Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Ping Wang, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Bogdan Onac, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Nathaniel Plant, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Sarah Kruse, Ph.D.


Inlet morphodynamics, sediment pathways, sediment bypassing, Blind Pass, John's Pass, sediment budget, dual-inlet system, barrier island, west-central Florida


The morphodynamics of an inlet channel draining an estuary or bay are governed by a complex system of temporally and spatially varying physical processes, including wind, waves, tides, sediment transport, and both tide and wave driven currents. In addition, sediment availability and characteristics in conjunction with underlying geologic framework bear on the morphology and morphologic behavior of an inlet system. This study examines the morphodynamics, sediment transport patterns and time-series morphologic change of John’s Pass and Blind Pass, two structured tidal inlets that collectively make up a dual-inlet system sharing the tidal prism of northern Boca Ciega Bay, in Pinellas County, Florida.

To quantify wave and tidal forcing and response mechanisms an array of hydrodynamic sensors were deployed over a 12 month period at both inshore and offshore locations. In order to capture morphologic changes and quantify volumetric changes within the inlets, bathymetric surveys of the inlets were conducted in 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2014. Similarly, bi-monthly beach survey data for the same range of time was acquired in order to quantify volumetric changes along adjacent stretches of beach. In addition to gaining insights into sediment pathways based on morphologic and volumetric variability, those data were also used to develop a regional sediment budget along the studied stretch of coast.

To gain insights into the morphodynamics of the dual-inlet system, bathymetric and hydrodynamic data was used to develop a numerical model of the dual inlet system. Numerical model simulations based on existing or baseline conditions were compared with numerical simulations employing synthetic bathymetric and hydrodynamic conditions in order to examine inlet behavior under a range of different morphological and hydrodynamic conditions.

John’s Pass is the dominant of the two inlets. It exhibits mixed-energy straight morphology and captures ca 81% of the available tidal prism. The inlet has a well-developed mature ebb shoal, and actively bypasses sediment from one side of the inlet to the other supplying sediment to the downdrift littoral system. Blind Pass captures less than 20% of the available tidal prism, and while also exhibiting mixed-energy morphologic characteristics has a less well developed ebb shoal that currently has not fully established a sediment bypassing system.

Both inlets channels and ebb shoals have been dredged on multiple occasions to provide sediment for the nourishment of nearby chronically eroding stretches of beach. Dredge pits excavated along the distal margins of the ebb shoals are infilling at rates substantially slower than expected due to limited sediment transport along those regions of the ebb shoal, while inlet channel dredge pits infill at rapid and expected rates. The objective of this study was to characterize the morphodynamics of the dual-inlet system with the aim of identifying sediment pathways and bypassing mechanisms, and quantify a balanced regional sediment budget in order to design more sustainable approaches to inlet management.

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