The Texas High School Coastal Monitoring Program Goals

The Coastal Monitoring Program has three major goals:

  1. Provide high school students with an inquiry-based learning experience.

    Students make several field trips to their study sites during the school year. Working in teams, they conduct topographic surveys (beach profiles) of the foredune and beach, map the vegetation line and shoreline, collect sediment samples, and observe weather and wave conditions. Back in the classroom, students analyze their data and look for relationships among the observed phenomenon. UT scientists provide background information and guide inquires of the data, but students are encouraged to form their own hypotheses and to test them. Through their collaboration with working scientists on an actual research project, the students gain an enhanced science education.

  2. Increase public awareness and understanding of coastal processes and hazards.

    We expect that the participating students will discuss the program with their parents, classmates, and neighbors, further expanding the reach of the program. A World Wide Web site containing the latest information is central to the community outreach and science education portions of the project. For example, coastal residents may wish to view the effects of a storm that strikes the upper coast. They can do this by accessing the Texas Coastal Monitoring Program web site and view maps, graphs, and photographs collected by Ball High School students on Galveston Island. Curiosity may drive this inquiry at first, but what is realized is an increased awareness and appreciation of coastal processes and how future storms could affect ones community.

  3. Obtain a better understanding of the relationship between coastal processes, beach morphology, and shoreline change, and make data and findings available for solving coastal management problems.

    The Bureau of Economic Geology of The University of Texas at Austin has conducted a thirty-year research program to monitor shorelines and investigate coastal processes. An important portion of this program is the repeated mapping of the shoreline and measurement of beach profiles. Over time, these data are used to determine the rate of shoreline change. A problem we face is the limited temporal resolution in our shoreline data. The beach is a dynamic environment where significant changes in shape and sand volume can occur over periods of days or even hours. Tides, storms, and seasonal wind patterns cause large, periodic or quasi-period changes in the shape of the beach. If coastal data are not collected often enough, periodic variations in beach morphology could be misinterpreted as secular changes. The High School Coastal Monitoring Program helps address this problem by providing scientific data at key locations along the Texas coast. These data are integrated into the ongoing coastal research program at the Bureau and are made available to other researchers and coastal managers.