Faculty Science-Art Collaboration Project, “Was Here,” Illustrates Sea Level Change
East Carolina University’s Outer Banks Campus will host a disassembling event for a large art installation, “Was Here,” on Friday, October 7, 5 p.m.-6 p.m. Open to the public, the deinstallation will take place on the grounds of the Coastal Studies Institute in Wanchese, N.C. and will include an artist discussion, question and answer period and a reception.
“Was Here” is a collaboration between two ECU faculty members to study, illustrate and bring awareness to sea level change. David Lagomasino, assistant professor for the Department of Coastal Studies, and Gabe Duggan, assistant professor for the College of Fine Arts and Communication, said they worked with data to consider ways in which art might both respond to and challenge pre-existing science around the topic of sea level change.
The approximately 100-ft, three-dimensional piece offers three ways to view the experience: on the ground, from a higher floor inside the Institute and from images captured by drone or satellite. These three ways to view the piece represent how scientists receive data and study coastline changes and emphasize the importance of looking at an issue multiple ways.
Duggan said, “By documenting the [installation] process via real-time kinematic positioning (RTK), we’re tracking my movements in space to create the piece. We can then compare otherwise invisible patterns to the resulting work. My hope is that reflecting on this may offer some insight to parallel waxing-waning processes in nature, such as coastline removal and backfill.”
Lagomasino said, “We plan to continue to run further experiments to determine possible interactions between surface visibility, currents, and water levels. This work was just a steppingstone towards additional SciArt integration projects.”
The art installation was created referencing Coastal Studies Institute coastline maps from 1585, 1860 and 1950.
“Was Here” will be available for public viewing at the Coastal Studies Institute until Friday, October 7 when it will be removed in conjunction with Dare Arts’ First Friday series.
PUBLISHED OCT 04, 2022 BY
RESISTANCE AND RESILIENCE: THE IMPACT OF WEATHER DISTURBANCES ON THE LOUISIANA AND TEXAS COAST
With a new grant from NASA, LSU and ECU scientists will track the impact of severe weather disturbances on the coastal wetlands and estuaries in Louisiana and Texas.BATON ROUGE – A diverse array of ecosystems exist along the shores and in the waters of the Gulf of Mexico, many of them well-documented by researchers. However, in the face of increased severe weather and the stressors brought on by climate change, it is becoming clear that more work needs to be done to understand how the Gulf functions as a single system.
Now, a new 3-year, $1.4 million grant from NASA will allow LSU and ECU researchers to embark on gaining a more holistic view of the western portion of the Gulf, in part by deploying a novel computer modeling approach, called coupled modeling.
Z. George Xue, an associate professor in LSU’s Department of Oceanography & Coastal Sciences, or DOCS, with a joint appointment at the Center for Computation and Technology, will be heading a research team that includes DOCS Associate Chair and Professor of Oceanography & Coastal Sciences Kanchan Maiti, as well as Xinping Hu of Texas A&M Corpus Christi and David Lagomasino of East Carolina University.
The scientists aim to paint the fullest picture yet of how coastal wetlands and estuaries in the western Gulf of Mexico are responding to the pressure of increasing severe, transient disturbances, such as hurricanes, tropical storms, and even inland flooding. Their research will focus on ecosystem resistance—an individual area’s ability to withstand disturbances--and resilience--how well it recovers after damage has occurred.
The project spans three very different sites. Researchers will work in the grasslands and wetlands of Louisiana’s Barataria Bay, the Texas coast’s more urbanized Galveston Bay and finally, Mission-Aransas Estuary, also off the coast of Texas and known for its aridity. Examining such a diverse array of ecosystems ensures they will get a systemic picture of how coastal ecosystems respond to extreme weather events and other disturbances.
Coupled Land-Ocean Modeling: A Novel Approach:
One of the central tasks of this project will be the further development of a novel coupled ocean hydrological model, an ambitious undertaking that Xue says may be among the first of its kind. Computer models of two separate systems—in this case, river water and other runoff from land, and ocean water—are paired and run at the same time, effectively allowing them to interact with each other just as systems in the natural world would. This coupling replicates the kinds of feedback that occurs between systems and results in a more accurate depiction of coastal processes, such as compound flooding.
It’s an approach Xue has used before. The model will be built on top the models created for a previous EPSCoR project co-funded by NASA and the Louisiana Board of Regents, to study carbon export from in the Mississippi Delta. These intensive modeling techniques demand so processing power, they not only have to be run on Louisiana’s High Performance Computing Facility, the state’s only supercomputer, but they have made Xue’s group the largest user of the facility in the state. His hope is to eventually build similar models for the rest of the Gulf of Mexico.
“By applying and further developing the state-of-the-art compound flooding model, this project will significantly boost our understanding of the land-ocean interaction during extreme weather events like hurricanes and floods. The knowledge and technology gained from this project will benefit not only coastal Louisiana and Texas but also are transferable to other locations that are prone to coastal natural disasters,” Xue said.
-Story from LSU Media Center
NC Seagrant awards Dr. Lin Xiong grant to study dune restoration effectiveness across the Town of Nags Head
Written by: Dr. Lin Xiong
In the Outer Banks of North Carolina, beach and dune ecosystems support millions of annual visitors and a ~2.3-billion-dollar tourism industry. But beach and dunes are subjected to acute and chronic erosion due to climate change, sea level rise, and increases in coastal development, population, and tourism. Beach renourishment projects and dune stabilization initiatives are often underway to build more resilient coastline. Better Beaches OBX (BBOBX) have planted beach grass and placed recycled Christmas trees along the dune line to help stabilize and build dunes in Outer Banks for the past several years. However, there are no measures of the effectiveness of these dune stabilization initiatives, which are key interests for BBOBX and local towns.
We will use lidar to quantify sediment budgets, foredune dynamics, and assess how various dune restoration activities impact coastal resilience along the North Carolina coast. Lidar is short for light detection and ranging. It detects ranges by emitting laser pulses and measuring travelling time from returns. Our Coastal Laser Scanner system includes the core instrument--TLS (Terrestrial Laser Scanner), also called ground-based lidar. The TLS in our lab, VZ400i, can emit up to 500,000 laser pulses per sec and acquire millions of measurements of coastal dunes and beaches in a very short time. It is like a digital twin of the coastal system with point clouds.
Traditional cross-shore profile surveys measured by Real Time Kinematic (RTK) GPS can only measure beach dynamics in 2D whereby changes in sand volume cannot be accurately measured with those limited profiles. The Coastal Laser Scanner is developed in the CSI’s Coasts & Oceans Observing Lab, which is led by Dr. David Lagomasino. Our Coastal Laser Scanner system can provide high resolution topographic survey in 3D and greatly improves coastal landscape visualization and interpretation.
Our goal is to conduct repeat hyper-resolution topographic surveys using our Coastal Laser Scanner at planted and non-planted beachfront dunes to assess the effectiveness of the stabilization activities which will provide preliminary data for future funding, provide training opportunities for students, and reinforce community partnerships between the ECU Outer Banks Campus, BBOBX, and the Town of Nags Head.
ECU COASTAL RESEARCHERS CO-AUTHOR PAPER DETAILING HOW SATELLITES HELP MONITOR WET CARBON SYSTEMS
While carbon is an essential element to life on Earth, carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere have significantly increased within the last two centuries due to anthropogenic activities such as deforestation and the use of fossil fuels or deforestation. This rise in emissions not only has a negative impact on coastal and marine organisms but has also expedited the rate at which the earth is currently experiencing climate change.
Interestingly, some environments known as wet carbon ecosystems have properties that allow them to sequester carbon, taking it from the atmosphere and storing it instead. While these systems’ characteristics help to mitigate climate change impacts, there are still many knowledge gaps that need to be addressed, and two ECU researchers are on the case. Drs. David Lagomasino, who leads the CSI’s Coasts & Oceans Observing Lab, and Sean Charles, a postdoctoral scholar at CSI, are co-authors on a recent publication in the journal Environmental Research Letters entitled, “A review of carbon monitoring in wet carbon systems using remote sensing”.
So, what are wet carbon systems? Wet carbon systems include a broad grouping of water-associated environments that store high quantities of carbon. They include all fresh, brackish, saline, and wetland ecosystems. Wet carbon systems often have overlapping characteristics as they pertain to restoration, preservation, and research. Understanding these systems as they relate to measuring carbon dioxide and methane emissions has become an increasingly popular task of scientists and remote sensing specialists. Specifically, they seek to provide data on carbon monitoring across local, regional, and global scales. Carbon cycle monitoring is an important part of working to achieve emissions reductions and other sustainability-related goals related.
When asked about the motivation for investigating wet carbon systems, Charles shared, “our team sought to expand on ‘blue carbon’ environments- wetlands, marshes, mangroves, and seagrass- to include other wet ecosystems that also store large amounts of carbon.”
As part of the newly published review for the NASA Carbon Monitoring System (CMS) program, Lagomasino and Charles reviewed nine separate wet carbon systems in order to analyze methods for measurement, reporting, and verification (MRV) of the entire carbon cycle. To do this, their colleagues and they separated the nine wet carbon systems into three categories: coastal wetlands, inland wetlands, and ocean and shelves. A review of the literature on this topic revealed that the monitoring of wetlands using remote sensing has increased significantly over the last decade. So, what does that mean for stakeholders who hope to implement the use of this type of carbon monitoring in the coming years?
Stakeholders that might be interested in carbon monitoring range from cities to non-governmental organizations, international organizations, and other governing bodies. However, the inclusion of wet carbon systems in this assessment varies. The authors argue that while field-based methods of monitoring are sometimes difficult for wet carbon systems, remote sensing provides a promising prospect for MRV in these often inaccessible areas. In other words, although there is a need for an increase in wet carbon monitoring research, the authors believe that remote sensing research can help bridge gaps and has the potential to reduce uncertainty around these carbon estimates.
“[Wet carbon] ecosystems remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and store it, but quantifying and identifying changes in storage is essential for dealing with climate change,” shares Charles. “Remote sensing allows us to pinpoint changes across huge areas, even the entire world, over time.”
As Lagomasino put it, “Similar to how one monitors the money in their bank account, we are monitoring the amount of money, or carbon, going in and out of the system. This helps us identify where we might be losing, or gaining, that we which we may not know about.”
Following a model that has been implemented in oceanic carbon modeling, the researchers believe carbon mapping can be achieved across wet carbon systems as well. Lagomasino and Charles hope that the suggestions and recommendations the paper presents will help accelerate wet carbon monitoring and the role is it playing in major stakeholder decision-making.
“Combining remote sensing and field research can help scientists identify important carbon sinks to protect and promote their carbon sequestration, and identify vulnerable ecosystems to avoid the release of vast amounts of carbon dioxide back into the atmosphere,” says Charles. “We hope our work can help mitigate climate change and protect and restore valuable ecosystems and the communities that rely on them.”
When nature faces intense storms, it may be better to adapt and recover than try to resist.
According to a new study comparing the impacts of hurricanes, resilience is a more realistic management strategy for coastal areas. If disturbance events were not increasing in frequency and magnitude, resistance might be the best strategy, said study co-author John Kominoski, an ecologist in the Institute of Environment and lead principal investigator for the Florida Coastal Everglades Long Term Ecological Research program at FIU. That’s because disturbances would be infrequent and the probability of being impacted would be relatively low. But in times of greater storm frequency and intensity from accelerated climate change, there simply might not be enough time for resistance to take hold for some species.
“Our understanding of resilience — how can we expect nature to return to prior conditions is changing,” Kominoski said. “The ability to go with the flow confers more resilience but things that are anchored like trees, they are more resistant and can exhibit that resistance at a cost. In a general sense, resilience would allow organisms to adapt to changing conditions and bounce back but some organisms don’t.”
That’s why the idea of trying to enhance both resistance and resilience in coastal ecosystems may be an impossible task, according to Christopher Patrick, lead author of the study and researcher at William & Mary’s Virginia Institute of Marine Science.
“If it takes 25 years for one tree species to grow large enough to resist the average hurricane, but hurricanes now start impacting an area every 20 years, it’s probably a waste of effort to try to cultivate it,” Patrick said. “The best restoration strategy depends on the frequency and intensity of disturbance events both now and in the future.”
All told, the researchers used pre- and post-storm monitoring surveys to analyze patterns of ecosystem resistance and resilience from 26 Northern Hemisphere storms. These made landfall between 1985 and 2018 in states from Texas to North Carolina, as well as in Puerto Rico and Taiwan. They gauged storm characteristics and impacts via total rainfall, maximum rainfall rate, and wind speed; then grouped their study areas into four ecosystems (freshwater, saltwater, wetland, and terrestrial) and five “response categories,” for a grand total of 4,138 time series datasets. The response categories documented post-storm changes not only in the distribution and abundance of living things — populations of mobile animals such as fishes, sedentary animals such as oysters, and vascular plants such as mangroves — but also in the ecosystem’s biogeochemistry (e.g., salinity, nutrients) and hydrography (e.g., depth and shoreline position).
“In the face of a changing climate and shifts in extreme weather events like hurricanes, it’s critical that we make good decisions about how to protect and restore ecosystems,” said Mike Heithaus, executive dean of FIU’s College of Arts, Sciences & Education and a marine scientist who contributed data to the study on predator movements during the storms. “The insights we were able to gain from working across so many locations with so many collaborators and leveraging multiple long-term studies are critical for helping ensure the long-term health of coastal systems.”
Kominoski said data from long-term ecological research enables researchers to detect how the impacts of catastrophic events can leave an indelible mark on sensitive ecosystems, such as Florida’s Everglades.
The study, published in Science Advances, revealed a repeated pattern of trade-offs between resistance and resilience across ecological categories. The authors note these patterns are likely the outcomes of evolutionary adaptation and conform to ecological-disturbance theories, suggesting consistent rules govern ecosystem susceptibility to tropical cyclones.
The research team comprises 23 scientists from 11 states, Puerto Rico, and Taiwan. FIU contributors included Heithaus, Kominoski, FIU Institute of Environment Director Todd Crowl, Assistant Professors Jeremy Kiszka and Rolando Santos, as well as technician Sara Wilson and Assistant Teaching Professor Elizabeth Whitman. FIU alumni Bradley Strickland, now a postdoctoral researcher at Virginia Institute of Marine Science, J. Aaron Hogan, now a postdoctoral researcher at University of Florida, and David Lagomasino, an assistant professor at East Carolina University, were also among the contributors.
Their study is linked to a Research Coordination Network formally known as the Hurricane Ecosystem Response Synthesis Network funded by the National Science Foundation to synthesize knowledge concerning ecosystem responses to hurricanes. Joining Kominoski and Patrick as co-authors and members of the network’s leadership team are Bill McDowell, professor at the University of New Hampshire, and Beth Stauffer, associate professor at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.
Story from FIU News
A new paper published by an East Carolina University researcher in the Department of Coastal Studies shines light on the effect human-made infrastructure and natural topography has on coastal wetlands after major storm events.
In partnership with NASA and Florida International University, the study, led by assistant professor David Lagomasino, was published in the July edition of Nature Communications.
Despite resilient grow back in the past, Lagomasino and his research team estimate that nearly 11,000 hectares of mangrove forest, about 27,000 acres, failed to regrow at their previous levels after Hurricane Irma.
The study focused on the effects of Hurricane Irma, which struck Florida in 2017, and the damage it caused to the state’s mangrove forests. The research team found that the forests suffered unparalleled dieback after the major hurricane.
Mangrove forests are often damaged after hurricanes, but Lagomasino said forests in Florida have shown great resiliency in the past due to their structure, position and species composition. After Hurricane Irma, the forests did not rebound at the same rate. Nearly 11,000 hectares -- a space the size of more than 24,000 football fields -- showed evidence of complete dieback following the storm.
For a resource that prevents more than $11 billion in annual property and flood damage in the state, that’s a major concern, Lagomasino said.
“There have been significant storms in the past that have led to damage, but Irma seems to have caused one of the largest areas of dieback, at least in the satellite record,” Lagomasino said.
After studying satellite and aerial footage of the region, the research team was able to pinpoint potential explanations for the dieback, including human-made obstacles.
“Human-made obstacles, as well as natural changes in topography, can impact the flow of water through an area,” Lagomasino said. “Things like roads and levees can restrict or stop the flow of water between areas that were once connected. The lack of connection between the water can lead to extremes -- extreme dry conditions and extreme wet conditions, both of which can be stressful on wetland vegetation that thrives in more stable conditions.”
The study noted that human-made barriers can lead to an increase in how long water stays on the surface, which can cause rapid degradation of fine root materials. Increased saltwater ponding may occur when storm surge is high and barriers obstruct water flow.
These results are not only key for future storm planning in Florida, but other coastal states like North Carolina, Lagomasino said.
“What we have learned in Florida can be useful to North Carolina and other coastal regions,” Lagomasino said. “Our results indicate that the elevation of the landscape, the connectivity of water across the landscape, and the height of storm surge can indicate vulnerable areas. In other words, low elevation areas that are disconnected or do not have the capability to drain after being flooded are more susceptible to long-term damage.
“This is useful for understanding the resilience of coastal forests and wetlands in North Carolina and may also be important in predicting urban areas that may also be less resilient to these extreme events.”
The study suggested changes that can be made to improve coastal resiliency in the future when facing severe weather events, including:
“The big takeaway here is that intense winds do a lot of damage during hurricanes. However, the intensity of damage does not necessarily coincide with the ability of the system to recover over time. Other factors, like slight changes in the elevation of the coastal landscape and storm surge, play a significant role in how the ecosystem recovers or does not recover after the initial damage. Having these factors in mind prior to hurricane season can help lessen long-term impacts in vulnerable communities.”
PUBLISHED JUL 12, 2021 BY
Coastal seascapes (seagrasses, mangroves, coral reefs, tidal flats) are of high economic and ecological value all over the world and also offer extensive protection from extreme weather events. Coastal seascapes are often labeled “Blue Carbon” environments, meaning they are carbon-rich, water-related ecosystems that are able to store an abundance of carbon in their soils. This ability to sequester carbon is a crucial characteristic for climate change mitigation. Despite such importance, these ecosystems are significantly understudied, especially in tropical and developing nations, as well as small island nations where the people disproportionately depend on coastal resources.
Fortunately, ECU Department of Coastal Studies assistant professor David Lagomasino is among those who have been awarded NASA funding for a project proposal entitled, “Using ICESat-2 data for Coastal Ecosystem Structure”. The project includes a mix of researchers from NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, the German Aerospace Center, and World Wild Fund-Germany. The team will utilize data from one of NASA’s newest satellites, the Ice, Cloud and land Elevation Satellite (ICESat-2) to:
ICESat-2 is a satellite, which is able to provide elevation data by sending low-powered laser pulses toward Earth. Sensors on the satellite are able to collect what photons, or light particles, from the laser have been reflected from Earth, thus resulting in highly accurate elevation measurements. ICESat-2 was primarily developed for measuring the change in elevation of ice sheets and glaciers; however, the instrument uses a green laser that it is able to penetrate through the water to the seafloor, which can be translated into measurements of depth.
While it may seem weird for NASA, a space agency, to study the Earth, Lagomasino explained that NASA builds new technologies to explore far off planets and galaxies, but what better planet to study and test the instruments on than our own. The Earth facing NASA satellite fleet is advantageous for the project researchers as well as NASA space scientists. By using the satellite to better understand the Earth, it also can assist in identifying what is happening on other planets. It allows them to better understand their technology and look for ways to advance it. Because it proves to be a symbiotic relationship, NASA looks for opportunities to fund such earthly projects.
For this specific project, the team will combine data from ICESat-2 and other satellites to engineer new models for understanding the 3D structure of coastal seascapes. The extent and structure of the mangrove forests, seagrasses, and coral reefs are important for understanding the quality of the habitat for the creatures that live there, including us. Lagomasino says that the coastal models developed during this project will help us to regularly monitor shallow water coastal habitats and see how they will change over time – information that is critical for sustainably using our coastal resources.
The project will also fund a new ECU PhD student in the new Integrated Coastal Sciences Program in the coming fall semester.