158-2 Student-Based, Coastal-Hazards Research in the Caribbean

Sunday, 5 October 2008
George R. Brown Convention Center, Exhibit Hall E
David M. Bush, Department of Geosciences, University of West Georgia, Carrollton, GA, William J. Neal, Department of Geology, Grand Valley State University, Allendale, MI, Robert S. Young, Program for the Study of Developed Shorelines, Western Carolina University, Cullowhee, NC and Chester W. Jackson, Department of Geology, University of Georgia, Athens, GA
The costs related to coastal-hazard impacts in the Caribbean are soaring. Property and habitat losses continue to escalate because of continued coastal-zone development, and probable increased storm frequency. Broad-scale action at multiple levels within the public and private sectors are needed to counter growing losses, including education of private and public entities at all levels. In our experience, however, some educational efforts have not had a high impact (e.g., Living with the Puerto Rico Shore, a book that did not reach a wide enough audience; and past hazards short courses in St. Lucia, Antigua and Barbuda, and the Bahamas). In contrast, student-based research has been an important component in meeting the goals of implementing proper planning and mitigation efforts which must meet three objectives: (1) a thorough scientific understanding of the hazards being planned for and mitigated against, (2) comprehensive regulations based on detailed planning documents (e.g. hazard maps), and (3) easy access to information for all concerned entities.

A series of university student-based projects in Puerto Rico, the U. S. Virgin Islands, and Roatán, Honduras, include basic and applied science and coastal management research. Examples are monitoring beach profile changes in front of and adjacent to seawalls, measuring coastal erosion and accretion patterns from aerial photography, statistical analysis of whether or not pre-existing geomorphic parameters control hurricane damage patterns, the link between terrestrial land use and the offshore impacts on coral reefs, coastal-hazard evaluations using geoindicator-based checklists, multiple coastal-hazard assessments to develop coastal compartment management plans, and evaluating the efficiency of shoreline engineering projects such as gabions and groins. None of these projects could have been carried out without student research assistants. The field research, laboratory data analysis, development of maps and other evaluation tools, and presentation of results to local decision makers is all contingent on student involvement.