Erika McPhee-Shaw



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 a 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 ESCI faculty as 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 experience include general oceanography, coastal oceanography, climate change, applied and biological fluid dynamics, applied and environmental mathematics, quantitative methods and data analysis techniques, Oceanography of the Salish Sea, and a 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.

Dr. McPhee-Shaw has been an invited speaker at various international scientific conferences including the Gordon Conference on Ocean Mixing, the INCISE International Symposium on Submarine Canyons, the IAPSCO/SCOR Ocean Mixing Conference, and others.  She received Western's 2022 Outstanding Faculty Scholarship award and was an honorary coach for the WWU women's basketball team in winter 2023.

National Scientific and Civic Engagement

McPhee-Shaw was a 2013-2014 Stanford Woods Institute Leopold Leadership Fellow, with a continued interest in leading and strengthening communications and conversations between scientists and society. She was elected 2017 Vice Chair and 2019 Chair of the International Gordon Conference on Coastal Ocean Dynamics. She served the nationwide board for the NOAA US Integrated Ocean Observing System, and was elected chair pf the governing council for the USIOOS regional networked observing system CeNCOOS, Central and Northern CA Ocean Observing System, which was run by 15 academic and nonacademic institutions at the time. She served on the 2023 National Science Foundation Committee of Visitors (COV) for the Division of Ocean Sciences. 

She has served on various panels working groups, and boards. Examples  include: Chairing multiple sessions at AGU/ASLO Ocean Sciences meeting and EPOC (Eastern Pacific Ocean Conference) and Gordon Research Conference meetings, Board of Directors, 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 (MRAC), MRAC Marine Carbon Dioxide Removal Committee, Community Advisory Council for Marathon Refineries Anacortes,  Advisory board: Global Ocean Health: NFCC Building Tribal Leadership in Carbon Removal, Board of Directors: Kulshan Carbon Trust. 

One of McPhee-Shaw's more adventurous science-outreach experiences was traveling to Scotland to be 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 


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

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.  Currents over 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).


In prep: McPhee-Shaw, E.E. L. Danyluk*, M. Stastna,  T. Cowen, S. Schweitzer, P. Diamessis,  Mixing from a nonlinear internal wave event observed from high-resolution density profiles; a lake experiment may provide insight into the importance of episodic events.  In prep

In prep:  Danyluk*, L. McPhee-Shaw, E. E., Mickett, J., S. Crosby. 2023 Mechanisms for nutrient transport on the Washington continental shelf.  In prep  WWU graduate student first author.

In prep:  Carranza, M. Massion, E. E. McPhee-Shaw, K. Johnson. 2023 Turbulence and biogeochemical observations from a coastal profiling float in Monterey Bay. 

McPhee-Shaw, E. E., E. Kunze, J. Girton, 2021. Abyssal oxygen anomaly caused by canyon mixing and boundary-interior exchange. Geophysical Research Letters, 2021.10.1029/2021GL092995

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).

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. J. Geophy. Res. 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. J. Geophy. Res. 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. J. Phys. Oceanogr. 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. Geophys. Res. Lett. 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.

Teaching Schedule

Spring 2023

ESCI 393 - Coastal Seas and Climate Change

ESCI 392/ ENVS 392 - Introduction to Climate Change


Fall 2023

ESCI 393 - Coastal Seas and Climate Change

ESCI 491 - Oceanography of the Salish Sea