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Urban Coastal Rivers Research Group

Dr. Virginia Smith, Civil and Environmental Engineering, leads Villanova University’s Urban Coastal Rivers Research group.

Led by Dr. Virginia Smith, assistant professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering, the Urban Coastal Rivers Research Group investigates fluvial geomorphic processes and sediment transport dynamics in urban environments in the coastal zone. Through this research we hope to contribute to sustainable cities and mitigate urban flooding.

The goal of the research group is to evaluate the significance of cities on sediment transport to the coast. Sediment is critical for a healthy coastal environment and robust ecosystem services. While the amount of sediment being generated, transported and delivered to the coast through and around urban hubs is a critical part of the sediment cycle, this process is poorly understood.

Today the majority of the world’s population lives coastally near river mouths. U.S. rivers entering the Gulf of Mexico host an abundance of urban centers, such as Houston, TX. Cities influence sediment transport through:

  • River impoundment, which forces a deposition of sediment, taking sediment out of transport
  • Impervious area, which results in greater runoff and therefore a greater propensity for sediment transport
  • Land development, which typically increases sediment generation due to land destabilization

While there has been a wide breadth of work published on sediment transport, land cover change and urban hydrology, the magnitude of impact from each of these variables on the amount of sediment being delivered to the coast is largely unknown.

By identifying urban coastal sediment sources and sinks, and modeling the sediment being transported through and around urban coastal areas, more can be understood about the urban impacts on coastal sediment delivery. Ultimately, this knowledge will aid the coastal environmental management community in environmental management and decision making.

Student Researchers

Hossein Hosseiny, PhD candidate
Richard Ampomah, PhD candidate
Humaira Jahangiri ’18 MSCE

Current master’s students:
Mark Orebiyi
Nicholas Zoccoli
Victoria Reis
Rebecca Connolly

Open Positions

With increasing job opportunities, it’s an ideal time to advance your career in this field of engineering. Villanova University’s Master of Science in Water Resources and Environmental Engineering (MSWREE) is a nationally-recognized program. Prospective applicants should refer to specific admission criteria for the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. Criteria for applicants to any College of Engineering program can be found on our website.

​This research group is part of the Villanova Center for Resilient Water Systems.

Undergraduates interested in this rapidly growing field can pursue a traditional Bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering, or a 5-year Bachelor’s/Master’s degree.

For more information or to learn about research opportunities, please contact Dr. Smith.



Dr. Virginia Smith, Assistant Professor
Civil and Environmental Engineering

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