Mentor: Dr. Don Barber
Sandy barrier islands form most of the North Carolina coast. While these islands protect the bays and estuarine shoreline from the waves of the Atlantic Ocean, the sandy barrier islands themselves are constantly changing. By studying how these islands have changed in the past, we can help coastal communities anticipate future shoreline change. Using a global positioning system (GPS) we will map the shorelines of the North Bay Barrier, Cedar Island, and also investigate localized areas along Core Banks near Cape Lookout. We will use geographic information system software to compare our precise shoreline measurements with older charts (from the last 150 years) to determine how the island contours have changed. The GPS shoreline locations that we measure will also provide baseline data against which future changes can be monitored.
Another aim of our research is to investigate linear sand ridges that appear to be ancient beach ridges on Cedar Island. Along the mid-Atlantic and Southeast coast, it is generally thought that sea level has been continuously rising over the last 12,000 years. The presence of shoreline ridges inland from the current shoreline may point to a different local sea level trend, suggesting that sea level was higher than present sometime during this time interval (~5,000 years ago?). Using ground penetrating radar and sediment cores we will attempt to determine the depositional trends that have resulted in the inland ridges, and also potentially determine the age of the ridges by radiocarbon dating material that we retrieve in the cores.