Bret M. Webb, Ph.D., P.E., D.CE
University of South Alabama
150 Jaguar Drive, SH3142
Mobile, AL 36688 USA
Phone: (251) 460-6174
Fax: (251) 461-1400

Research Positions

Currently seeking multiple graduate students to fill positions at the MS, PhD, and Postdoc levels. Research topics include: living shorelines, beach and tidal inlet dynamics, barrier island response to extreme events, groundwater impacts to coastal lagoons, and infrastructure resilience. Research assistantships are available. Click here for more information.

Current Research Assistants

PhD Students
Garland Pennison


MS Students
Kelsey Carpenter
Sean McQuagge
Elizabeth Winter
Jackie Wittmann


Undergraduate Students
Ian Cox

Former Students

MSCE Students
Patrick Hautau (2018)
Marshall Hayden (2018)
Kate Haynes (2018)
Justin Lowlavar (2017)
Bryan Groza (2016)
Kari Servold (2015)
Chris Marr (2013)
Richard Allen (2013)
Miyuki Matthews (2012)


Post Docs
Jon Risinger
Jungwoo Lee

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A drifter prototype was constructed and pool-tested last weekend as part of our BP GRI Phase I project looking at circulation on the Alabama shelf. The drifter study is a joint project between the University of South Alabama (Bret Webb and Sam Russ), Dauphin Island Sea Lab (Kyeong Park, Brian Dzwonkowski), and the University of Florida (Arnoldo Valle Levinson). Dr. Valle Levinson is heading the project, and Drs. Park, Dzwonkowski, and Webb are providing logistical support. A special thanks to Dr. Valle Levinson and his colleagues for guidance and instruction on drifter construction. A special thanks also to Gary Howell at {CivilTek} for helping us troubleshoot our GPS system.


The experimental plan calls for 40 – 50 of these Davis X-style/CODE (Davis, 1985) drifters to be deployed on the Alabama shelf to study the Lagrangian circulation patterns in the Northcentral Gulf of Mexico. The goal of the GPS-enabled drifter project is to improve our knowledge of physical processes that govern the transport of dissolved and suspended matter over estuarine, inner shelf, and middle shelf waters in coastal Alabama. More succinctly, the Lagrangian data will describe the dispersion processes responsible for the transport of oil (at surface) and biological species (e.g. Griffa et al., 2007).


Drifters will be released in small clusters (~5 to 10) at different locations on the Alabama shelf, and at different times of the year (2011). These deployments will capture the dependency of circulation on initial position (location) and season (wet, dry, warm, cool, etc.). A small subset of these drifters (~10) will be released within Mobile Bay, as well. The drifters have a modified SPOT-1 GPS that reports its position every twenty minutes by email, with a backup log maintained in a personal SPOT web page. The drifters are drogued over 37 inches (~1 m) of the water column, starting at a depth of about 12 inches (~0.3 m).


Our initial deployment is planned for Friday, June 3rd, 2011 on the Alabama shelf. This first release of 10 should give us some indication of how well (and how long) these drifters might survive. While every effort has been made to ensure seaworthiness, it is difficult to know what will happen to these in the middle of the Gulf: some may get run over, some may get stolen, and others may get tangled on floating debris. The GPS units will have enough power to survive for about 12 months. This is probably a lot longer than they will survive, but at least it gives us a buffer in the event that our GPS unit doesn’t cycle properly.


Check back in a couple of weeks for more photos and details of the initial release. I will be posting location maps of the drifters to track their progress over the course of the next four to six months… or as long as they last!



  1. Davis, RE. 1985. Drifter observations of coastal surface currents during CODE: The method and descriptive view. Journal of Geophysical Research. 90: 4741–4755.
  2. Griffa, A, AD Kirwan Jr, AJ Mariano, T Özgökmen, T Rossby, Editors. 2007. Lagrangian analysis and prediction of coastal and ocean dynamics. Cambridge University Press.


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