[PAST EVENT] Sea Level Rise, Eroding Beaches, and the Mathematical Models that Describe Them

September 28, 2012
3:30pm - 4:30pm
VIMS - Watermen's Hall, Dominion Classroom, Andrews 326
1375 Greate Road
Gloucester Point, VA 23062Map this location
Presenter: Orrin Pilkey, James B. Duke Professor Emeritus of Earth Science, Duke University

Title: Biogeographic Patterns of Ecosystem Engineers: Implications

Reception at 3:00 p.m. in the Andrews Hall 326
Seminar from 3:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. in Andrews Hall 326

Dr. Pilkey is Professor Emeritus of Earth and Ocean Sciences, Nicholas School of the Environment, at Duke University, and Founder and Director Emeritus of the Program for the Study of Developed Shorelines (PSDS) which is currently based at Western Carolina University.

Dr. Pilkey received his B.S. degree in geology at Washington State College, his M.S. degree in geology at the University of Montana and his Ph.D. degree in geology at Florida State University. Between 1962 and 1965 he was a research professor at the University of Georgia Marine Institute on Sapelo Island. He has been at Duke University since 1965, with one year breaks with the Department of Marine Science at the University of Puerto Rico, Mayagez, and with the U.S. Geological Survey in Woods Hole, Massachusetts.

With local exceptions, it is fair to say that all coastal plain shorelines of the world are eroding. Where development abuts the shorelines, frantic and costly battles are fought to hold shorelines in place against the forces of a rising sea level. In this process, geologists and especially engineers have developed mathematical models to describe the behavior of beaches to determine project costs (for beach replenishment, hard stabilization, etc.), environmental impacts, and project durability. In the process, beach science has become politicized. Model simplifications such as shoreface profile of equilibrium and closure depth have become accepted coastal science principles even though they have no basis in reality. And since most major changes in beaches in the short term (decades) are related to storms of unpredictable frequency, duration, direction, and intensity, applied modeling of beach behavior cannot work at the assumed level of accuracy useful for engineering purposes. The public needs to know this!

Dr. Pilkey began his career with the study of abyssal plains on the deep sea floor and continental shelf sedimentation (the latter carried out with VIMS professor John Milliman). As a result of the destruction of his parents' house in Waveland, MS, in Hurricane Camille (1969), he switched to the study of coasts. His research centers on both basic and applied coastal geology, focusing primarily on barrier island coasts. The PSDS has analyzed the numerical models used by coastal geologists and engineers to predict the movement of beach sand, especially in beach replenishment. In general, Dr. Pilkey argues that mathematical models cannot be used to accurately predict the behavior of beaches, although they can be very useful if directional or orders-of-magnitude answers are sought. Dr. Pilkey has received numerous awards, among them the Francis Shepard medal for excellence in marine geology in 1987, public service awards from several geological societies, and in 2003, he received the Priestly Award. He has published more than 250 technical publications and a number of books.

[[seitz, Rochelle Seitz]] at 804-684-7698