Research

Our current projects take place in two primary areas: the Himalayan rivers and deltas of South Asia and the mountainous desert coasts of northern Peru. In South Asia our research centers on the country of Bangladesh and its dominant feature, the Ganges-Brahmaputra river delta – this system drains the Earth’s highest mountain range, transports the largest sediment load that forms the world’s biggest delta, and serves as home to the most densely populated nation and largest coastal mangrove system. It is an amazing region – truly, a ‘Land of Superlatives’!

Within this complex and dynamic system we are addressing a variety of topics:

  • how Quaternary climate change and monsoon variability has affected delta evolution;
  • understanding geological controls on the occurrence and distribution of arsenic-contaminated groundwater, in collaboration with geochemists and hydrologists;
  • the controls of coastal sediment dynamics as a control on how the delta will response to sea-level rise, varying river discharge, and increasing human activities;
  • how tectonics and fluvial processes interact to define delta evolution and river behavior.

In coastal Peru we are collaborating with Professor Tom Dillehay, an archaeologist from Vanderbilt’s Department of Anthropology. The project focuses on a pre-ceramic archaeological site that was active from about 8000 to 3000 years ago, preserving an incredible 5000 years of human and environmental history at a single site.

  • we have been working to reconstruct the area’s environmental conditions based on the geological record of riverine and coastal sediments.
  • the goal is to understand how major cultural shifts at the archaeological site may be linked with environmental change, including the onset of El Niño floods, droughts, and several tsunami events.

Teaching                                    TeachingResearchStudentsPublications

My courses generally focus on interactions between land, ocean, and climate and the development of continental margin settings from rivers to deltas, coasts, and the shelf. An overarching goal of these courses is to understand the interrelatedness of Earth system components – how they interact, the consequence of feedbacks, and the resulting patterns of global change that have resulted through Earth history.

EES-103: Oceanography – An integrated survey of the origin and development of the world’s ocean basins, the interaction between oceans, land, and atmosphere that defines global climate, the control of ocean circulation by wind stress and heat and salt transfer, and the ocean processes that determine the variety, abundance, and distribution of life in the oceans.

EES-230: Sedimentology – This course covers the production of sediment through weathering of mountain landscapes, their transport as mass movements and by surface-water flow, and the accumulation of this material in various depositional landscapes from deltas and coasts to the continental shelf, slope, and deep sea.

EES 390x: Source to Sink – An integrated systems-scale view on the production, transport, and deposition of sediment between mountain source areas and deep-sea basins: weathering, climate, and tectonic feedbacks; fluvial transport and storage; and continental margin development and processes.

EES 390x: Marine Geosystems – Land-ocean and ocean-atmosphere interactions: sediment transport, continental margin morphology and evolution, mass and energy transfer, biogeochemical cycling, climate systems.

EES 390x: Paleoclimatology – Methods and principles of reconstructing Earth’s past climates and its history of change: stable isotopes, ice cores, stalagmites, radionuclide dating, marine microfossils, pollen records, glacial history.

EES 390x: TIES: Water and Social Justice in Bangladesh – A transdisciplinary investigation of water resources and water-related hazards in the world’s most densely populated country. Issues of clean-water access, groundwater extraction, flooding and drainage, and land erosion are considered in the context the natural and social sciences and their human impacts and possible solutions. (co-taught with Jonathan Gilligan and Brooke Ackerly [Political Sci.])

What Students Do TeachingResearchStudentsPublications

One of the primary tools used in our research is radioisotope geochronology, which makes use of sediment-bound radionuclides to reconstruct patterns of accretion and sediment dynamics. This suite of nuclides – including 7Be, 234Th, 137Cs, and 210Pb – encompass timescales from months to decades and are delivered via atmospheric, terrestrial, and marine pathways, thereby allowing a broad range of questions to be addressed. The radionuclides are measured by gamma-decay spectrometry in Vanderbilt’s Sediments Lab. In addition to radioisotope techniques, other methods used in our study of the sedimentary record include coring and seismic-reflection profiling. The Sediments Lab also supports a Geotek high-resolution core logger with magnetic susceptibility, natural gamma attenuation, and high-resolution digital camera used for the continuous downcore measurement of physical sediment properties. Our work employs geochemical approaches as well, particularly using elemental and isotopic fingerprints to assess the provenance of sediments from different source areas. We have recently purchased a new handheld X-ray Fluorescence (XRF) instruments to make in-situ measures of elemental concentrations in rocks and sediments.

Figure 2

Recent graduate students have conducted a range of projects based on these research programs. For M.S. students, such sedimentary research is appropriate for careers in environmental consulting, environmental law, science writing, and science teaching. At the Ph.D. level, students will become prepared for careers in college teaching, academic research, the petroleum industry, and government agencies (e.g., USGS, EPA). Graduate students working on foreign projects will have the opportunity to travel overseas and spend many weeks in the field. For a career, the questions being addressed at our two field areas are new, exciting, and provide important contributions to the earth sciences and human-related environmental issues. The experience in a foreign nation and the relevance to human issues can also open doors with international consulting firms and non-governmental agencies.

Figure 3

Current Student Advisees

Ryan Sincavage (PhD) 2013-present. Thesis: TBD

Jennifer Pickering (PhD) 2012-present. Thesis: TBD

Leslie Wallace-Auerbach (MS) 2011-present. Thesis: Relative sea level and impacts of Cyclone Aila on natural and embanked landscapes in the Ganges-Brahmaputra tidal delta plain

Lauren Williams (MS) 2011-present. Thesis: River behavior and fluvial stratigraphy along a tectonically active thrust front: Meghna River valley, Bangladesh

Thomas Hartzog (MS) 2010-2013. Thesis: Record and origin of gravels-sized sediment in the Brahmaputra river valley

Chris Tasich (MS) 2010-2013. Thesis: Interactions between surface water and groundwater in the tidally dominated deltaplain of Bangladesh (co-advised with G. Hornberger)

Recent Student Advisees

Jennifer Pickering (MS) graduated 2013; currently Ph.D. student at Vanderbilt University. Thesis: Holocene record of channel avulsion at the Brahmaputra-Jamuna avulsion node

Kimberly Rogers (PhD) graduated 2012; currently Post-doctoral Researcher, INSTAAR, University of Colorado, Boulder. Dissertation: Sedimentation patterns and transport pathways linking river mouth to remote depocenters in the Ganges-Brahmaputra Delta, Bangladesh.

Rachel Beavins Tracy (MS) graduated 2011; presently consultant with ERM. Thesis: Lagoonal sediments as a proxy for Holocene climate change at Huaca Prieta, north coastal Peru.

Penny Youngs Paolo (PhD at Stony Brook): graduated 2011; currently college instructor. Dissertation: Provenance and Weathering of Holocene Ganges-Brahmaputra Sediments: Applications of Sr Geochemistry to Late Quaternary Delta Evolution.

Beth Weinman (PhD) graduated 2010; presently a tenure-track Assistant Professor, California State University, Fresno. Dissertation: The Evolution of aquifers and arsenic in Asia: A Study of the fluvio-deltaic processes leading to aquifer formation, arsenic cycling, and heterogeneity in Bangladesh, Vietnam, and Nepal.

Steven Braun (undergraduate research): graduated 2010, presently M.S. student at University of Houston. Research: Sediment Wave Initiation: Insights from the Bay of Bengal, Bangladesh.

Mohammad ‘Apu’ Ullah (M.S.) graduated 2010; presently a PhD student at University of Houston. Thesis: Provenance analysis of Late Quaternary sediments from the Ganges-Brahmaputra delta, Bangladesh.

Sarah Krentz (M.S.) graduated 2009; presently a lecturer at Middle Tennessee State University. Thesis: Evidence for a Tsunami Event in the New York metropolitan Region ~2300 yr BP: Constraints on Origins, Processes, and Effects.

Michael Ramirez (undergraduate Honors) graduated 2009; presently Ph.D. student at Tulane University. Research: Holocene history of northern coastal Peru as recorded at Rio Chicama.

Russell Pate: graduated 2008; presently a 3rd mate and Lieutenant in U.S. NOAA Corps. Thesis: Deep-borehole investigation of Quaternary fluviodeltaic sedimentation in the central and western deltaplain of Bangladesh.

Alexander Kolker (PhD) graduated 2005; presently a tenure-track Assistant Professor with the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium. Dissertation: Response of Long Island’s coastal wetlands to environmental change.

Current Grant Funding

ONR-MURI-N00014-11-1-0683, Environmental stress and human migration in a low-lying developing nation: A comparison of co-evolving natural and human landscapes in the physically and culturally diverse context of Bangladesh. Lead PI with Jonathan Gilligan, John Ayers, David Furbish, George Hornberger at VU EES, Brooke Ackerly at VU Political Science, Katharine Donato at VU Sociology, Mark Abkowitz at VU Environmental Engineering, and Chris Small, Mike Steckler, and Nano Seeber at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, Columbia U; 2011-2014 (option for 2015-2016).

NSF-OISE-0968354, PIRE: Life on a tectonically-active delta: Convergence of Earth science and geohazard research in Bangladesh with education and capacity building. Co-PI with Mike Steckler, Nano Seeber, Won-Young Kim at Columbia University, Chris Paola at Univ. of Minnesota, and Cecilia McHugh at CUNY-Queens College; 2010-2015.

Vanderbilt University Discovery Grant, Establishing direct links between climate, environmental change, and cultural transformations in early Peruvian civilization. PI, with Larisa DeSantis and Tom Dillehay; 2010-2012.

Recent Invited Presentations

2013, IAS International Conference on Fluvial Sedimentology, Leeds, UK. Piecing together Holocene stratigraphy of the Ganges-Brahmaputra delta using Sr sediment geochemistry: Implications for river behavior and delta evolution

2013, Joint Chapman/Penrose Conference on Coastal Processes and Environments under Sea-Level Rise and Changing Climate, Galveston, Texas. Diverse landscapes of the Ganges-Brahmaputra tidal delta plain: Implications for stability, resilience, and management.

2012, University of Kentucky, Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences. Piecing together the Ganges-Brahmaputra delta: Interacting roles of rivers, climate and tectonics.

2011, National Academy of Sciences, Indo-US Kavli Frontiers of Science Symposium, Irvine, CA. Future of Freshwater Supply – Himalayan Glacier and River Systems.

2009, International Symposium on Sediment Transport and Sedimentation, Kaohsiung, Taiwan. Piecing together the Ganges-Brahmaputra delta: Highlights from the last two decades of research.

2009, University of Washington, School of Oceanography and Quaternary Research Center. Piecing together a geochemical record of Late Quaternary avulsions, floods, and Himalayan erosion from the Ganges-Brahmaputra delta.

2008, International Symposium on Mountain Building and Climate-Tectonic Interaction, Dehra Dun, India. Himalayan climate, erosion, and river response: Quaternary records from Ganges-Brahmaputra delta.

2008, SEPM Research Conference – Clinoform Sedimentary Deposits. Rock Springs, Wyoming. Compound clinoform system of the Ganges-Brahmaputra delta.

Selected Publications TeachingResearchStudentsPublications

*Pickering, J.L., Goodbred, Jr., S.L., Reitz, M., *Hartzog, T.R., Mondal, D.R., and Hossain, Md.S., in press. Holocene channel avulsions inferred from the Late Quaternary sedimentary record of the Jamuna and Old Brahmaputra river valleys in the upper Bengal delta plain. Accepted to Geomorphology.

*Rogers, K.G., Goodbred, Jr., S.L., Mondal, D.R., 2013. Monsoon sedimentation on the ‘abandoned’ tide-influenced Ganges-Brahmaputra Delta plain. Estuarine, Coastal, and Shelf Science, 131: 297-309.

Cerrato, R., *LoCicero, P.V., Goodbred, Jr., S.L., 2013. Climate change and anthropogenic effects on mollusc assemblages in a shallow bar-built lagoonal system. Global Change Biology, 19: 3024-3036.

Dillehay, T.D., Bonavia, D., Goodbred, S., Pino, M., Vásquez, V., Tham, T.R., 2012. Late Pleistocene human occupation at Huaca Prieta, Peru, and its implications for early Pacific coastal adaptations. Quaternary Research, 77: 418-423.

Dillehay, T.D., Bonavia, D., Goodbred, S., Pino, M., Vásquez, V., Tham, T.R., and 22 others, 2012. Chronology, Mound-Building, and Environment at Huaca Prieta, Coastal Peru, from 13,700 to 4,000 years ago. Antiquity, 86: 48-70.

Goodbred, Jr., S.L. and Saito, Y., 2011. Tide-dominated Deltas. In Davis, R. and Dalyrymple, R.W. (eds.), Principles of Tidal Sedimentology. Springer Press, New York. p. 129-149. DOI: 10.1007/978-94-007-0123-6_7.

*Kolker, A.S., Kirwan, M., Goodbred, Jr., S.L., and Cochran, J.K., 2010. Global climate changes recorded in coastal wetland sediments: Empirical observation linked to theoretical predictions. Geophysical Research Letters, 37: L14706.

*Rogers, K.G., and Goodbred, Jr., S.L., 2010. Mass failures associated with the passage of a large tropical cyclone over the Swatch of No Ground submarine canyon (Bay of Bengal). Geology, 38:1051-1055.

*Kolker, A.S., Goodbred, Jr., S.L., Hameed, S., and Cochran, J.K., 2009. High-resolution records of the response of coastal systems to long-term and short-term sea level variability. Estuarine, Coastal, and Shelf Science, 84: 493-508.

*Pate, R.D., Goodbred, Jr., S.L., and Khan, S.R., 2009. Delta double-stack: Juxtaposed Holocene and Pleistocene sequences from the Bengal Basin, Bangladesh. Sedimentary Record, 7(3): 4-9.

*Weinman, B.A., Goodbred, Jr., S.L., Zheng, Y., Aziz, Z., Steckler, M., van Geen, A., Singhvi, A., and Nagar, Y.C., 2008. Contributions of floodplain stratigraphy and evolution to the spatial patterns of groundwater arsenic in Araihazar, Bangladesh. Geological Society of America Bulletin, 120: 1567–1580.

van Geen, A., Y. Zheng, S. Goodbred Jr., A. Horneman, Z. Aziz, Z. Cheng, M. Stute, B. Mailloux, B. Weinman*, M.A. Hoque, A.A. Seddique, M.S. Hossain, S.H. Chowdhury, and K. M. Ahmed. 2008. Flushing History as a Hydrogeological Control on the Regional Distribution of Arsenic in Shallow Groundwater of the Bengal Basin. Environmental Science and Technology, 42:2283–2288.

Goodbred, Jr., S.L., 2003. Response of the Ganges dispersal system to climate change: a source-to-sink view since the last interstade. Sedimentary Geology, 162:83-104.

Goodbred, Jr., S.L., Kuehl, S.A., Steckler, M., and Sarker, M.H., 2003. Controls on facies distribution and stratigraphic preservation in the Ganges-Brahmaputra delta sequence. Sedimentary Geology, 155:301-316.

Allison, M.A., Khan, S.R., Goodbred, Jr., S.L., and Kuehl, S.A., 2003. Stratigraphic evolution of the late Holocene Ganges-Brahmaputra lower delta plain. Sedimentary Geology, 155:317-342.

Goodbred, Jr., S.L., 2001. Ocean Margin Sediments. In Steele, J., Thorpe, S., and Turekian, K. (eds.), Encyclopedia of Ocean Sciences. Academic Press, p. 1965-1973.

Goodbred, Jr., S.L., Kuehl, S.A., 2000. Enormous Ganges-Brahmaputra sediment load during strengthened early Holocene monsoon. Geology, 28:1083-1086.

Goodbred, Jr., S.L., Kuehl, S.A., 2000. The significance of large sediment supply, active tectonism, and eustasy on margin sequence development: Late Quaternary stratigraphy and evolution of the Ganges-Brahmaputra delta. Sedimentary Geology, 133:227-248.

Goodbred, Jr., S.L., and Kuehl, S.A., 1999. Holocene and modern sediment budgets for the Ganges-Brahmaputra river: Evidence for highstand dispersal to floodplain, shelf, and deep-sea depocenters. Geology, 27:559-562.

Goodbred, Jr., S.L., and Kuehl, S.A., 1998. Floodplain processes in the Bengal Basin and the storage of Ganges-Brahmaputra river sediment: an accretion study using 137Cs and 210Pb geochronology. Sedimentary Geology, 121:239-258.

Goodbred, Jr., S.L., Wright, E.E., and Hine, A.C., 1998. Sea-level change and storm-surge deposition in a Late Holocene Florida salt marsh. Journal of Sedimentary Research, 68:240-252.

Goodbred, Jr., S.L., and Hine, A.C., 1995. Coastal storm deposition: Salt-marsh response to a severe extratropical storm, 1993, west-central Florida. Geology, 23:679-682.