University of Texas at Austin

THSCMP - Ball High School

Students conducted surveys at Galveston Island State Park, BEG02 (Fig. 1)—a profile that the Bureau has been measuring since the 1980’s. Ball High School students also started collected data at two new locations JAM02 in Jamaica Beach and DEL01 at the Dellanera RV Park (Fig. 1). Both of these sites will monitor beach nourishment and Coastal Erosion Planning and Response Act (CEPRA) beach and dune restoration activities.Ball HS monitoring site

BEG02, one of the Ball High monitoring sites, has been used by Bureau scientists in a study on the effects of geotextile tubes that have been installed along the upper Texas coast. The site located in Galveston Island State Park, is adjacent to a subdivision where these erosion-control devices have been installed. One of the observations made during this study involved beach width (distance from the vegetation line or base of dune to the waterline) in front of the geotextile tubes versus a natural beach area, Galveston Island State Park. Beach width in the natural beach area was wider, owing to the lack of restriction caused by placement of the geotextile tubes (Gibeaut and others, 2003) (Fig. 2).
BEG02 Geotextile tubes
Figure 2. Lidar topographic-relief image of Galveston Island State Park and Pirates Beach subdivision. Note the difference in beach width between the natural beach and the area in front of the subdivision. From Gibeaut and others (2003).

Students from Ball High School have been collecting data for the coastal monitoring program since 1997. During this timeframe, Tropical Storm Frances (September 1998) played a major role in reshaping the beaches in Galveston County. Data collected by Ball High School students on Galveston Island have been used by scientists at the Bureau to track beach and dune recovery stages following Tropical Storm Frances. The storm caused significant damage to beaches along the southeast coast of Texas that was comparable to damage caused by category-3 Hurricane Alicia in 1983 (Hepner and Gibeaut, 2004). Several other severe storms have impacted the study area. Allison (June 2001), Fay (September 2002), Hurricane Claudette (July 2003), and Hurricane Rita (September 2005) have each caused varying degrees of damage to beaches and dunes along the Texas coast (Fig. 3). Ball High School students provided important prestorm beach topography data from their field trips during the 2004–2005 and 2007–2008 academic years.


figure 3
Figure 3. Profile volume, shoreline, and vegetation-line changes at Galveston Island State Park, September 1994–April 2008.

 The 2008–2009 academic year was severely affected by the landfall of Hurricane Ike on Galveston Island September 13, 2008. Owing to the size of the storm, impacts from this hurricane were seen along the entire Texas coast, despite Ike's being only a category 2 storm at the time of landfall. Dune erosion was also documented at Matagorda Peninsula and Mustang Island. Galveston Island experienced significant beach and dune erosion, as well as extensive damage to property and infrastructure because of Hurricane Ike. Ball High School students were unable to participate in the program during the 2008–2009 academic year due to safety concerns about accessing their monitoring sites. The original datum marker at BEG02 was destroyed by the storm. A new marker (a buried metal pipe) was reset approximately 60 m landward of the old datum marker along the same azimuth line. GLO06, at the southwest corner of Galveston Island State Park, was also lost as a result of Hurricane Ike. GLO06 was reset approximately 60 m landward of the old datum marker landward of the foredunes and adjacent to a wetland feature.

Ball High School students from the 2007–2008 academic year provided extremely valuable prestorm profile data on February 8, 2008, and April 23, 2008. These data have been used to determine how much the beach and dunes changed after Hurricane Ike. Figure 4 is a profile plot at BEG02 comparing Ball High prestorm profiles with the post-Hurricane Ike profile measured on October 7, 2008. The post-Tropical Storm Frances profile from September 16, 1998, is also plotted for comparison. The dune system at Galveston Island State Park was completely destroyed, and the shoreline (wet–dry line) moved 53 m landward between April 23, 2008, and October 7, 2008 (Fig. 4). The vegetation line moved 56 m landward. The old datum point was 1.14 m above the current surface of the beach.


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Figure 4. Beach-profile plots from BEG02 in Galveston Island State Park comparing the post-Hurricane Ike profile with two prestorm profiles from early 2008 and the post-Tropical Storm Frances profile from September 1998. The old datum point is 0.


Ball High School students resumed monitoring beaches as part of the THSCMP at the start of the 2009 academic year. At BEG02 (Fig. 5), beaches and dunes had continued to recover post–Hurricane Ike. Between September 2009 and January 2011, the foredunes at BEG02 had begun to grow. Whether initial growth of the foredunes is due to natural recovery processes or human intervention is unclear. The foredune ridge has continued to grow in the intervening years. A wide vegetated zone with expanding coppice dunes has developed between the seaward base of the foredunes and the landward extent of wave run-up.

Storm Impacts

Figure 5. BEG02 datum reset post-storm profile plus data collected by Ball High School students. Students are monitoring recovery of the beaches and dunes at this site.

Gibeaut, J. C., Hepner, T. L., Waldinger, R. L., Andrews, J. R., Smyth, R. C., and Gutierrez, R., 2003. Geotextile Tubes along the Upper Texas Gulf Coast: May 2000 to March 2003. The University of Texas at Austin, Bureau of Economic Geology. Report prepared for Texas General Land Office, 37 pages plus appendices. Hepner, T. L., and Gibeaut, J. C., 2004. Tracking post-storm beach recovery using data collected by Texas high school students. Shore and Beach. Volume 72, Number 4. Pages 5 to 9.