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UD scientists present the latest research on Delaware's coastal issues



This week, young coastal scientists from all over North America flocked to University of Delaware to present the latest research in their field.

Alina Pieterse, a PhD student at UD, has been studying tidal marshes, or wetlands. They play a critical role in acting as barriers to incoming waves, reducing the impact of floodwaters on coastal areas. Pieterse finds Delaware’s tidal marshes interesting partly because they cover more of the state than its beaches, unlike in her native Netherlands.

By looking at the flow of sediments in tidal marshes and how they’re affected by storms, Pieterse can better understand the marshes' role and why so many have become degraded over the years.

“With sea level rise, these marshes might disappear and that might be a bad thing for land and our coastal protection. Personally, I am more interested in how we can understand the processes taking place, which has an effect on people and animal life," said Pieters.

According to DNREC, Delaware has lost more than half its wetlands since the late 1700s. Tidal marshes make up a quarter of the wetlands in the state.


Additionally, recent research suggests that there is a critical need to assess tsunami risk on the East Coast. Babak Tehranirad, a PhD candidate at University of Delaware, has been studying “tsunami hotspots” or areas along the East Coast that are at high risk of being hit by a tsunami. East Coast tsunamis could be caused by various sources, particularly landslides, or underwater avalanches that occur due to the moving of tectonic plates.

According to the data, the northern parts of Delaware would be protected by the Delaware Bay, which would slow down high waves. However, areas that directly face the Atlantic Ocean, like Rehoboth Beach and Ocean City, are certainly tsunami hotspots.  

Tehranirad says his research would be useful in creating emergency response plans for East Coast residents.


“The people will look at them and come up with evacuation plans. We can save lives with just a matter of 2, 3 million dollars of spending of the research I’ve done in the last five years. We can save thousands of lives in case a tsunami happens on the east coast," said Tehranirad.

Tehranirad added even though the risk of a tsunami hitting the West Coast is higher, the East Coast would suffer more damage due to its flatter landscape.  


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