Massachusetts Senate Visits the Woods Hole Coastal and Marine Science Center

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Members and staff of the Massachusetts State Senate visited the USGS Woods Hole Coastal and Marine Science Center with specific requests to discuss economic-development issues around topics including offshore wind energy, sea-level rise impacts, storm preparedness, beach erosion, and wetland loss.

This article is part of the June-July 2017 issue of the Sound Waves newsletter.

To better inform land-use decisions, the USGS Coastal and Marine Geology Program provides policy makers and the public with robust scientific information, including coastal mapping, vulnerability assessments, and predictive models of environmental change. Members and staff of the Massachusetts State Senate visited the USGS Woods Hole Coastal and Marine Science Center in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, on May 8, 2017. The group—led by Senate Pro Tempore Marc Pacheco (Taunton), Chair of the Senate Committee on Global Warming and Climate Change—came on a mission to learn about USGS science, with specific requests to discuss economic-development issues around topics such as offshore wind energy, sea-level rise impacts, storm preparedness, beach erosion, and wetland loss. 

A scientist explains an illustration on a poster presentation to a congressman in a suit

Elizabeth Pendleton describes USGS work to map the Massachusetts seafloor to State Senator Viriato “Vinny” deMacedo. Photo credit: Dann Blackwood, USGS.

The day was sunny but quite windy. Activities began with a welcome by Center Director Rob Thieler in the Center’s conference room. The group eagerly took in poster-style presentations on seafloor mapping in Massachusetts by Laura Brothers and Elizabeth Pendleton, modeling of coastal hazards by John Warner, shoreline change and coastal vulnerability by Emily Himmelstoss, drone mapping of beach erosion by Sandy Brosnahan, and carbon storage in wetlands by Meagan Gonneaa.

The group then departed for the dock in Woods Hole, where Barry Irwin, Jane Denny, and Bill Danforth conducted a tour of the Center’s 25-ft research vessel, the R/V Rafael, and its state-of-the-art seafloor-mapping technologies. Chris Sherwood described the USGS jetyak, a remotely operated craft used to map the seafloor in very shallow water. Seth Ackerman demonstrated the capabilities of the SEABOSS system to collect photos, videos, and sediment samples that, in conjunction with geophysical-mapping surveys, are used to characterize fully the geology of the continental shelf, estuaries, lakes, and other submerged lands.

A woman in a purple shirt holds a controller and explains the UAS sitting on the ground  to a man in a suit

USGS pilot Sandy Brosnahan and Senate Pro Tempore Marc Pacheco discuss the use of Umanned Aerial Systems (UASs, also known as drones) to collect data in coastal environments. Photo credit: Dann Blackwood, USGS.

Finally, the group visited Trunk River, a site along the coast of Vineyard Sound that exemplifies, in close proximity, many of the issues facing coastal communities everywhere. Neil Ganju, Kevin Kroeger, and Rob Thieler led animated discussions about extreme storms, sea-level rise, wetland vulnerability, nutrient loading in estuaries, and shorebird habitat.

With more than 1,500 miles (2,414 kilometers) of coastline, the Bay State has long enjoyed a close relationship with the Atlantic Ocean. Many low-lying communities in Massachusetts, however, are struggling to identify and mitigate areas most vulnerable to flooding and erosion during storms, while also facing longer-term challenges of sea-level rise that put public property and infrastructure at risk. Senator Pacheco was accompanied by Senators Julian Cyr (Truro), Michael Brady (Brockton), Viriato “Vinny” deMacedo (Plymouth), and James Eldridge (Worcester). George Gabriel from the Luso American Foundation (FLAD) attended as a guest of Senator Pacheco and added an international perspective as his home country of Portugal experiences the same challenges of changing coastal environments.

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Sound Waves Newsletter - June-July 2017

New coastal flooding study released in Scientific Reports, members and staff of the Massachusetts State Senate visited the USGS WHCMSC, Richard Signell and Cassandra Ladino honored with the 2017 CDI Leadership and Innovation Award, new data obtained from the inner continental shelf off the Delmarva Peninsula, and more in this June-July 2017 issue of Sound Waves.