Dr. Richard Miller

Organization: East Carolina University
Personal Biography: Richard L. Miller is a Professor in the Department of Geological Sciences and the Institute of Coastal Science and Policy at East Carolina University in Greenville, NC. Prior to August 2008, he worked for NASA at the Stennis Space Center where he served as a research oceanographer, Division Chief and Chief Scientist. Dr. Miller’s primary research focus is centered on the role that coastal environments play in global biogeochemical cycles. Through the use of Ocean Color remote sensing and bio-optical field measurements his research examines whether coastal margins, especially river-dominated coastal margins, are short or long-term repositories of carbon and terrestrially-derived materials such as nutrients, sediments, and particle-bound contaminants. As part of his research, Dr. Miller examines the coupling of terrestrial landscape and coastal aquatic processes. In particular, his research examines the mobilization, transport, transformation and fate of terrestrially-derived material within the coastal ocean. For most of his career he has been active in developing new technologies for making bio-optical measurements in dynamic coastal environments. He is a co-inventor of the Ultrapath, a highly sensitive, multiple pathlength liquid waveguide system for measuring CDOM absorption over a wide range of CDOM concentrations and has publication several publications that describe new technologies.


Lecture Topic: Examining our Dynamic Coasts
Almost everyone loves the coast, and why not, there are countless activities that one can enjoy while often bathed in refreshing sunshine and clear air such as swimming, fishing and boating. Globally, it is estimated that over 50% on the world’s population live within 100 km of a coast and that there has been over a 35% increase in coastal population since 1995. The average density of people in coastal regions is 3 times higher than the global average density. In addition to providing vital ecological services, coastal areas provide prized areas for habitation, recreation, shell and fin fisheries and are key components of many nations’ economy and national security. However, from a management perspective, coastal environments are often highly variable and complex. In-water constituents such as nutrients, suspended sediments, and chlorophyll a concentration can vary significantly over a broad spectrum of time and space scales. Rapid population growth and land-use change continue to exert pressure on coastal lands. Coastal environments are also very vulnerable to short-term (e.g., hurricanes) and long-term (e.g., sea-level rise) natural changes that can result in significant loss of life, economic loss, or changes in coastal ecosystem functioning. Hence, the dynamic nature, effects of human-induced change over time, and vulnerability of coastal areas make it difficult to effectively monitor and manage these important resources using traditional data collection technologies such as discrete monitoring stations and field surveys. In general, these approaches provide only a sparse network of data over limited time and space scales and generally are expensive and labor intensive. During this presentation, we will explore the use of remote sensing by emphasizing the application of observations from space-based instruments to address issues impacting coastal environments. The basic principles of remote sensing will be presented and described in the context of technology developments, important societal issues and future opportunities for the next generation of technologists, engineers, and Earth and social scientists. In addition, I will share my experiences as a NASA Oceanographer and a travel log of research excursions to coastal systems around the world.