From Bureau of Economic Geology, The University of Texas at Austin (www.beg.utexas.edu).
For more information, please contact the author.

Coastal Zone 05 Conference, New Orleans, July 17–20, 2005

The Texas High School Coastal Monitoring Program: A Program in Education, Public Awareness, and Coastal Management

Tiffany L. Hepner and James C. Gibeaut

Extended Abstract:

INTRODUCTION
The Texas High School Coastal Monitoring Program engages people who live along the coast in the study of their natural environment. High school students, teachers, and scientists work together to gain a better understanding of dune and beach dynamics on the Texas coast. Scientists from the Bureau of Economic Geology (BEG) at The University of Texas at Austin provide the tools and training needed for scientific investigation. Students and teachers learn how to measure the topography, map the vegetation line and shoreline, and observe weather and wave conditions. By participating in an actual research project, the students obtain an enhanced science education.

The students’ efforts provide coastal communities with valuable data on their changing shoreline. Data collected by the students have been applied by scientists to understand beach, dune, and vegetation line recovery following Tropical Storms Frances (1998), Allison (2001), Fay (2002), and Hurricane Claudette (2003). The data have also been used to understand the effect and efficiency of geotextile tubes that have been installed along the Gulf of Mexico shoreline of the upper Texas coast. Beaches on South Padre Island are nourished every other year from a dredging project at Brazos Santiago Pass. Student collected data monitors the effects of these nourishment projects on adjacent beaches. Through these real world examples of scientific observations, students gain a better understanding of environmental issues affecting their communities. All data collected by this program are integrated into the ongoing coastal research program at the Bureau of Economic Geology and are made available through the Internet to other researchers and coastal managers.

BACKGROUND
The Texas High School Coastal Monitoring Program (THSCMP) has three major goals. First, to provide high school students with an inquiry-based learning experience. Students analyze data that they have collected on field trips to their study sites and look for relationships among the observed phenomena. BEG scientists provide background information and guide inquiries about 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.

The second goal is to 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. We also expect the program to attract media attention as it has in the past. A World Wide Website (http://coastal.beg.utexas.edu/thscmp/) containing the latest information is central to the community outreach portion of the project.

The third goal of the THSCMP is to 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 BEG 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 THSCMP 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 BEG and are made available to other researchers and coastal managers.

METHODS
Students from Ball High School on Galveston Island have been participating in the THSCMP since 1997. Port Aransas High School on Mustang Island and Port Isabel High School near South Padre Island joined the program in 1999. Currently, there are plans to add an additional three to four schools during the 2005-06 academic year. Two to four student field trips take place during each academic year. During the trips, students visit several locations and apply scientific procedures to measure beach morphology and make observations on beach conditions. Students use the Emery method to accurately survey a shore-normal beach profile from the foredunes to the waterline. The students begin the profile at a Global Positioning System (GPS) surveyed datum point, which allows the comparison of each new profile to earlier profiles. Using a differential GPS unit, students walk along the vegetation line and shoreline, mapping these features for display on Geographic Information System (GIS) software. The GPS mapping provides measurements of the rate of shoreline change. Students measure wind speed and direction, estimate the width of the surf zone, and observe breaker type. They note the wave direction, height, and period, and estimate the longshore current speed and direction. Students also learn to obtain weather and oceanographic data from resources on the Internet to compare with their observations.

OBSERVATIONS
The first goal of the Texas High School Coastal Monitoring Program is to provide high school students with an inquiry-based learning experience. This is achieved by involving students in a real world research project. The student collected beach data can and has been used by researchers at the BEG to help answer several beach related issues and concerns. The data is also available to the coastal managers and the public on-line at http://coastal.beg.utexas.edu/thscmp/index.html.

Several severe storms have impacted the study area since the inception of the program. Tropical Storms Frances (1998), Allison (2001), Fay (2002), and Hurricane Claudette (2003) have caused various amounts of damage to the beaches and dunes along the Texas coast. Data collected by Ball High School students on Galveston Island have been used by scientists at the BEG 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 damages caused by category 3 Hurricane Alicia in 1983.

BEG02, one of the Ball High Monitoring sites, has been used by BEG scientists in a study on the effects of geotextile tubes that have been installed along the upper Texas coast. BEG02, located in Galveston Island State Park, is adjacent to a subdivision where the erosion control devices have been installed. One of the observations made during this study involved beach widths, distance from the vegetation line or base of dune to the waterline, in front of the geotextile tubes versus in a natural beach area, Galveston Island State Park. The beach width in the natural beach area was wider due to the lack of restriction caused by the placement of the geotextile tubes (Gibeaut, et al., 2003).

Port Aransas and Port Isabel High Schools have been collecting beach profile data and coastal processes observations since 1999. While neither location has experienced the type of dramatic shoreline change as Galveston and Follets Islands, the information gained from the students work has been very beneficial for BEG researchers in understanding the dynamics of the Texas coast. Biannually the Brazos Santiago Pass, the southern border of South Padre Island, is dredged. The Pass serves as the southern Gulf of Mexico access to the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway and the Port of Brownsville. The dredged material is placed on beaches of South Padre Island. The two sites monitored by Port Isabel High School students are within the nourishment areas. The SPI02 monitoring site has also been used by the students and scientists to monitor the growth of dunes. When the monitoring site was established in August of 2000, there was neither vegetation nor dunes at this location seaward of the seawall. Since that time, sand fences have been installed and vegetation has been planted. The profile data have been quantifying the effects of these actions.

CONCLUSIONS
In the eight years since the inception of The Texas High School Coastal Monitoring Program, the work of the students at Ball, Port Aransas, and Port Isabel High Schools has been beneficial to BEG researches and coastal managers. The efforts of the students have been useful to several research projects the BEG has conducted. The availability of the data through the Program’s website allows access to coastal managers and the public. Scientists, students, and the public will continue to gain a better understanding of coastal processes and shoreline change along the Texas coast through this successful student research program.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
This paper was funded by a grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, administered by the Texas General Land Office. It is a report of the Coastal Coordination Council pursuant to NOAA Award Nos. NA03NOS4190102, NA17OZ2353, NA17OZ1140, NA07OZ0134, NA97OZ0179, NA87OZ0251 and NA87OZ0202. The views expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of NOAA or any of its sub-agencies.

LITERATURE CITED
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, final report prepared for Texas Coastal Coordination Council pursuant to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Award No. NA07OZ0134, under GLO contract number 02-493 R, 37 p. + apps.

Hepner, T. L., and J. C. Gibeaut. 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.