Christopher Maike is working towards his PhD with a focus on coastal geology and engineering at the University of Delaware. Maike discusses the technology he uses in his research, including GIS, LiDAR, mapping and aerial photography. He has a Bachelor of Science in Geology from Calvin College and a Master of Science in Geology from the University of Toledo.


What is your research specifically focused on and how do you plan to use it?

My master’s research focused on understanding Holocene stratigraphy of the Atlantic inner shelf, near the Assateague Island shoreface, Virginia, USA.  This research resulted in a further understanding of sea-level fluctuations during the Holocene (11,700 years ago until present) and paleochannels theoretically part of a low stand drainage system. Also, I was involved in projects understand barrier island morphology responses to strong storms.
Currently, with my PhD research I am focused on understanding the hydrodynamics of Indian River Inlet, Delaware. There are issues with strong currents from the Atlantic Ocean causing severe erosion within the inlet.  I will try to further understand the erosion of the area by using drifters. The drifters should provide further hydrodynamic insights into causes behind the erosion.

What forms of technology have you used in your research?

I use GIS, aerial photographs, and mapping immensely in my research on a day-to-day basis. Aerial photographs and LiDAR were used to identify the evolution of the barrier island morphology in response to storms.  The data was acquired using from various government agencies before and after the storm events.  These tools were used in GIS software for further analysis.

Do you feel such technology was beneficial to your research?

The technology was very beneficial to my research.  It’s a blessing to be able to have open access to data retrieved by the government and apply it to my own research.  In most of my work, I retrieved no data personally but instead received it through the USGS, NOAA, and The Army Corps of Engineers.

Can you describe any recent projects where you used this technology?

The recent project where this technology was used was on the understanding of barrier island evolution.  The project was titled, “Modes of Overwash and Depositional Patterns on Assateague Island”, this project was presented at the 2013 AGU Fall Meeting in San Francisco.

What systems/platforms have you used?

I used ArcGIS as the primary platform for processing and interpreting data.

Are you familiar with LiDAR? Have you used it?

I have used Lidar in research to understand depositional patterns and elevations of Assateague Island. Assateague is a barrier island system on the eastern shore of the United States located in Maryland and Virginia. The data was used to understand how morphology changes upon the island. A storm of interest to this study was Nor'Ida in 2009. Lidar data was acquired roughly a year prior to the storm and a month after. This allows for myself and other researchers to observe areas of erosion and deposition.  The high resolution elevations given in LiDAR allow for all features of coast lines and barrier islands to be seen and interpreted.

What challenges have you experienced using GIS/mapping/LiDAR/etc. technology?

There are issues where data sets don’t exactly mesh.  For instance, I was trying to use 2 LiDAR sets before and after a storm to understanding net erosion and deposition.  For this, the data sets needed to be acquired in exactly the same area.  However, because they were acquired from two government agencies the sets did not overlap perfectly.  This resulted not being able to use the dataset as was originally desired.

What are your predictions for the future of technology in geology?

I believe technology will keep steadily increasing into the future.  I believe new systems will be designed and current technology will be further developed.  For instance, I believe technology such as Lidar will have higher precision in the near future. Also, more data will be available to the public.

What are your career goals?

I plan to finish my PhD with a focus in coastal geology and engineering then work as a coastal geologist for The Army Corps of Engineers.

What first drew your interest to this field?

I took a 2-week field-based introductory geology class in Montana after my freshman year of undergrad. I was instantly hooked and immediately became a geology major.

Have you noticed any changes since you first entered your field?

I have noticed an increase in job-postings through the recent years.  Due to baby-boomers retiring from the federal government there has been an increase in jobs.  Also, due to the issue being faced with rising sea-level the demand for geologists has dramatically increased.

Where are the greatest opportunities for professionals in your field?

The greatest opportunities for geologists today are in: coastal geology (due to sea-level rise implications), petroleum geology (due to oil & gas demand), and hydrogeology (protecting and understanding our water resources).

Do you have any predictions for the future of the field of geology?

I believe the field of geology will continue to grow as the demand keeps increasing. As the implications of sea-level rise are being documented and petroleum demand keeps increasing, the amount of geology related jobs will continue to grow.