Van Vleck High School

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2022-2023 field trip data: VanVleckHS2022-23v2.pdf

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Van Vleck High School students collect data at MAT01, which is adjacent to a washover channel—Three Mile Cut (Fig 1). The washover channel is a low-lying area of the peninsula that is periodically opened between the Gulf of Mexico and East Matagorda Bay during major storms such as hurricanes. Van Vleck and Palacios High School students also collect GPS vegetation line and shoreline data at MAT03 (Fig. 1), a site adjacent to the Matagorda Bay Nature Park fishing pier and on the updrift side of the jetty at the mouth of the Colorado River.


Figure 1. Location map of Van Vleck monitoring sites MAT01 adjacent to Three Mile Cut and MAT03 near the mouth of the Colorado River.

Hurricane Ike made landfall on Galveston Island on September 13, 2008, as a Category 2 hurricane. The storm surge from Hurricane Ike briefly opened Three Mile Cut and caused vegetation line retreat and dune erosion at MAT01. Since Ike’s landfall, students from Van Vleck High School have been monitoring the recovery and seaward expansion of the dunes and the seaward movement of the vegetation line at this site (Fig. 2).

Figure 2

Figure 2. Changes to the beach and dune system at MAT01 on Matagorda Peninsula. (A) Beach profile showing the seaward expansion of the dunes between September 2008 (Post-Hurricane Ike) and January 2023. (B) Series of photos from September 26, 2008; September 20, 2012; and January 19, 2023 showing the seaward movement of the vegetation line and shoreline and expansion of the dunes. All three photos were taken from the primary dune crest looking northeast toward Three Mile Cut.

Understanding the impacts of coastal structures are critical to coastal management. After the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers constructed a new north jetty at the mouth of the Colorado River in 2010, GPS-mapping indicated that the shoreline position at MAT03 moved 125-m seaward over a decade (Fig. 3). The combination of the new jetty impounding sand on the updrift side and decreased vehicular traffic at MAT03 has allowed for coppice dune formation to occur on the expanded backbeach area and for new vegetation to develop without being disturbed.

Figure 3

Figure 3. Changes at location MAT03 at Matagorda Bay Nature Park due to the construction of a jetty at the mouth of the Colorado River. (A) GPS mapped shorelines from September 2009 through April 2023. The shoreline moved seaward at an average rate of 12.5 m/yr until 2019 when the position stabilized. (B) Shoreline, vegetation line, and beach profile volume change. Notice that the shoreline and vegetation lines have stabilized after a decade of advancement. (C) September 26, 2009 and September 21, 2016 photographs looking southwest toward the Colorado River along the dune crest at MAT03. Note the increase in the coppice dune area seaward of the dune crest in the 2016 photograph.

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