Coastally Curious and in Quarantine

Greetings from Delft on Day 10 of quarantine!  These are strange times indeed, on so many levels.  I am fortunately still safe and healthy at home in Delft.  Let’s all keep our hands washed and fingers crossed in the weeks to come, and STAY THE FRIG HOME! We’re all in this together.

I have in part been occupying myself with preparing online lectures for our Coastal Dynamics course. We are extremely fortunate in that most of the course was already available online due to preparations made in previous years, but the lectures I was meant to give this week on tidal inlets were not. I changed a bunch of things in the slides last year, so we had a number of student requests to record new lectures. We live in an era where online education was already becoming more and more the norm, and I think this crisis will just push that trend over the edge.

With that in mind, I decided to try my hand at narrating the slides using Kaltura, a program for doing video capture. There are a few different options out there, but that was the one that I liked best. I have actually been having a lot of fun with the lectures- it feels like I’m hosting a podcast or on the radio. “GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOD MORNING QUARANTINE!!!!!” I suspect it wouldn’t be the most popular podcast (there are not so many of us ebb-tidal delta enthusiasts), but hopefully I can convert a few of our students in the process.

On Friday I prepared a lecture on the evolution of barrier coasts, such as the Dutch coast or much of the Eastern and Gulf of Mexico coasts of the US. I couldn’t help but share a few interesting links with the students, and I thought I’d post them here too. This is a really cool animation showing 30 years of barrier island and tidal inlet evolution on the southeastern coast of Australia, obtained via satellite imagery:

There’s also the iCoast tool developed by the US Geological Survey for training their machine learning algorithms to recognize storm damage to barrier islands from hurricanes.  It shows you to see before and after photos, and asks you to tag the changes or damage that you see, which is a great way to learn more about coastal geomorphology.  You’re also helping the USGS improve their detection algorithms- citizen science!:

And here’s another cool interactive site about barrier islands that just popped up yesterday in my twitter feed:

To keep myself sane/busy this weekend, I bought a linocut printing kit from the printing shop around the corner from my house (Indrukwekkend, which means “impressive” in Dutch- I love puns that work in more than one language!).  I had always wanted to try it out, but never made time for it.  No time like the present!    I took one of my old sketches of waves (see here for the original inspiration) and made a print of it.  By the end my desk was an unholy mess of ink, but I had a lot of fun and found the linoleum carving to be very therapeutic.  See the top of the page for the finished product!


That’s all for now. Stay sane and healthy, readers!  And be kind to one another.

The Beach: A River of Sand

It’s February, which means it’s Coastal Dynamics season again!  5 years ago (time flies!), I  first arrived in the Netherlands as part of my master’s program.  I walked into the classroom for Judith Bosboom’s Coastal Dynamics 1 course, and it really changed everything for me.  CD1 felt like the course I had been waiting for all my life, combining geology, geography, physics, and practical engineering all in one package.  The course was also so well-taught and structured that it seemed like an IV drip of knowledge, pulsing straight to your brain.  I felt like I was truly in the right place and coastal engineering was the field for me.  It cranked my enthusiasm for all things coastal to 11.

After I became a PhD student, I began TAing the course and learned what it was like on the other side of the classroom.  This revealed a hitherto unsuspected enthusiasm for teaching (although perhaps it shouldn’t have been a big surprise, given that I come from a large family of teachers), and has been a big factor in my interest to stay in academia.

Every year, we start the course by showing students the video “River of Sand”, which explains coastal sediment transport in an easily understandable way.  This video is 55 years old now, but it still does a better job of explaining how beaches work than almost anything else I’ve seen.  I hope you enjoy it as much as we do!