Early Career Spotlight

Daniel Ciarletta

Tell us about yourself

My name’s Daniel Ciarletta, and I study coastal geology/geomorphology. I was born and raised in New Jersey, did my undergraduate at Florida Tech in Oceanography, worked for several years as a marine scientist for Alpine Ocean Seismic Survey, and then went for an MS in Geoscience at Montclair State University, where I’m now currently finishing a PhD in Environmental Management.

What is your research about?

My most recent research involves using the morphology of beach ridge and swale systems to quantify past changes in shoreline sediment supply. This is a combined field/remote sensing/modeling project, and relies on stratigraphic investigation, LiDAR grids, historical aerials, and a cross-shore model that I built using MATLAB. One of my goals is to infer the sensitivity of real world coastal systems to changes in forcing, for example, from increasing rate of sea level rise.

What excites you about your research?

I never thought I would be a modeler, but coming into this role as someone with a lot of field and ship time is actually very fulfilling. I can look at a landscape and wonder why it looks the way it does, and then I can go to the model and try to explore it—tell me that’s not exciting?

What broader importance does your research have for society?

Directly or indirectly, we’re making adjustments to the flow of sediment through the coastal zone without necessarily knowing the long-term implications. This research helps us to understand the magnitude of these actions, allowing us to (hopefully) manage for longer time horizons in both natural and developed coastal systems.

What inspired you to pursue a career in Earth science?

When I was in undergrad I thought I wanted a career in computer hardware engineering, but that was boring. I liked hiking and generally had a fascination with natural systems, and I after I took a few lower level courses in oceanography and geology I kept having more questions than answers—I was sold.

What are you looking to do after you complete your PhD?

I like the freedom to ask questions, attempting to find the answers. I discovered that I also really like to teach. Ideally, I’d like to find someplace where I can do both.

Given unlimited funding and access to resources, what is your dream project that you would pursue?

No constraints? I would curate a repository of high resolution multispectral imagery and LiDAR taken at monthly intervals across all the world’s coasts—then I can do any project I want. Even just the U.S. East Coast would be pretty nice.

What else do you do? Any hobbies or interests outside of work?

I try to hike every weekend. Lately, I’ve been attempting illustration and getting back into creative writing.

Learn more about Daniel here: http://geojaunt.blogspot.com/

If you know of an early career EPSP researcher (PhD student or Postdoc) who deserves to have a spotlight on them, please contact Hima Hassenruck-Gudipati (himahg@utexas.edu).


Back on dry land after a day of coring in the marsh around Parramore Island, Virginia.