Dr. Erika McPhee-Shaw


Environmental Sciences


(360) 650-3713


AH404, MS9181

Office Hours:

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  Dr. McPhee-Shaw is a physical oceanographer whose research primarily focuses on the physics of deep, subsurface waves interacting with continental slopes and shelves, turbulence in stratified fluids, as well as other topics in coastal circulation. Before coming to Western she was an Assistant and Associate Professor, and promoted to full Professor at Moss Landing Marine Laboratories, San Jose State University (2004 to 2014). Dr. McPhee-Shaw served as the Director of WWU's marine laboratory; Shannon Point Marine Center from 2014 to 2017, then joined the Huxley faculty as a Professor in Fall 2017.  Pre-Ph.D. employment included work at the US Geological Survey and the US Forest Service. Other previous academic appointments include postdoctoral research at UC Santa Barbara  and the US Naval Postgraduate School. 

Teaching interests and experience include general oceanography, coastal oceanography, climate change, applied and biological fluid dynamics, applied and environmental mathematics, and Quantitative methods and data analysis techniques, and past experience teaching a science history course called 'Seafarers,' investigating links between nation and economy building, warfare, 17-th century exploration, and the development of 19th and 20th century science.  McPhee-Shaw has been chief scientist on deep-sea expeditions to west coast continental slope, shelf, and canyon environments, and lead principal investigator on multi-institution projects funded by the National Science Foundation.

Civic Engagement.  McPhee-Shaw is a Leopold Leadership Fellow, with a continued interest in strengthening communications and conversations between scientists and society. She has served on the nationwide board for the NOAA US Integrated Ocean Observing System, and elected chair of the 2019 International Gordon Conference on Coastal Ocean Dynamics.

She has served on many state and regional panels, working groups, and boards.  A few examples  include: Chair of the Board of the Central and Northern CA Ocean Observing System, Bayview Academy Public Charter School (Monterey, CA), Stanford/Hopkins CA Statewide Working Group on Coastal Hypoxia, WWU's representative on Governor's Washington State Marine Resources Advisory Council, and work with the Maritime Industry.

One of McPhee-Shaw's more adventurous science-outreach experiences was traveling to Scotland to play the part of the lake-physics expert in a Discovery Channel TV Show, 'The Loch Ness Monster Revealed," with two other scientists and host Philippe Cousteau. Check it out on imdb.com 

Research Interests

 Much of my research has centered around the questions of how waves and currents move stuff around in the coastal ocean. This "stuff" can include buoyancy, sediment, nutrients, oxygen, water of varying pH, you name it.  Currentson continental shelves and slopes  are caused by a combination of winds, tides, surface waves, and internal waves, and there can also be some lovely physics involving turbulent mixing. Surface waves are the kind you see rolling around on the surface ocean and that you can surf on when they break. One of my favorite studies  was an investigation into how surface waves gently shoving plankton into a coastal boundary can cause plankton aggregations that may have been misinterpreted as blooms. Internal waves are subsurface waves supported by a fluid of stratified density. They are are ubiquitous in the ocean as well as in the atmosphere, and are an important way of moving wind and tidal energy around our planet. They do interesting things when they run into continental margins. Wind-driven and buoyancy-driven flows are important in coastal and lake environments and will provide plenty of interesting transport questions in applied environmental fluid dynamics studies in the future.  

I currently am PI on a National Science Foundation grant 'Internal Swash Zones and Boundary-Interior Exchange: High Accuracy Modeling and Field Observations'  with colleagues from Cornell and the University of Waterloo. 


*denotes student author (including pubs from my own work as a student )  or a professional author from within my research group (for example, postdoctoral research associate or research technician).

McPhee-Shaw, E. E., E. Kunze, J. Girton, 2021. Submarine canyon oxygen anomaly driven by mixing and boundary-interior exchange. Accepted for Publication, Geophysical Research Letters

McIntyre*, B.A., McPhee-Shaw, E.E., Hatch, M.B. Arellano, S., 2021 Location Matters: Passive and Active Factors Affect the Vertical Distribution of Olympia Oyster (Ostrea lurida) Larvae. Estuaries and Coasts 44, 199–213 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12237-020-00771-8

Manzer*, T. Connolly, R. J. Smith, and E. E. McPhee-Shaw, 2019. Physical factors influencing phytoplankton abundance in Southern Monterey Bay. Continental Shelf Research. 180 10.1016/j.csr.2019.04.007. 

Sevadjian*, Jeff C., E. E. McPhee-Shaw, Ben Y. Raanan, Olivia M. Cheriton, and Curt D. Storlazzi, 2015. Vertical convergence of resuspended sediment and subducted phytoplankton to a persistent detached layer over the southern shelf of Monterey Bay, California. Journal of Geophysical Research. doi 10.1002/2015JC010785

Cheriton, O. M*., E. E. McPhee-Shaw, C. D. Storlazzi, K. J. Rosenberger, W. J. Shaw, B. Y. Raanan, 2014. Upwelling rebound, ephemeral secondary pycnoclines, and the creation of a near-bottom wave guide over the Monterey Bay continental shelf. Geophysical Research Letters. Vol 41.  

Cheriton, O. M*., E. E. McPhee-Shaw, W. J. Shaw, T. P. Stanton, J. G. Bellingham, and C. D. Storlazzi, 2013, Suspended particulate layers and internal waves over the southern Monterey Bay shelf: An important control on shelf mud belts?, 2014. Journal of Geophysical Research. 119, 1-17. 

Washburn, L. and E. McPhee-Shaw, 2013. Coastal transport processes affecting inner-shelf ecosystems in the California Current system. Oceanography, 26(3): 34-43

Kunze, K. Bartlett, C. MacKay, E., E. McPhee-Shaw, K. Morrice*, J. Girton, and S. Terker, 2012. On the efficiency of mixing in bottom boundary layers over sloping topography. Journal of Physical Oceanography. 42: 910-927.

McPhee-Shaw, E. E. K. J. Nielsen, J. L. Largier, and B. A. Menge, 2011. Nearshore chlorophyll-a events and wave-driven transport. Geophysical Research Letters. 38, doi:10.1029/2010GL045810

Cazenave*, F., Y. Zhang, E. McPhee-Shaw, J. Bellingham, and T. Stanton, 2011. High-resolution surveys of internal tidal waves in Monterey Bay, California, using an autonomous underwater vehicle. . Limnology and Oceanography: Methods, 9, 2011, 571-581

Oliver, J.S., K.K Hammerstrom, E. E. McPhee-Shaw, P. N. Slattery, J. M. Oakden, S. L. Kim, S. I. Hartwell, 2011. High species density patterns in macrofaunal invertebrate communities in the marine benthos. (Marine Ecology, DOI: 10.1111/j.1439-0485.2011.00461.x)

Gough*, M., N. Garfield, and E. McPhee-Shaw, 2010. An analysis of HF-radar measured surface currents to determine tidal, wind-forced and seasonal circulation in the Gulf of the Farallones, California, United States.  Journal of Geophysical Research, 115, C04019, doi:10.1029/2009JC005644.

Cudaback, C. and E. McPhee-Shaw. 2009. Diurnal period internal waves near Point Conception, California. Estuarine, Coastal, and Shelf Sciences, 83, 349-359.

McPhee-Shaw, E.E., D. Siegel, L. Washburn, M. Brzezinski, J. Jones, A. Leydecker, and J. Melack 2007 ‘Mechanisms for nutrient delivery to the inner shelf: observations from the Santa Barbara Channel’ Limnology and Oceanography, 52(5), 1748-1766.

McPhee-Shaw, E. E., 2006. ‘Boundary- Interior Interactions: Reviewing the idea that internal-wave mixing enhances lateral dispersion near continental margins.’ Deep-Sea Res. II, 53, 42-59.

Bassin*, C. J., L. Washburn, M. Brzezinski, and E.  McPhee-Shaw, 2005, Sub-mesoscale coastal eddies observed by high frequency radar: a new mechanism for delivering nutrients to kelp forests in the Southern California Bight. Geophysical Research Letters, 32, L12604 doi:10.1029/2005GL023017.

McPhee-Shaw*, E. E., R.W. Sternberg, B. Mullenbach, and A. S. Ogston, 2004, ‘Observations of intermediate nepheloid layers on the northern California margin.’ Continental Shelf Research. 24, 693-720.

McPhee-Shaw*, E. E. and E. Kunze, 2002, ‘Boundary-layer intrusions from a sloping bottom: A mechanism for generating intermediate nepheloid layers.’  Journal of Geophysical Research. 10.1029/2001JC000801.

McPhee*, E. E., A. R. M. Nowell, and R. W. Sternberg, 1998, ‘Boundary layer measurements and their implications for sediment transport on the Eastern Norwegian Sea Continental Slope.’ Deep-Sea Research I, 45, 719-743.


B.A. Physics, Dartmouth, Ph.D. Oceanography, University of Washington (2000)