This project, funded through the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Engineering With Nature initiative, will advance understanding of how and why coastal landforms, including dunes, salt marshes, and oyster reefs, are evolving through innovative coastal sensing, modeling, and experimental research. A team of six Principal Investigators (PIs) from Civil and Coastal Engineering (Professor Alex Sheremet, Ph.D., Assistant Professor Xiao Yu, Ph.D., Associate Professor Maitane Olabarrieta, Ph.D.), Environmental Engineering Sciences (Assistant Professor Andrew Altieri, PhD., Associate Professor Christine Angelini, Ph.D.), and Geological Sciences (Associate Professor Peter Adams, Ph.D.) brings expertise in coastal ecology, coastal engineering, physical oceanography, and geomorphology to this ambitious project which will focus in St. Johns County in northeast Florida, a region experiencing rapid population growth and whose tourism-based economy depends on healthy beaches and estuaries. This team will work with partners at the City of St Augustine, the Guana Tolomato Matanzas National Estuarine Research Reserve, the Northeast Florida Aquatic Preserve, the Florida Inland Navigation District, and the USACE Jacksonville District to guide restoration efforts to augment these coastal landforms and their provisioning of ecosystem services using knowledge gained through this project.
PIs Yu and Sherement will focus on identifying the relative importance of wind waves, boat wakes, and tidal currents in controlling the rates and patterns of coastal wetland loss and gain observed over the last 15 years in and around St. Augustine, Florida. PIs Olabarrieta and Adams will deploy advanced monitoring systems and models of beach-dune geomorphic evolution to understand why high-energy shorelines are either eroding or accreting and predict future breaches and tidal inlet dynamics in this region. Finally, Angelini, Altieri, post-doc Dr. Joe Morton, and PhD student Hallie Fischman will be implementing experiments to explore how plants and invertebrates, such as crabs, mussels, and oysters, are affecting coastal wetland and dune evolution and how these natural components of the coastal zone may be leveraged in the design of habitat restoration and augmentation projects to enhance their success.