What is your Research Focus?
I am a coastal ecogeomorphologist, which means that I study how coastlines change over time through the interactions between physics, biological communities, and geology. Specifically, I explore shallow intertidal areas like mudflats and marshes change in response to waves and how plants, microbes, and other living organisms alter this interaction. For example, I investigate how plant roots and leaves change wave dynamics and decrease coastal erosion in marsh systems. Much of my work, while it investigates basic scientific questions, can also be directly applied. For example, in my work I make predictions about coastline change to inform coastal protection and restoration plans.
I explore these questions using field techniques and numerical modeling. Out on the coast I deploy instruments that measure things like waves and currents and I look at the sediments, mud and sand, to determine things about the energy of the environment. Using this information I can develop large scale models that can give us insight into future processes that are not easy to look at in the field. One area of research that I’ve heavily invested in is understanding the role of biofilms on erosion.
Biofilms, otherwise called microphytobenthos or even pond scum, are algae on the surface of sediments. These microscopic organisms serve as a super glue and strengthen sediment and reduce erosion. Although biofilms are ubiquitous in coastal systems, they are poorly understood. Much of my work has pointed to that they play a significant role in coastal ecosystems in terms of not only the biology but also of the physics and landscape change.
Dr. Valentine doing field work in Willapa Bay, WA. Here she is trying to understand how sediment (sand and mud) move and interact with seagrasses and other critters.
What opportunities at the UW excite you?
I’m excited to work across disciplines on climate change solutions. I am really excited about the diversity of study and diversity of people at the University of Washington. Here at UW I’m engaged with the Program on Climate Change and Friday Harbor Labs and hope to expand my interdisciplinary work. I’m also particularly excited to be in the School of Oceanography where I have amazing colleagues, unmatched expertise in the field, and extensive field support. I am also excited about getting involved in understanding the coastal problems on the Washington Coast and within Puget Sound.