Coastal and Ocean

What is Coastal Engineering?

grad student on coastal engineering project

A broad engineering knowledge is required for the construction, protection, and maintenance of coastal communities and harbors, the development of offshore resources, and the preservation of estuarine and coastal areas. Generic engineering knowledge is crucial, despite the fact that construction of coastal and offshore facilities is highly dependent upon unique site-specific characteristics, such as local bathymetry, coastal topography and the offshore wave climate. Coastal engineers who work on the nearshore region face a wide variety of problems, including:

  • Prediction of long-term shoreline changes due to beach nourishment or presence of structures
  • Prediction of the forces a marine structure, including a levee, experiences over its lifetime
  • Prediction of wave-induced forces and currents on sediment redistribution and morphological change
  • Determination of the influence of sea level rise on coastal erosion and infrastructure
  • Determination of shallow water directional spectra and storm surge
  • Determination of correct breakwater design, including composition, shape, and orientation
  • Calculation of estuarine and harbor hydrodynamics and pollution transport
  • Wave breaking and air bubbles

Because of shoreline erosion from major storms and increasing sea level rise, pollution of estuaries, and the high cost of constructing and maintaining navigable channels and harbors, the demand for coastal research expertise is strong. The Center for Applied Coastal Research ( is responding to this demand through the development of science and engineering methodologies to support design strategies for the coastal and offshore industry.


Core Courses:

  • CIEG 639 – Ocean Fluid Dynamics OR MAST691 – Fluid Dynamics in Marine Systems
  • CIEG 672 – Water Wave Mechanics
  • MEEG 690 – Intermediate Engineering Mathematics

Suggested electives include:

  • CIEG 670 – Physics of Cohesive Sediment
  • CIEG 675 – Matlab for Engineering Analysis
  • CIEG 678 – Transport and Mixing Processes
  • CIEG 679 – Sediment Transport Mechanics
  • CIEG 680 – Coastal Processes
  • CIEG 681 – Water Wave Spectra
  • CIEG 682 – Nearshore Hydrodynamics
  • CIEG 684 – Numerical Methods for Coastal Modeling
  • CIEG 870 – Offshore Design
  • CIEG 871 – Coastal Structures
  • CIEG 872 – Advanced Water Wave Mechanics
  • MAST 655 – Geophysical Fluid Dynamics
  • MAST 681 – Remote Sensing of Environment
  • MAST 693 – Waves in Marine Environment
  • MAST 808 – Coastal/Estuarine Physical Dynamics
  • GEOG 670 – Geographic Information Systems and Science



Tian-Jian (Tom) Hsu – Fluid dynamics, sediment transport

James T. Kirby – Wave modeling, hydrodynamics

Nobuhisa Kobayashi – Sediment dynamics, coastal structures

Holly Michael – Environmental Fluid Dynamics, Geochemistry, Water Science, Coastal-Zone Management,  Environmental Interactions

Jack A. Puleo – Swash dynamics, field monitoring

Dr. Fengyan Shi – Numerical modeling of ocean waves, currents, and sediment transport

Carolyn Voter – Hydrologic modeling, water resources management, stormwater management, green infrastructure, urban ecohydrology, ecosystem services, surface-groundwater interactions, land-atmosphere interactions, sustainable and resilient communities, high throughput/performance computing

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Jack Puleo

UD coastal engineer Jack Puleo helps develop technology to find sunken munitions

A UD team studies sensor-laden surrogate munitions, devices that mimic explosive devices minus the explosive part, to glean an understanding of how real bombs embed along the coast.