Scott A. Lecce


   Professor of Geography


   Phone: 252-328-1047

Dr. Scott Lecce (Ph.D., 1993, University of Wisconsin-Madison) is a fluvial geomorphologist who joined the faculty at East Carolina University in 1998 after holding a tenure-track position at the University of Southern Mississippi and a temporary teaching position at Indiana State University.  He has a master's degree from Arizona State University and a bachelor's degree from the University of California at Berkeley.


        GEOG 1250 - The Water Planet Syllabus

        GEOG 2250 - Earth Surface Systems Syllabus

        GEOG 3220 - Soil Properties, Surveys, and Applications Syllabus

        GEOG 4210 - Fluvial and Hydrological Processes Syllabus

        GEOG 6210 - Advanced Fluvial and Hydrological Processes Syllabus

 See current course offerings


Research Interests:

Fluvial and hydrological processes; Transport and storage of heavy metals in fluvial environments; Human impacts on channel morphology,
erosion, and sedimentation; Hydrologic and geomorphic responses to environmental change; Flood geomorphology; Desert geomorphology; Alluvial fan development; Glacial hydrology.

Current Research Projects:

    Floodplain and Channel Storage of Mining-related Lead in the Big River, Old Lead Belt, SE Missouri

The Old Lead Belt is a historic Pb-Zn mining district within St. Francois County in Southeast Missouri which was a leading producer of lead worldwide from 1869 to 1972.  Major concerns exist about the long-term stability and toxic risk of mill wastes and mining sediment in rivers draining mining areas and major dump sites, some still presently covering more than 2.5 km2.  Previous studies by Federal and State agencies showed that channel sediments are contaminated along the middle and lower segment of the Big River in the Missouri Ozarks.  The purpose of this study is to quantify the locations and volumes of mining sediment storages within channel and floodplain deposits in the Big River.  Overall, bed, bar, and floodplain deposits are contaminated with Pb from the town of Leadwood (river km 171) to its confluence with the Meramec River near Eureka (river km 0).  The total contaminated sediment volume in the main stem of the Big River is >90,000,000 m3 with >95% stored in overbank floodplain deposits. Maximum Pb concentrations occur in St. Francois County with 2,500 ppm Pb in active channel sediments and >12,000 ppm Pb in floodplain deposits.  However, only 21% of contaminated sediment is stored in St. Francois County, while 79% is stored in Jefferson County due to both greater river length and increased valley floor width and storage capacity.  Historical floodplain deposits are probably the largest contemporary source of Pb input to the Big River via bank erosion and mass-wasting.

Big RBig R drill rigSurveying Big R   

Coring point bar (left) and floodplain (center).  Lead concentrations are being determined in the cores on the table using an x-ray flourescence spectrometer.  On the right, stream channel transects and longitudinal profiles are being surveyed with a total station and GPS.

    Mercury Contamination of Floodplain Sediments from Historic Gold Mining in North Carolina

The first documented discovery of gold in the U.S. occurred in 1799 at the Reed Mine in Cabarrus County, North Carolina, leading to the nation’s first gold rush between about 1830 and 1860. An integral part of the mining operations involved the extensive use of mercury to recover fine gold particles through the amalgamation process. Although Hg has been well known as an environmental pollutant for several decades, contamination caused by anthropogenic releases to the environment is a growing concern. The use of Hg amalgamation in gold (and silver) mining has led to the release of unprecedented amounts of Hg to the environment, yet relatively little is known about the environmental impacts, long-term dispersal, and ultimate fate of this contaminant.  This is a new project (with Bob Pavlowsky, Missouri State University) whose purpose is to determine the extent to which mercury is still present in floodplain sediments nearly 100 years after large-scale gold mining ceased, and if so, to explain the magnitude and distribution of the contamination.  

Lecce, S.A., Pavlowsky, R.T., Bassett, G.S., and Martin, D.J. 2011. Trace metal contamination from gold mining in the Cid District, North Carolina. Physical Geography 32(5): 469-495.

Pavlowsky, R.T., Lecce, S.A., Bassett, G.S., and Martin, D.J.  2010. Legacy Hg-Cu contamination of active stream sediments in the Gold Hill Mining District, North Carolina. Southeastern Geographer 50(4):503-522.

Lecce, S.A., Pavlowsky, R.T., and Schlomer, G.S. 2008. Mercury contamination of active channel sediment and floodplain deposits from historic gold mining at Gold Hill, North Carolina, USA.  Environmental Geology 55:113-121.

NC gold mne map

stamp mill   shaking table

Left: An operational stamp mill at the Reed Mine, where a 17 pound nugget was discovered in 1799. 
Photo to the right shows a shaking table that vibrates in a reciprocating motion to separate fine gold
 particles from ore.  The table was coated with mercury to amalgamate the gold.

pounding core     pulling core

Left: Pounding the core barrel into the floodplain.  Right: Jacking the core barrel back out.


Left: Lunch break at the local BBQ joint.  Right: Bob tasting mine tailings for gold.


Left: The 2007 field crew.   Right:  Going five meters deep with an Oakfield soil probe.

the crew 

Left: The summer 2006 field crew from Missouri State.  Right: Preliminary data from a floodplain core
showing a peak mercury concentration 150 times background levels (0.1 ppm) and 15 times the EPA
guideline for contaminated soil (1 ppm).  For more on this project, see:

    Floodplain Sedimentation and Metal Contamination (funded by the National Science Foundation)

This project (with Bob Pavlowsky, Missouri State University) focuses on: using sediments contaminated by lead and zinc mining in a Wisconsin watershed to reconstruct a150-year history of flooding and sedimentation, examining lateral and downstream changes in metal dispersal processes, and  investigating floodplain deposits as a secondary source for the remobilization of metal contaminated sediments.  For more on this project, see:


Lecce, S.A. and Pavlowsky, R.T.  2004. Spatial and temporal variations in the grain-size characteristics of historical flood plain deposits. Geomorphology 61: 361-371.

Lecce, S.A., and Pavlowsky, R.T. 2001. Use of mining-contaminated sediment tracers to investigate the timing and rates of historical floodplain sedimentation. Geomorphology 38: 85-108.

Lecce, S.A., and Pavlowsky, R.T. 1997. Storage of mining-related zinc in floodplain sediments, Blue River, Wisconsin. Physical Geography 18(5):424-439.


    Hurricane Floyd Flood (funded by the National Science Foundation)

The 1999 'Flood of the Century' on the Tar River in eastern North Carolina was the largest in the nearly 100-year long flood record.  This project (with Pat Pease, Paul Gares, and ECU geologist Catherine Rigsby) examined the magnitude of overbank sedimentation on the Tar River floodplain and the contamination of the flood sediments by trace metals.  For more on this project, see:


Pease P.A., Lecce S.A., Gares P.A., Rigsby, C.A. 2007. Heavy metal concentrations in sediment deposits on the Tar River floodplain following Hurricane Floyd, Environmental Geology 51:1103-1111.

Lecce, S.A., Pease, P.P., Gares, P.A. and Rigsby, C.A. 2004. Floodplain sedimentation during an extreme flood: The 1999 Flood on the Tar River, eastern North Carolina. Physical Geography 25(4):334-346.

Lecce, S.A., Pease, P.P., Gares, P.A. and Rigsby, C.A. 2001. Sedimentation in the Tar River floodplain associated with Hurricane Floyd. In: Facing Our Future: Hurricane Floyd and Recovery in the Coastal Plain, Maiolo, J.R., Whitehead, J.C., McGee, M., King, L., Johnson, J., and Stone, H. (eds.), Coastal Carolina Press, Wilmington, NC, 187-193.


Lecce, S.A. 2000. 'Fallacy of the 500-year flood: A cautionary note on flood frequency analysis'. North Carolina Geographer 8: 29-40.

    Erosion and Sediment Transport on Coastal Plain Croplands

This project involved assessing sediment delivery from a small agricultural watershed by measuring drainage ditch sedimentation and suspended sediment transport during a 5-year period.  For more on this project, see:

Lecce, S.A., Gares, P.A., and Pease, P.P. 2006. Drainage ditches as sediment sinks on the Coastal Plain of North Carolina. Physical Geography 27:447-463.


Lecce, S.A., Pease, P.P., Gares, P.A. and Wang, J. 2006. Seasonal controls on sediment delivery in a small coastal plain watershed, North Carolina, USA. Geomorphology 73: 246-260.

Pease, P.P., Gares, P.A., and Lecce, S.A. 2002. Eolian dust erosion from an agricultural field on the North Carolina coastal plain. Physical Geography 23: 381-400.

Lange, M., Lecce, S.A., and Pease, P.P. 2000. Sediment storage and drainage ditch excavation on the North Carolina Coastal Plain. North Carolina Geographer 8: 55-63..







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