A Mid-Autumn Update
October 23, 2016 by Chris Hein
Williamsburg, VA 23 October 2016
The high temperatures finally fell below 80 degrees down here in Virginia and the leaves are maybe just starting to think about changing. We also dodged a huge bullet with Hurricane Matthew last week, though neighbors in Virginia Beach did not make out so lucky, and that is to say nothing of the damage and loss of life and property further south in the US and utter devastation in Haiti.
Hurricane Matthew did nothing to Plum Island, having never really made it up that far north. Same with Hermine, Gaston, Lisa, etc. In fact, it has been a quiet year on Plum Island in terms of storms and the erosion they cause. Of course, we’re just about to start heading into nor’easter season, so that may soon change. I encourage you to check out my blog post from a few years back talking about what we might expect heading into the winter season.
I’ve been quiet too, as the team has been working on a range of projects associated with Plum Island. Just what have we been up to? Well, here are some highlights from this past summer:
- Rebecca Whitney completed an awesome Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) project looking at down-core sediment records from our Plum Island Geoprobe cores. She studied 9000 years of sediment deposited under Plum Island to learn more about where it is from and the processes that deposited it. The short answer? Something big changed ~6000 years ago when sea-level rise slowed. The entire nature of the sediment forming Plum Island shifted, and likely came more from the Merrimack River than offshore, the dominant source earlier.
- Sarah Baker has been working hard on her study of erosion at Plum Island Point. She has been mapping old shorelines (guided in part by Mike Morris of Storm Surge and we sampled sand from the entire Plum Island Point region back in early July to track how the sand changes away from the inlet . . . and try to figure out how much of the sand that builds up Reservation Terrace and Plum Island Point is moved from the south, through holes in the jetty.
- Jenn Connell has been processing and analyzing sediment from cores in the marsh behind Plum Island. She is using a tool called radioisotopic dating (and specifically lead-210 dating) to determine how fast the marsh has been growing over the past 100 years.
- Charlie Deaton had his closely related study of barrier island change in Virginia accepted for publication. I’ll be writing a new post on this just as soon as that if formally published and we can share these very neat results.
- Justin Shawler has been writing up the results of his honors thesis, which he defended back in May. We’re hoping that will be submitted for publication soon and we’re very excited to share those results soon. There is a very neat story about how European colonists right up through modern communities along the Merrimack River have been impacted the amount of sand that makes it to the beach each year.
- I’ve been working lately with other team members on proposals to allow us to expand and continue our work on Plum Island. As any good science does, this project has raised just as many questions as answers of earlier questions it has provided.
I’ll be posting updates on each of the above points soon. Keep checking back over the next weeks to months.
However, in the real near future, we’ll be posting to this website the first webisode from our documentary film. CHECK BACK in just a few days for that. We’re thrilled to share it with the Newbury, Newburyport, and global community that follows this blog.
Stay warm out there.