Wednesday, May 10, 2017

URSP Student Alayna Bigalbal Quantifies the Impact of Vegetation In Coastal Wetlands on Storm Surge Erosion

The research I am conducting involves quantifying the impact of vegetation in coastal wetlands on storm surge erosion. What initially got me started in coastal research was my professor and now mentor, Dr. Ferreira. I joined his Flood Hazards Research Lab during my Junior year at Mason where I have been exposed to an extraordinary research environment working closely with other undergraduates, master and doctoral students. Among other great things, I have obtained a deep understanding of physical processes in coastal and riverine environments. During this time in the lab I used numerical models to analyze the influence of sea-level rise effects on storm surge inundation in the Chesapeake Bay. I am now expanding this research to examining the impact of the vegetation in the marshes during storm surge events.

On a weekly basis, I run the two-dimensional model XBeach. XBeach is a depth-averaged two-dimensional numerical model that was originally used to simulate dune erosion along the shore and incorporates vegetation. I simulate hurricane like conditions in my study area, Magothy Bay, located in the Chesapeake Bay, to quantify the amount of erosion with and without vegetation. Not only do I run the model, this research requires vegetation data from Magothy Bay Natural Area Preserve. In the marsh, vegetation species, density, diameter, and height will be measured to implement into XBeach.

One thing that I have discovered so far in my research is the importance of patience. Many issues have come up in learning XBeach and figuring out how implement it in my circumstance. However, it is important to keep pushing through and be patient with yourself. I know that things will get completed one step at a time and that this experience will bring me one step closer to my dream of becoming a well-rounded water engineer.