Projects and Documents




The Program for the Study of Developed Shorelines is a multi-faceted research team with diverse areas of expertise.  Click on the links on the left for details on some of our efforts.

Beach Nourishment
Explore the national beach nourishment experience with Western Carolina University's new interactive beach nourishment web site. Search for beach nourishment episodes and projects by state or beach, and view results in table, chart and map format. Our database represents, to the best of our knowledge, the most comprehensive compilation of beach nourishment history in the United States.

Storm Surge Database
The Program for the Study of Developed Shorelines is using relational tools and geographic information systems (GIS) to build a state-by-state storm surge database, beginning with North and South Carolina. This project will provide one central location for universities, government agencies and non-governmental agencies to access storm surge and high water mark (HWM) data. This database is being built in Microsoft Access and ArcGIS here at WCU, but will ultimately be maintained by NOAA at the National Climatic Data Center.

Balloon Mapping
The Program for the Study of Developed Shorelines is now equipped to do balloon and kite aerial photography using techniques perfected by Jeff Warren’s PSDS worked with, GonzoEarth, and the Louisiana Bucket Brigade on imagery associated with the BP oil spill in the spring and summer of 2010. Click here to see images from one of those missions (scroll down to bottom of page).

Reports and Documents

Beach Preservation
The following document, produced in 1985, is still the most significant U.S. document outlining the needs and means for realistic planning for the future of our retreating shores. The document holds that preservation of our beaches for future generations must be the keystone of American Coastal Management. It concludes that in the long run, in a time of rising sea level, retreat or relocation of buildings will be required. A number of practical ways to manage and preserve beaches are presented. This document has found widespread use by American coastal managers.

Beach Stabilization
Traditional methods of stabilization - seawalls, groins and breakwaters - are increasingly being identified as leading to the erosion of fronting and downdrift beaches. For the last thirty years, coastal homeowners and town managers have sought low-cost, effective alternatives. In response, a number of "non-traditional" devices with optimistic sounding names have appeared on the market. The following is a listing and brief description of many alternative devices.

Coastal Hazards
The Western Carolina University Program for the Study of Developed Shorelines is extensively involved with hazard mapping projects along the Atlantic coastline. In addition to being an integral feature of the "Living with the Shore" book series, PSDS coastal hazard maps are also being used for risk assessment and hazard mitigation planning.

NC Coastal Inventory
The Program for the Study of Developed Shorelines (PSDS) at Western Carolina University, as part of the North Carolina Coastal Hazards: Economic Implications of Severe Storms and Sea-Level Rise Project, has identified, inventoried and mapped coastal engineering projects (current activities and existing and historic shoreline stabilization structures) designed to impact sediment transport along 320 miles of North Carolina’s coastline.

Strategic Coastal Retreat Study
The Program for the Study of Developed Shorelines recently received a grant funded by the Educational Foundation of America to study strategic coastal retreat. Developed coasts all over the world are threatened by rising seas and erosion. Too often shoreline armoring is chosen as a solution which permanently alters natural coastal processes. Together with economists from Appalachian State University and conservation experts at the Caribbean Conservation Corporation, PSDS will develop a plan for a medium sized town on the coast to move away from the eroding coast as opposed to expensive armoring, which eventually eliminates the beach. This is the first study of its kind. Check back for more updates as this research begins.

National Parks Service Coastal Engineering Inventory
A reconnaissance-level investigation, analysis and inventory of coastal engineering projects in ten coastal national parks was completed by the Program for the Study of Developed Shorelines (PSDS) at Western Carolina University (WCU) with funding provided by the National Park Service (NPS) Recreation Fee Program.

Elwha Dam Removal Project
Dr. Rob Young, Director of Program for the Study of Developed Shorelines, received a $1.5 M grant from the National Science Foundation in 2007 to bring youth and science together in studying the effects of the dam removal. The grant couples middle school students from the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe with educators from the Olympic Park Institute . The project also links science with cultural components of the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe who had historically used the Elwha River basin for fishing salmon.

Rivercane Studies

Heath Balds of the Southern Appalachians
Heath balds are mountain tops devoid of trees and vegetated by ericaceous shrubs such as Rhododendron, Azalea, and Mountain Laurel. Why these mountains are not covered in trees is still a mystery despite efforts to discover their origin. Dr. Young has received grants in the past to study heath balds and is still investigating their origins.

Non-profit support
In addition to the focused research efforts noted here, PSDS also provides technical advice to a variety of non-profit organizations on topics such as proposed coastal engineering projects and associated impacts. PSDS has prepared reports and recommendations for The Nature Conservancy, Surfriders, and others.


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