Year of Graduation


Level of Access

Open Access Thesis

Embargo Period


Department or Program

Earth and Oceanographic Science

First Advisor

Collin Roesler


Tidal Mixing Fronts (TMFs) are prominent hydrographic features of tidally energetic shallow shelf seas, representing the transition from mixed to stratified waters. These frontal boundaries often host enhanced phytoplankton primary productivity, as complete vertical mixing exhumes nutrients from depth to the light-lit surface. Existing observational programs for locating TMFs include infra-red satellite imagery of sea surface temperature (SST) and vertical profiling of temperature and density. However, challenges in observationally distinguishing mixed from mixing using only conservatively mixed hydrographic properties persist. A novel approach based on phytoplankton in-situ oxygen production response to light is proposed in this paper to distinguish stable mixed from actively mixing regimes, and thus to identify remnant versus active TMFs.

This project focuses on Harpswell Sound, a shallow (< 40m) coastal reverse estuary, as a case study of TMF dynamics. Our data unambiguously reveal the cross-shelf structure of active, mixed, and stratified regimes. Competition between wind mixing and buoyancy due to solar heating and river plumes were found to be the primary drivers of the active and remnant front locations, while tidal currents were a secondary driver. Such dynamism explains both the temporally variable and spatially patchy phytoplankton blooms observed in the shallow shelf sea environment of Harpswell Sound.