Do you ever think about the swirling patterns in your cappuccino as you stir your spoon around, the brown coffee folding in past the white foam? And do you ever think about sediment transport as you do it? Just me? Ok, never mind…
I had the great privilege of hanging out in New Orleans this past week, being a sand nerd with four hundred of my fellow sand nerds at the Coastal Sediments conference. In between jazz sets at the Spotted Cat, we shared our latest ideas about coastal dynamics, built new collaborations, and rekindled old pre-pandemic friendships. My contribution this year was an attempt to bring the science behind cappuccino coffee swirls to coastal sediment transport.
What is the fate of nourished sand? What are the pathways of sediment on an ebb-tidal delta or in a tidal basin? What role does sediment play in the UNESCO-world heritage area of the Wadden Sea? We are looking for a curious and motivated postdoc to work with us on an exciting project here at TU Delft in the Netherlands. The main goal of this position is to develop and test novel simulation approaches to trace pathways of different sediment types, and to predict sediment dispersal and morphodynamic responses to different nourishment strategies.
Mangrove forests protect tropical coastlines around the world from the effects of waves, in addition to providing valuable habitat for countless species. As such, their preservation and restoration is a key element of many plans for improving coastal resilience against flooding and erosion in the face of climate change. However, you can’t *just plant* a mangrove forest anywhere – mangroves are extremely picky, dancing on the edge of the intertidal zone where they get just wet enough but never too wet for too long. They also need safe, stable shorelines for their seedlings to take root and grow stronger, without too many waves and with just the right sort of muddy conditions to make a comfortable home.
Mangroves drop their seeds (called propagules) in the water, which then float around with the currents for days to weeks until they find a suitable home. But which pathways do these mangrove seedlings take as they float along the coast? Are those the same pathways that sand and mud take? These are questions that we need to answer in order to make better decisions about mangrove restoration. To get to the bottom of this, we recruited Femke Bisschop.
Big news to start 2023: I am now an Assistant Professor in Coastal Engineering here at TU Delft! An opening appeared online last summer, and after weeks of preparing applications, several rounds of interviews and a teaching demonstration, and a lot of waiting, I finally got the good news. This has been my dream job for a long time and I can’t believe it came true.
Officially, my new portfolio will focus on “Climate-Robust Deltas”. How does sediment contribute to the strength and adaptability of our coasts and deltas against the effects of sea level rise and climate change? In my research we approach this gigantic problem by quantifying sediment pathways and connectivity for strategic placement of sediment, using a combination of numerical modelling and field measurements. In the coming years, I hope to build up a diverse team of enthusiastic, coastally curious researchers to tackle these challenges. Stay tuned for opportunities to join our group!
At the end of June, we will welcome a group of about a dozen American PhD students for our second annual IRES summer school, hosted at Deltares/TU Delft/Utrecht University and organized by the University of New Orleans and The Water Institute of the Gulf in Louisiana.
Last year we hosted 14 American PhD students for two (fully funded!) weeks in beautiful Delft. It includes D-Flow FM model training, cool field trips to sites around the Netherlands, a lab session, networking galore, guest lectures, and time for exploring the area. Last year everyone seemed to learn a lot and have a pretty good time (I sure did!). We have a great team and are excited to make it even better this year. Please share this with anyone in your network whom you know might be interested!
More details can be found in the pdf below. If you are interested you can apply here before January 27th, 2023. We will host the summer school for a third and final time in 2024, so if you are too late or ineligible this year, stay tuned for another chance next year!
It so happens, though – a wholly unforeseen accident – that the feel and appearance of a book when combined with a literate person in a straight chair can create a spiritual condition of priceless depth and meaning. This form of meditation, an accident, as I say, may be the greatest treasure at the core of our civilization.
– Kurt Vonnegut
2022 was an intense year in many respects, but an excellent year for reading! A few people have recently asked me for book recommendations, so here are my favourite books that I read in 2022, presented here in (more or less) the order that I read them. These are the books that sucked me in, resonated deeply, changed the way I thought, or simply gave me a big literary hug in a crazy year. This post has nothing to do with coasts but a great deal to do with my curiosity, so I thought it was still worth sharing here. I hope that you find something you like here, too!
Keeping Dutch feet dry is mainly done by placing piles of sand along the coast as “nourishments”. These nourishments build out the beaches and dunes to act as a protective buffer against storms. However, as was recently pointed out by an official at Rijkswaterstaat, the Dutch water ministry, the Hamvraag or “bacon question” is still “where the heck does all that sand actually go?”
Knowing where nourished sand goes is important for understanding the ecological impact of nourishments, as well as their effectiveness. If you want your sand to reach a certain destination, how much of it actually gets there and how quickly?
Tropical cyclones or hurricanes threaten the lives of millions and cause billions of dollars in damage every year. To estimate flood risks at a particular location, scientists and engineers typically start by looking at the historical record of all previous storms there. From these records, they can statistically predict how likely a storm of a given size is (e.g., the biggest storm likely to occur there in 100 years).
There are two problems with this approach: (1) What if there isn’t much historical data in the records? This is often the case for Small Island Developing States (SIDS) and in the Global South. If you don’t have enough data points (particularly for rarer, more extreme events), your statistical estimates will be much more uncertain. (2) What if the historical record isn’t representative of the conditions we are likely to see in the present and future? This is also a big problem in light of climate change, which is expected to bring sea level rise and changes in storminess to coasts around the world.
To address these challenges, our team led by Tije Bakker came up with a new approach to estimating tropical cyclone-induced hazards like wind, waves, and storm surge in areas with limited historical data. Our findings are now published open-access in Coastal Engineering here!
How do sand and mud move around on our coasts? This is a question that we need to answer in order to sustainably manage coastlines in the face of sea level rise and climate change. To do so, we use a combination of field measurements and computer simulations at Ameland Inlet in the Netherlands. In the course of my PhD we developed several new methods, including morphodynamic mapping techniques, a sediment composition index (SCI) derived from optical and acoustic measurements, techniques for sediment tracing, the sediment connectivity framework, and a Lagrangian sediment transport model (SedTRAILS). Together, these approaches reveal new knowledge about our coasts which can be used for managing these complex natural systems.
That’s a bit of a mouthful, so let’s break it down and try to explain what I have been doing with sand for the last half-decade…
As a kid, I was obsessed with maps. Give me an atlas and I would be sucked in for hours. Eventually I wound up in coastal engineering and took a GIS course with the amazing Dr. Kate Parks in Southampton. This reignited my interest in cartography, as I now had the tools I needed to make my own maps. Over the coming years this led to an interest in how we can map our coastal regions to better communicate their morphodynamics. Also (mostly), I just wanted to make pretty maps! Making figures sometimes feels like one of the only avenues for artistic expression that we have in science.
To reach these goals, a good colourmap is a key ingredient. For a map showing the topography/bathymetry of a coast, a colourmap is the range of colours that correspond to a particular elevation. In this post, I will walk you through how I created two of my favourite colourmaps.