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Tobias Kukulka

Associate Professor


Tobias Kukulka studied physics at Freie Universität Berlin in Germany before earning a MS degree in environmental science and engineering from Oregon Health and Science University. 

During his doctoral studies at the University of Rhode Island, he researched the effect of breaking waves on wind and ocean surface waves and finished his Ph.D. in 2006. He then worked as a postdoctoral scholar at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and joined the University of Delaware in 2010. 

His research is frequently published in the Journal of Physical Oceanography and Geophysical Research Letters and has attracted media attention from National Public Radio, MSNBC and other major outlets.

Department Affiliation

Physical Ocean Science and Engineering

Current Projects

Upper Ocean Turbulence in Non-Equilibrium Conditions (NSF 2016-19)
This study will integrate recent observational, theoretical, and computational progress to systematically assess the influence of non-equilibrium conditions on turbulence near the ocean surface and on the exchange of momentum and heat with the atmosphere. 

Lagrangian investigation of upper ocean turbulence (NSF 2014-19)
Kukulka is investigating upper ocean turbulence and particle transport. His research has implications on the motion of pollutants, plankton, nutrients and air bubbles as they work their way through the seas. [Press Release]

Hydrodynamic modeling system for the Delaware coastal environment (DNREC 2014-16)

Coupled wave-ocean modeling system to assess storm hazards (UDRF 2014-16)
Kukulka will validate a hydrodynamic model for predicting coastal storm surges during tropical cyclones and northeasters by comparing simulations of currents and surface waves along the Delaware coast with existing observations. [Press Release]

Turbulence under tropical cyclones (NSF 2011-15) 

Effect of wind-driven mixing on plastic marine debris (NOAA 2012-14)
This research has found This research shows that small particles of plastic are churned further underwater by wind than previously estimated. [Press Release]


Ph.D., Oceanography, University of Rhode Island, 2006.
M.S., Environmental Science and Engineering, Oregon Health & Science University, 2002.
Vordiplom, Physics, Freie Universität Berlin, 1998.

Selected Publications (Click for All Publications)

Kukulka, T., K. L. Law, G. Proskurowski, Evidence for the influence of surface heat fluxes on turbulent mixing of microplastic marine debris, J. Phys. Oceanogr., 46, 809–815, 2016. doi: 10.1175/JPO-D-15-0242.1  

Brunner, K., T. Kukulka, G. Proskurowski, K. L. Law, Passive buoyant tracers in the ocean surface boundary layer: 2. Observations and simulations of microplastic marine debris, J. Geophys. Res., 120, doi:10.1002/2015JC010840, 2015. 

Kukulka, T., K. Brunner, Passive buoyant tracers in the ocean surface boundary layer: 1. Influence of equilibrium wind-waves on vertical distributions, J. Geophys. Res., 120, doi:10.1002/2014JC010487, 2015. 

Rabe, T., Kukulka, T., I. Ginis, T. Hara, B. Reichl, E. D’Asaro, R. Harcourt, P. P. Sullivan, Langmuir turbulence under Hurricane Gustav (2008), J. Phys. Oceanogr., 45(3), 657-677, 2015. doi:10.1175/JPO-D-14-0030.1 

Research Interests

Air-sea interactions, physical oceanography, upper ocean dynamics, surface waves, large eddy simulations, ocean modeling, high performance computing.


Animation: Research on upper ocean turbulence

Graduate Students

Xingchi Wang (PhD)
Todd Thoman (MS)
Alan Mason (MS)

Former Students

Dong Wang (PhD 2019)
Katie Gamble (MS 2018)
Andre Rodrigues (MS 2016)
Robert Jenkins (MS 2015)
Kelsey Brunner (MS 2014)
Tyler Rabe (MS 2013)


MAST 691: Fluid Dynamics in Marine Systems
MAST 661: Introduction to Ocean Modeling
MAST 402: Physical Oceanography

Tobias Kukulka Publications

A list of publications by Tobias Kukulka


• Environmental Fluid Dynamics• Physical Oceanography• Geophysics• Air-Sea Interactions


CEOE School & Departments

School of Marine Science & Policy

Advancing the understanding, stewardship, and conservation of estuarine, coastal, and ocean environments.

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Department of Earth Sciences

Discovering how geological processes have operated over various time scales to create and influence the planet’s surface environments.

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Department of Geography and Spatial Sciences

Providing a unique spatial perspective that seeks to explain patterns of differences and commonality across the human and natural environment.

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College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment • 111 Robinson Hall • Newark, DE 19716 • USA • Phone: 302-831-8062
Geography and Spatial Sciences: 302-831-2294 • Earth Sciences: 302-831-2569 • Marine Science and Policy: 302-645-4212 • E-mail: ceoe-info@udel.edu

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