CORVALLIS, Ore. (KOIN) — A storm is always brewing in Oregon State University’s O.H. Hinsdale Wave Research Laboratory. For the past few months, researchers have been beating sand dunes with wave after wave after wave, trying to find out which kinds of dunes are the most resilient.
“In the large wave flume, we have set up a bare dune, and a vegetated dune, and an engineered dune,” assistant professor of coastal engineering Meagan Wengrove said. “We’re looking at how these different dune archetypes are resilient to hurricanes or El Niño storm events, and if we can use more natural features instead of sea walls to protect our coasts into the future.”
The vegetated dune is most similar to what you would find on the Oregon Coast, with beach grass and other plants. The engineered dune was injected with microbes that excrete fluid and cement the sand particles together when the waves hit them.
Sand dunes are a buffer against beach erosion and storms, acting as a first line of defense for many coastal communities across the country.
The waves in the OSU lab simulate the effect of Hurricane Sandy, which hit the coast of New Jersey in 2012.
“The storm is scaled down from Hurricane Sandy, the dune is scaled down from the New Jersey coast, but … you could understand similar mechanisms of erosion for like an El Niño storm or something that might hit Oregon as well,” Wengrove said.
Research is a lengthy process, and right now the students and staff at OSU are still in the experimentation phase. After that, they need to process data and write up the results. So it could be a year or so before we definitively know which kind of dune is most resilient.
The research is funded by the National Science Foundation.