams include coastal ecosystems, marine energy, marine technology, environmental biochemistry, bioenergy, and coastal modeling.

Coastal Ecosystems

Our researchers study coastal ecosystems that are critical for aquatic organisms, plants, and human communities. This science contributes to decision-making related to protecting and restoring shorelines and aquatic habitats such as flood plains, marshes, and seagrasses. 
Coastal science

Marine Energy

We are making discoveries that enable sustainable energy, including renewable electricity and biofuels. We collect and share information about the environmental effects and technology development of offshore wind and marine renewable energy through our online database Tethys. Our researchers also develop novel modeling methods to characterize the potential of wave and tidal power and identify promising new applications for marine energy as an alternative source of power.

Marine Technology

Our team analyzes and uses technology in marine and coastal environments to conduct research related to environmental monitoring, characterization, biotoxins, and biotechnology. We are studying how to develop and apply marine energy. PNNL also uses remote sensing  and autonomous vehicles, such as gliders, to monitor the ocean for potential threats.

Environmental Biogeochemistry

We develop analytical techniques for detecting trace elements. These techniques and measurements help us understand biogeochemical processes and the potential effects of renewable ocean energy. Our researchers are also advancing technology that extracts minerals from seawater, addresses water quality, and monitors pollutants.


Our researchers study microalgal biofuels and identify fast-growing algae strains. We examine how nutrient recycling can contribute to producing sustainable biofuels. We also investigate how seaweed can be used to generate biofuels and to accumulate critical minerals from seawater.

Coastal Modeling

Our team uses numerical models and observations to solve problems related to natural hazards like hurricanes and to help protect critical infrastructure along the nation’s coastlines. By studying the physical and biological impacts of climate and extreme events, we’re addressing issues that affect energy and natural resources.

Offshore Wind

Our team supports national offshore wind deployment goals. We study and model the climate and dynamics of the shelf and coastal ocean, including surface waves, tides, and currents in the context of climate change, energy harvesting, and resilience. Our researchers lead efforts to understand potential environmental effects of offshore wind, develop technologies to autonomously measure wind/wildlife interactions, improve resource characterization, and develop platforms for stakeholder information sharing.  
buoy wind