May 6, 2024
Staff Accomplishment

Five PNNL Earth Scientists Participated in a Department of Energy Workshop on Coastal Systems

Workshop focused on identifying research priorities for the nation’s South Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico 

View of ocean along Clearwater Beach with hotels and buildings along the shoreline

Earth scientists from Pacific Northwest National Laboratory participated in a Department of Energy workshop focused on identifying and addressing knowledge gaps in the nation's Southeast coastal region.

Five Earth scientists from Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) recently attended an invitation-only Department of Energy-sponsored workshop on coastal systems. 

The workshop, “Critical Knowledge Gaps for Coastal Systems: Research Priorities for the U.S. South Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico,” was held March 26–27 in Gaithersburg, Maryland. PNNL’s invited participants included Xinguan Chen, Nicholas Ward, Vanessa Garayburu-Caruso, Kaizad Patel, and Jianqiu Zheng

Zheng called participating in the workshop a rewarding and thought-provoking experience, which included interactive sessions focused on identifying critical knowledge gaps and research priorities for coastal systems of the nation’s Southeast region.

“Personally, I find it to be an exceptional learning opportunity,” said Zheng. “Many attendees are leaders within collaborative research networks, bringing subject-specific expertise and diverse perspectives to the table.” 

Timothy Scheibe, Director of Program Development for PNNL’s Earth and Biological Sciences Directorate, highlighted the Department of Energy’s Office of Biological and Environmental Research (BER) program and its significant strides in coastal research for the Great Lakes and Mid-Atlantic regions.  

He noted that this workshop is a crucial step towards identifying and addressing knowledge gaps in another major coastal region not yet explored in BER’s research portfolio.

“Their active participation and leadership in the workshop not only brought fresh ideas and perspectives to the table but also provided valuable insights into potential research opportunities,” said Scheibe. “Drawing from their expertise and experience in watershed and coastal projects at PNNL, they were able to highlight exciting research gaps that could pave the way for future breakthroughs. Their contributions underscore PNNL’s commitment to advancing knowledge in this critical field.” 

In addition to participating in the workshop, Chen served as one of the workshop chairs. She worked with three other co-chairs and the program managers to assemble the workshop team and set a workshop structure, agenda, and meeting materials to achieve workshop goals through an interdisciplinary approach to coastal research. Chen helped to moderate plenary sessions and participated in a panel to introduce Department of Energy (DOE) modeling capabilities for coastal sciences. 

Ward gave a plenary presentation on using large-scale ecosystem manipulations to understand ecosystem responses to disturbances. Ward spoke about a coastal forest flood manipulation experiment called TEMPEST, which was developed as part of Coastal Observations, Mechanisms, and Predictions Across Systems and Scales-Field, Measurements, and Experiments, a two-year pilot study focused on developing a predictive understanding of the shift between aerobic and anaerobic conditions at both saltwater and freshwater terrestrial–aquatic interfaces. TEMPEST is designed to understand how flooding changes coastal ecosystem structure and function.  

In addition to presenting, Chen and Ward are working with the writing team on the workshop report. Ward is coauthoring a chapter on the multiple and compounding disturbances that Southeastern coastal environments are exposed to.