Bureau of Economic Geology, The University of Texas at Austin (www.beg.utexas.edu).
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
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.
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.
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.
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.