Bea Van Dam

Bea is a postdoctoral research associate with the Watershed Process and Estuary Sustainability Research Group in the School of Earth and Climate Sciences.  She received her PhD in Earth and Climate Sciences in 2023 as a research assistant in the WPES group.  She is supervised by Sean Smith.

Office Hours

Students with questions relating to hydrology, GIS, Python coding, or spatial data can contact me via email to set up an in-person or virtual appointment.


I work primarily in upland hydrology, exploring the journey surface water runoff takes across the landscape before it reaches channel networks, and I approach research questions from a background in geographic information systems (GIS) and cartography, favoring analysis of the intersections of large spatial datasets.  My research interests focus on the use of high-resolution elevation data to examine detailed spatial patterns in runoff after precipitation events and assess how the flow paths of the water – and any constituents it may carry with it – may affect local hydrology and water quality.

My dissertation research, “Land-sea connections driving coastal pollution vulnerability,” was a vulnerability analysis of estuaries and embayments along the length of Maine’s tidal coastline to bacteria pollution events associated with precipitation runoff from the surrounding landscapes.  The embayment delineation and classification ArcGIS tool developed during this project will help Maine Department of Marine Resources shellfishery managers make data-driven decisions about the closure and reopening of mud flats following large rain events.  For an in-depth look at this project, please visit our Coastal Pollution Vulnerability page.

Another current line of research is into the use of digital elevation models derived from LiDAR to estimate potential surface water detention storage during precipitation events provided by microtopography – small-scale variations in the surface of the landscape such as pits and mounds associated with tree throw.  To read more, please visit our Headwater Processes and Practices page.

Science Communication

Interviews / Spotlights

UMaine Ph.D. candidate’s new tool helps predict pollution vulnerability in coastal waters statewide, UMaine News (April 24, 2023)

Tree Throws, Puddles, and Ponded Water, Sen. George J. Mitchell Center News (May 9, 2018)

Recent Presentations

  • Van Dam, B.E and S.M.C. Smith. 2024. “Estuary Builder”: A Diagnostic Tool for Coastal Vulnerability Related to Land-Sea Connections.  Northeastern Section Meeting, Geological Society of America. Manchester, NH.