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Interdisciplinary Research Grant Will Help Engineer Coastal Resilience Through Reef Restoration

The University of Miami’s Laboratory for Integrative Knowledge (U-LINK) is lending its support to a multidisciplinary team of UM experts developing strategies to mitigate some of the most significant problems facing coastal communities: the impacts of ocean waves, increased flooding, storm surge and sea-level rise.

The proposal focuses on developing a targeted research plan exploring how green infrastructure (e.g., mangroves, seagrasses, coral reefs) decreases the impacts and risks coastal communities face. The project will launch with a two-day workshop on “Coastal Resilience and Mitigation Strategies” at the Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science (RSMAS) aiming to develop a research strategy that addresses the issue of coastal resilience with a focus on the vulnerable and high-value coastal communities of South Florida. The workshop will be attended by scientists, engineers and local stakeholders from vulnerable jurisdictions like Miami Beach, South Miami, Pinecrest, the Nature Conservancy, the UM Leonard and Jayne Abess Center for Ecosystem Science and Policy, economists from RSMAS and the UM School of Business, as well as private companies working in the insurance industry.

By combining analytical, numerical and physical modeling of waves and hurricane force winds with field studies at local sites (e.g., Miami Beach, Stiltsville, the UM lab at Broad Key, etc.) the team will be able to better capture the impact of green infrastructure and develop a suitable research plan. As part of the interdisciplinary team, Landolf Rhode-Barbarigos, an assistant professor in the College of Engineering’s Department of Civil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering, will spearhead the structural analysis of coastal structures along the eastern coast of South Florida.

“Despite considerable interest in the value of coastal ecosystems in lessening wave impacts, storm surge, and damage to infrastructure, direct measures of the reduction in wave energy by these ecosystems are largely lacking at relevant scales,” explains Rhode-Barbarigos.

Therefore, the U-LINK grant also will fund a set of tank-based validation tests using the Surge-Structure-Atmosphere-Interaction (SUSTAIN) laboratory, where the team will examine the role healthy coral reefs have on wave attenuation and impact mitigation on coastal structures, as well as a study for the selection and characterization of field test sites.

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