Thursday, January 31, 2019

URSP Student Mera Shabti Evaluates Wetlands as a Natural Defense Against Storm Surges

Over recent years, countless devastating hurricanes have caused severe destruction to coastal habitats. Traditional methods have proven to be costly and non-sustainable. I joined forces with other engineering students to investigate how wetlands can be constructed along shorelines as a means of natural defense against storm surges. As part of the geotechnical team, I spent the past year characterizing soil at a local wetland, and developing a methodology to conduct erosion tests in a lab that could replicate erosion patterns seen at the wetland. Now, a normal week consists of running two to three erosion tests at the George Mason John Toups Instructional Laboratory for Civil, Environmental, and Infrastructure Engineering, along with respective data collection and analysis. We predict that when keeping all other factors constant, density and the presence of vegetation have the greatest potential to impact rates of erosion. Thus far, comparing results of tests with vegetation as the varied factor against tests with density as the varied factor shows significant increased reduction of erosion with the presence of vegetation. This means that tangible improvement can be achieved by construction of a wetland.

Getting involved in this research launched me on an enlightening journey where I was able to practice and nourish my out-of-the-box thinking skills. I have become part of a scholarly group of graduate researchers at GMU, allowing me to expand my knowledge of elements such as a typical publication process and to gain general experience in the industry. Since becoming part of OSCAR, I have been able to build on this experience by interacting with researchers in other disciplines, and I’ve learned more about things that can be looked past when diving into a research project of this magnitude, such as proper acknowledgements, avoiding falsification of data, and more. I am excited to continue with my research all the way through, to see how I can ultimately contribute to society by unveiling the practical applications of my studies.