Current Research Projects
Coastal Dunes & Their Role in Coastal Resiliency
Coastal dunes are natural and nature-based features that act as the first line of defense against oceanside flooding. Coastal dunes have been recognized as buffering the impacts to coastal hazards such as storms and sea-level rise. Consequently, coastal communities are increasingly constructing artificial dunes and/or encouraging growth of natural dunes to improve coastal protection. However, the response of natural and constructed (i.e., man-made) dunes to storm impacts and sea-level rise varies greatly, even over short distances. This may be due, in part, to complex feedbacks between sediment, dune vegetation, and overall morphology that cannot always be replicated in dune engineering.
Specifically, constructed dunes may lack the complex internal biotic and sedimentologic structure that develops in natural dune systems. In natural systems, this internal structure forms from the slow and intermittent wind-blown sediment deposition, which contributes to dune initiation and development and promotes further vegetation growth. In contrast, constructed dunes are typically built using heavy machinery, likely resulting in a far different internal structure and composition. These complex biogeomorphic feedbacks, and their implications for coastal management, are at the core of my dissertation studies.
This work is a collaborative effort between VIMS, the Coastal Plant Ecology Lab at VCU, and the US Army Corps of Engineers Engineer Research and Development Center (ERDC).
My research interests in coastal geomorphology and coastal hazards are intrinsically motivated by my ties to coastal communities. I recognize a disconnect between coastal science in academia and coastal management. My ultimate goal is to translate my research findings into tangible recommendations for coastal managers and policymakers.