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rpm1Ryan P. Mulligan

Assistant Professor

Department of Geological Sciences

and Institute for Coastal Science and Policy (ICSP)

391 Flanagan Building

East Carolina University

Greenville, NC 27858-4353

252-328-9406 office

252-328-4391 fax

EMAIL: mulliganr (at)




Ph.D.    Dalhousie University (Oceanography, 2008)
M.A.Sc. University of British Columbia (Coastal Engineering, 1999)
B.A.Sc. Queen’s University (Geological Engineering,1997)




Research Interests

I am a coastal oceanographer, with interests in the physical forces that cause changes to coastal regions and the ways in which coastal systems respond.  Coastal processes act over a range in time scales from seconds (like surface waves) to hundreds of years (like sea level rise), but often it is timescales of days (like hurricanes and storm events) over which major changes such as erosion occurs that affect human populations.  Coastal processes can also act over a wide range of spatial scales from sub-millimetre scale (like fluid turbulence) to thousands of kilometres (like tsunamis) and it is important to understand the interaction of many different processes to simulate and predict future changes to the coastal environment. 


I am particularly interested in surface waves, ocean currents, transport of water and sediments and contaminants, and changes in the geomorphology of the coastline and seabed. I use field observations and numerical models to study coastal systems, and develop further understanding of the processes that affect oceans, estuaries and rivers. This work is particularly important for North Carolina, with hundreds of kilometres of barrier islands and estuarine coastline that provides tourism, recreation, navigation and marine habitat. North Carolina has low topography that is exposed to severe hurricanes, making it very susceptible to coastal erosion and flooding.


My current research sites are in Canada, including Lunenburg Bay and the Bay of Fundy (Nova Scotia) on the Atlantic Ocean and the Mackenzie River Delta (Northwest Territories) on the Arctic Ocean. I am presently establishing a research program in coastal North Carolina.





GEOL 1550: Introduction to Oceanography



Selected Publications



Mulligan, R.P., Hay, A.E., and Bowen, A.J. (2008).  Wave-driven circulation in a coastal bay during the landfall of a hurricane.  J. Geophy.Res., 113, C05026, doi:10.1029/2007JC004500.


Mulligan, R.P., Bowen, A. J., Hay, A.E., van der Westhuysen, A. J., and Battjes, J.A. (2008).  Whitecapping and wave field evolution in a coastal bay.  J. Geophy.Res., 113, C03008, doi:10.1029/2007JC004382.



Coastal Observatories and Field Projects


Lunenburg Bay Coastal Observatory, NS, 2003-2007

Martha’s Vineyard Coastal Observatory (MVCO), MA, 2007

Sediment Acoustics Experiment (SAX’04), FL, 2004