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 Coastal Engineering




Mark R. Byrnes, Ph.D.

Senior Coastal Scientist
and Principal

Resume (pdf) | Publications


Link to Other Personnel: 

Areas of Expertise
•  Coastal and nearshore sediment transport
•  Processes affecting land loss in coastal and estuarine environments
•  Offshore sand resource evaluations
•  Impact of coastal structures on shoreline response
•  Physical environmental impact assessments for coastal environments
•  GIS/mapping for coastal environments
•  Numerical modeling of wave trans
•  Coastal change assessments and sediment budgets

1988 Ph.D., Oceanography, Old Dominion University
1978 B.A., Earth Science, Millersville University

Dr. Byrnes is a Principal Coastal Scientist at Applied Coastal Research and Engineering, Inc. (Applied Coastal). For the past 28 years, he has been a Principal Investigator/Program Manager on more than 80 coastal and nearshore process studies as a Research Scientist at the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center, Coastal and Hydraulics Laboratory (formerly the Coastal Engineering Research Center); Coastal Geology Section Chief for the Louisiana Geological Survey; Research Professor at the Coastal Studies Institute, Louisiana State University; Senior Coastal Scientist at Aubrey Consulting, Inc.; and Principal Coastal Scientist at Applied Coastal.  The emphasis for most studies has been on regional coastal change and geomorphic evolution of nearshore sedimentary deposits (shoreline and bathymetric change), physical environmental impact assessments for coastal and estuarine wetlands, sediment budget evaluations, shoreline restoration strategies, wetland loss delineation and classification, wave transformation and sediment transport, offshore sand resource assessments, and geologic framework of coastal deposits. He has authored more than 90 publications in these research areas.

Dr. Byrnes has been responsible for managing and conducting numerous projects focused on coastal sedimentation processes and regional response of beaches, inlets, and estuaries to incident wave and current processes.  Projects include Potential Physical Environmental Impact of Oil and Gas Operations on Wetland Habitat in Coastal Louisiana; Shoreline Compilation and Change Assessment for the Louisiana Barrier Island Comprehensive Monitoring Program; Sediment Budget Development and Coastal Processes Analyses Toward Implementation of the Barrier Island Restoration Program for Coastal Mississippi; Recommendations for Implementing the Louisiana Sediment Management Plan for Coastal Restoration; Quantifying Settlement/Subsidence Associated with Barrier Beach Restoration in Coastal Louisiana; Damage Assessment Associated with oiled Wetlands in the Northern Gulf of Mexico; Regional Sediment Management Assessment for the Northern Gulf of Mexico; Sediment Budget Evaluation for Mobile Bay; Channel Dredging Impacts on Shoreline Response at and Adjacent to Main Pass, Mobile Bay Entrance, Alabama; Environmental Survey of Identified Sand Resource Sites Offshore Alabama, Central East Florida, North Carolina, New Jersey, and New York; Study of the Environmental Impacts of Offshore Sand Mining in Massachusetts Bay; Physical Environmental Impacts of Pipeline Construction and Operation for the Mardi Gras Pipeline, Barataria Basin, Louisiana; Rockefeller Refuge Gulf Shoreline Stabilization: Coastal Geology and Processes Analyses; Assessment of Beach Response to a Segmented Breakwater System: Southwest Louisiana Coast; Feasibility of Barrier Shoreline Restoration in Coastal Louisiana-Coastal Geology, Geomorphology, and Physical Processes; Coastal Change Assessment for Brevard County, FL; Numerical Modeling Evaluation of the Cumulative Physical Effects of Offshore Sand Dredging for Beach Nourishment; Inlet Sediment Transport Patterns at Grays Harbor, WA and Development of an Entrance Sediment Budget; Regional Analysis of Sediment Transport and Dredged Material Disposal Patterns, Columbia River Mouth, Washington/Oregon, and Adjacent Shores; and Inlets Online: A Tutorial of Interpreting Aerial Photography for the Analysis of Sediment Transport Patterns and Geomorphic Change at Entrances. GIS/mapping tools and numerical modeling are integral components of the strategy used to address project objectives.  State-of-knowledge compilation and analysis techniques form the basis for providing innovative strategies for addressing complex coastal environmental issues.

Coastal Change Assessment and Sediment Budgets

          Since 1990, Dr. Byrnes has contracted with Federal agencies such as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to develop state-of-science methods for compiling and analyzing historical hydrographic and shoreline surveys for quantifying change in the coastal zone.  Detailed procedures were developed for compiling historical map data, where conversion from various cartographic parameters to a common coordinate system, map projection, ellipsoid, and datum is critical for accurately assessing change and associated potential measurement uncertainties.  These data represent the most basic and useful information for evaluating local and regional sediment transport dynamics and their influence on coastal evolution.  Applied Coastal personnel rely on hydrographic and shoreline surveys for basic and applied scientific research on sediment transport dynamics in the coastal zone (USGS and MMS projects). They also use shoreline and bathymetry data for developing sediment budgets, calibrating numerical models, and developing coastal structure design criteria (engineering projects).  Finally, these data are used for determining setback criteria for coastal construction (FEMA projects).  Hydrographic surveys provide data to quantify channel shoaling rates and supply bathymetric data for developing regional circulation and sediment transport numerical modeling grids. Dr. Byrnes also has applied these techniques in wetland environments for evaluating the causes of wetland change and the impact pipelines have on wetland loss, including scour associated with pipeline landfall from offshore sites. Dr. Byrnes has applied these procedures for developing coastal change data sets in support of litigation, for which he has served as an expert witness.

Channel and Shoal Dynamics at Inlets

         Since 1992, Dr. Byrnes has compiled and analyzed site-specific and regional bathymetric surveys to document the evolution of channels and shoals at entrances relative to navigation safety and environmental concerns. Many studies were funded under the USACE Inlets Research Program and specific USACE District projects to address shoal migration and sedimentation processes in navigation channels and environmental considerations associated with maintenance dredging activities.  Because sedimentation patterns and rates of change were determined by comparing sequential bathymetric and shoreline surveys, detailed procedures have been developed for compiling and analyzing data sets and associated potential measurement uncertainties.  Net sediment volume changes were quantified to develop inlet sediment budgets for predicting long-term system response to engineering activities.

Offshore Sand Resource Evaluations

         Over the past 22 years, Dr. Byrnes has conducted offshore sand resource evaluations for determining the sedimentary characteristics of deposits and associated potential environmental issues concerning sand mining on the Continental Shelf.  The geographic extent of these studies ranges from coastal Louisiana to offshore Massachusetts.  Dr. Byrnes’ primary interest is with the geological development of offshore shoals and the physical environmental effects of dredging activities in altering fluid and sediment transport patterns at potential borrow sites and along shorelines landward of resource areas.  Analyses rely on comparison of NOAA historical bathymetry and shoreline data sets and numerical modeling of waves and currents over variable bathymetry.  Analysis results supply information for policy decisions regarding potential dredging effects and for development of impact reports required under the National Environmental Policy Act in support of potential lease agreements.

Impact of Coastal Structures on Shoreline Change   

Since 1984, Dr. Byrnes has evaluated the impact of coastal structures on sediment transport dynamics and coastal evolution throughout the U.S.  He has been principal investigator on several studies assessing the influence of navigation and shore protection structures on beach response, including an evaluation of beach change to construction of 85 segmented breakwaters offshore southwestern Louisiana and an assessment of downdrift beach evolution in response to jetty construction at St. Marys Entrance, GA/FL; Grays Harbor and Columbia River, WA; Port Canaveral and Sebastian Inlet, FL; and Mattituck and Goldsmith Inlets, Southold, NY.  More recently, Dr. Byrnes has evaluated the impact of channel dredging on sand bypassing and littoral sediment transport processes for coastal Alabama and Mississippi, and for beaches on Long Island, NY. All projects relied on the application of GIS/mapping tools for accurate compilation and analysis of survey data sets. 


Geologic Framework Evaluation

          In a number of regional projects, Dr. Byrnes has conducted studies on the geologic evolution of coastal environments.  These deposits represent the framework upon which modern coastal change is occurring.  As such, he has devoted substantial time understanding the geological factors contributing to the evolution of nearshore, barrier beach, and estuarine deposits.  Sediment dynamics at the land-sea boundary exert substantial influence on the placement of structures relative to erosion trends.  Dr. Byrnes has conducted most of these studies with the U.S. Geological Survey and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Professional Societies

  • Coastal Education and Research Foundation (CERF)

  • American Geophysical Union (AGU)

  • Society for Sedimentary Geology (SEPM)

  • Geological Society of America (GSA)

  • Sigma Xi - The Scientific Research Society

  • Phi Kappa Phi

Professional Committees

  • Editorial Board, Geo-Marine Letters, 1993-2004

  • Editorial Board, Marine Models Online, 1996-1999

  • Associate Editor, Gulf of Mexico Science, 1996-1999

  • Gulf Coast Section SEPM Editor for Gulf Coast Association Geological Societies Conference, 1995

  • Technical Study Advisor for Coastal Wetland Planning, Protection, and Restoration Act (CWPPRA): Louisiana Barrier Shoreline Study, Louisiana Department of Natural Resources, October 1994 to March 1995

  • Public Policy Committee, Southeast GSA, 1991-1994

  • Workshop on the Future Needs of Users for Nautical Information, Working Group 3: Database Issues/Nautical Charts and Marine GIS, National Research Council, 1993

Coastal Change


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