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Improved Understanding of Sediment Dynamics for the Rachel Carson Reserve, North Carolina

ADCP - measuring currents

The goal of this project is to generate an improved understanding of sediment dynamics around the Rachel Carson Reserve in North Carolina to inform ongoing resilience planning efforts for vulnerable coastal habitats and local infrastructure.

The Rachel Carson Reserve consists of a group of islands connected by a series of shoals and channels that are home to a diverse array of coastal habitats. Over the past 60 years, significant shoreline erosion has widened the Beaufort Inlet, located just south of the Reserve, directly impacting sediment dynamics in the area. To inform engineering practices at the Beaufort Inlet and effective resilience planning for local infrastructure and vulnerable coastal habitats, the reserve and coastal resource managers need to better understand how observed shoreline changes have impacted sediment dynamics in the area, so that this knowledge can be harnessed for enabling predictions of future shoreline changes and their impact.

This project will provide reserve staff with a process-based tool to enhance their quantitative and predictive understanding of how different drivers have impacted and might continue to impact sediment dynamics, habitat conditions, and local infrastructure around the reserve. The project team will quantify sediment loading rates and sources around the reserve, determine how the changing geomorphology of the Beaufort Inlet has driven - and will continue to drive - sediment dynamics in the area, and examine the degree of geomorphological change caused by extreme storm events. The team will accomplish this by implementing a multifaceted technical approach consisting of field measurements, numerical modeling, and resilience assessments, while collaborating with a diverse group of end users that includes members from local, state, and federal agencies, private industry, and academia. Engaged end users include the Town of Beaufort,  Cape Lookout National Seashore, the Carteret County Shoreline Protection Office, the USACE Wilmington District, Kris Bass Engineering, and NC State University Extension.

Project lead Celso Castro-Bolinaga gives an introduction to "Improved Understanding of Sediment Dynamics for the Rachel Carson Reserve, North Carolina," a collaborative research project funded in 2022 by the NERRS Science Collaborative.