Cecilia M. McHugh


Science Building - Room E 202
Phone: 718-997-3322


Research Interests

     The catastrophic earthquakes and tsunamis in Sumatra, 2004; Haiti, 2010; Chile 2010 and Japan 2011 heightened public awareness to these natural hazards and of their consequence for the heavily populated coastal regions of the world. Large earthquakes and tsunamis associated to tectonic plate boundaries cause devastating loss of life and property. Recent research applies new methodologies to document pre-instrumental earthquake ruptures along fault segments of tectonics boundaries. We use high-resolution geophysical instruments (sidescan sonar, multibeam bathymetry, subbottom profiles) and sediment sampling (piston and gravity cores, multicores, dredges) to study the seafloor and subbottom layers. Students Jessica Dutton, George Lozefski and Adina Hakimian have been studying the North Anatolia Fault in the Marmara Sea Turkey, El Pilar Fault in Cariaco Basin, Venezuela, and the floor of the Ionan Basin in the Mediterranean associated to the Calabrian Ridge plate boundary. 
     Other research projects investigate a paleoclimatic and paleoceanographic signal from sediments recovered in marginal basins such as the Marmara Sea and Black Sea, Turkey. The reconnections of these marginal basins to the world's ocean after the Last Glacial Maximum can track global sea-level rise due to the dramatic sedimentation changes and complete replacement in the fauna and flora that occurs as these basins change from lacustrine to marine settings. Damayanti Gurung a Ph.D. student is involved in this project.
     Closer to home we are studying Sandy Hook Bay and Long Island Sound, highly urbanized estuaries that have been severely impacted by anthropogenic activities. Students Elana Klein, Alexandrea Bowman, Andrea Balbas and Theanet Charles are measuring heavy metals, organic matter concentrations, and interpreting the abundances in terms of coastal and estuarine processes that erode, transport, and deposit sediments.
     Long Island Sound was covered by ice ~20,000 ago and has recorded in its sediments the transition from glacial deposits to a fresh water lake, marine transgression, estuarine sedimentation and anthropogenic impact. Vadim Acosta and Jeniffer Rios are studying the glacial to interglacial climatic transition from the biostratigraphic record of sediment cores and geophysical images.
Long term research (3 Ocean Drilling Program Legs, Alvin Dives, and oceanographic cruises) to the Canterbury Basin offshore New Zealand and New Jersey Continental passive margin have permitted to study the consequences of global sea level change and paleoclimate on sedimentation. These studies have provided insights into the future consequences of climate change. Students Robert Applebaum Corinne Hartin and Helene Gould.
     Recent research is focusing on Bangladesh. A country where seismic risk is high, fluvial processes mighty, and where ~160 million people inhabit at or near coastal zones. An international, multinstitutional program is being implemented to study tectonics, seismic risk and fluvial processes of the mighty Ganges-Brahmaputra fluvial system. Opportunities to become involved in this program are open to both graduate and undergraduate students. Please contact C. McHugh for this purpose.

Teaching Philosophy and Interests

Teaching students at Queens College and The City University of New York is a great experience due to the diverse student population. Having immigrated to New York City from Buenos Aires, Argentina after high school and without speaking the language, the most important message I give my students is, "set a goal, something that you truly like, and go for it!" It can be done!

Courses Taught

  • GEOL8 Oceanography
  • GEOL216 Dynamics of the Oceans and Atmospheres


  • GEOL747 Coastal and Estuarine Processes
  • GEOL780 Marine Geology


McHugh, C., Seeber, L., Braudy, N., Cormier, M.-H., Davis, M., Dieudonne, N., Deming, J., Diebold, J., Douilly, R., Gulick, S., Hornbach, M., Johnson, H., Mishkin, K., Sorlien, C., Steckler, M., Symithe, S., Templeton, J., 2011. Offshore sedimentary effects of the 12 January Haiti earthquake. Geology 39, 8, 723-726.  doi:10.1130/G31815.1
McHugh, C.M., Hartin, C., Mountain, G.S., Gould, H., 2010. The role of glacio-eustasy in sequence formation: Mid-Atlantic Continental Margin, USA. Marine Geology 277, p. 33-47. doi:10.1016/j.margeo.2010.08.009
McHugh, C.M., Gurung, D., Giosan, L., Ryan, W.B.F., Mart, Y., Sancar, U., Burckle, L., Cagatay, M.N. 2008. The last reconnection of the Marmara Sea, Turkey to the World Ocean: A paleoceanographic and paleoclimatic perspective. Marine Geology doi:10.1016/j.margeo.2008.07.005
McHugh, C.M.G., Seeber, L., Cormier, M.-H., Dutton, J., Cagatay, N., Polonia, A., Ryan, W. B. F., and Gorur, N. 2006. Submarine earthquake geology along the North Anatolia Fault in the Marmara Sea, Turkey: A model for transform basin sedimentation. Earth and Planetary Sciences 248, 661-684. doi:10.1016/j.epsl.2006.05.038
McHugh, C.M.G., Pekar, S., Christie-Blick, N. , Ryan, W.B.F., Carbotte, S., Bell, R., 2004, Spatial variations in a condensed interval between estuarine and open marine settings: Holocene Hudson River Estuary and adjacent continental shelf. Geology 32 (2), 169-172.
McHugh, C.M.G., and Olson, H.C., 2002. Pleistocene chronology of continental margin sedimentation: New insights into traditional models, New Jersey. Marine Geology 185, p. 389-411.
McHugh, C. M. G., Damuth, J. E, and Mountain, G. S. 2002. Cenozoic mass-transport facies and their correlation with relative sea-level change, New Jersey continental margin. Marine Geology 184, p. 295-334.
McHugh, C.M.G. and Ryan, W.B.F., 2000. Sedimentary features associated with channel overbank flow: examples from the Monterey Fan. Mar.Geol.163, 199-215.
McHugh, C. M. G., Snyder, S. W., and Miller, K. G., 1998. Upper Eocene ejecta of the New Jersey continental margin reveal dynamics of Chesapeake Bay. Earth and Plan. Sci. v.160, 3-4, p 353-367.
McHugh, C. M. G., Ryan, W. B. F., Eittreim, S., and Reed, D, 1998, Influence of the San Gregorio fault zone on the morphology of Monterey Canyon system off-shore Monterey Bay, California. Marine Geology, v. 146, p. 63-91.

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