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Well-developed simple, stabilized parabolic dunes that are oriented to the east and southeast form the inland portion of a dune complex that extends ~32 km east-west across the southern shoreline of Lake Michigan in northwest Indiana. To better understand shoreline evolution during the Nipissing and post-Nipissing phases of Lake Michigan, subsurface sedimentology and radiocarbon ages from interdunal wetlands are considered with optical ages from nearby dunes within the landward portion of this area known as the Tolleston Beach. In the east, the once expansive Great Marsh had developed during the lake-level fall from the Nipissing peak (~4500 years ago). Units of eolian sand found within vibracores from the Great Marsh indicate that dunes formed and began migrating into the wetlands 4200–4400 years ago. In the west, newly formed dunes migrated along the shoreline while small interdunal wetlands formed shortly thereafter. Optical ages from two individual dunes indicate that this relict dune system stabilized by ~3500 years ago. Six samples collected from each of the two dunes yield optical ages that overlap at two standard errors. However, variations in individual ages detect episodic processes of sand movement that distinguish between the timing of landform migration and stabilization. Optical ages collected at the base of the slipface are interpreted as the age of landform stabilization. This study indicates that, with focused field-to-lab strategies, optical dating can provide a more robust chronology of shoreline development than previously considered; correlating eolian activity to wetland development and lake-level change in the Great Lakes.

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