Dr. Brandon Dugan

What is your current professional role?

I am a Professor and Associate Department head of Geophysics at the Colorado School of Mines.

What aspects of marine or coastal geoscience do you work on (or have you worked on in the past)?

The two primary areas where I am working are submarine slope failures and their consequences and onshore-offshore coastal freshwater systems. In the slope failure work, we are trying to better understand how slides evolve (e.g., blocky failures, debris flows, turbidity currents) as a function of sediment composition and triggering mechanism (fluid pressure, earthquake shaking, oversteepening). This will improve our risk analysis for conditions that might have tsunami-generating slope failure. In the coastal freshwater work, we are looking at the origin of large offshore freshwater aquifers, how they are connected to onshore aquifer systems, and whether they are active systems or relic systems. This has implications for our ability to use this offshore freshwater as a groundwater resource.

I guess it started with an interest in nature. I spent a lot of time outside as a kid and just loved the outdoors (still do). I became curious about nature and wanted to learn more about it, so was more engaged in my science classes. Then I started taking science electives in high school, and I’m still working on science today – and it’s related to outdoors so I’m pretty lucky.

I have been fortunate to have many wonderful mentors in my life (and still do!). Three of these mentors are John Bohlig, Peter Flemings, and Carrie Masiello. John was my 10th grade biology teacher.  He really encouraged me to explore science, to ask questions, and to pursue things that excited me. Peter was my PhD advisor. He helped me grow as a learner, a leader, and a communicator of science. He also helped me understand the importance of deep investigation of rich science problems in the field, in the lab, and on the computer. Carrie is a colleague of mine and we started our tenure-track positions together. She impressed upon me the importance of informal science discussions, of pushing my skills across new boundaries, and of maintaining a balance between work and family.

I think there are two pieces of advice that I would share with people starting out. The first piece is to build a foundation that includes theory, experiments, and models. Even if most of us only specialize in one of those, it is important to understand your work through the eyes of others and to be able to communicate with the others. This will help advance science. The second piece is that it is OK to be wrong or to make mistakes. We are advancing knowledge and will not be right all of the time. Awareness of being wrong or making mistakes shows that one is reflecting, checking, and rechecking their work. That is a very important skill.

I think it has to be the US Atlantic coast from New Jersey to Massachusetts. I first started studying the continental slope offshore New Jersey and that opened my eyes to marine research. I still have active research along this coastline because it has both extensive slope failures and offshore freshened groundwater.

I love my work, but it is important to have other interests. A few things that I enjoy outside of work are playing with my kids and enjoying their exploration and growth, hiking, reading fiction, and listening to comedy-based podcasts.

The meal would most definitely be sushi – bonito, maguro, and shake nigiri. Rather than music, I would enjoy the sushi with a good conversation with my family.