Born and raised in the Dirty South, I fell in love with everything from the Blue Ridge Mountains to the coastal plains and even the sentimental smell of thunderstorms and pluff mud. After majoring in geology at the College of Charleston and enjoying four wonderful years soaking up the sun while researching on Folly Beach, I headed to the rainy Pacific Northwest to get my PhD in oceanography from the University of Washington.
As a graduate student, I get to travel all around the world studying the life altering powers of… mud. Mud literally shapes our world, and one of the really cool things about mud is that it can move around and fairly rapidly change the landscape. Mud is extremely common along tropical coastlines (think tidal mud flats and muddy mangrove swamps), where over 1/5 of the global population lives, and most of them in developing countries. That means that there is a huge vulnerable population living on land made up of mud.
Now the scary thing is, we don’t fully understand how mud will move around and reshape the land in response to things like sea-level rise, or dam installation, or other human interferences, things that are happening faster today than we have ever seen them before. People living on tropical coastlines don’t know what their landscape will look like just a couple years from now.
This is where my research comes in. I have traveled to places like the Mekong Delta in Vietnam and to Brazilian tidal channels to study the past and present and to predict the future. I look deep into the ground to read the muddy sediment record like a story of how these muddy environments were shaped in the past. I also see how the rivers and oceans interact to move mud around the coastline today. And then I predict how these environments may look in the future. Read my blog to to find out more on how these environments are evolving and what all us coastal dwellers should prepare for in the coming years!
If you want to hear more about all kinds of science and science communication, you can also follow me on twitter @RobinMcLachlan.
Check out the video below for some more information about why I fell in love with the Mekong Delta and the scientific questions that drew me into studying coastal geology.
My CV can be found here. (updated June 2017)