Knee deep in the waters of the Mispillion, Dr. Rebecca Morris, Ph.D. checks a pressure sensor. The staff-like gadget gauges how oyster reefs lessen wave impact.
At summer’s end, Morris will carry this information to the other side of the world.
A leader in living shorelines
A research fellow at the National Center for Coasts and Climate at the University of Melbourne in Australia, Morris is in the United States this summer to study estuaries that have oyster reefs. New Jersey and Delaware were just two stops on her five-week tour of America.
Morris’ field of study is nature-based coastal defense. PDE science staff and partners took Morris to oyster reefs in Gandy’s Beach and Nantuxent in New Jersey. She visited the Mispillion reef and living shoreline site in Delaware on June 14.
Oyster reefs act as a kind of speed bump or shock absorber to protect shorelines against wave impact. Hence, Morris’ interest in this living shoreline method. The United States, Morris said, is a kind of leader in using living shorelines as erosion defense. In Melbourne, living shorelines are newer territory.
“We are just getting started to do some of this research in Melbourne,” Morris said, who mentioned the use of mangroves and mussel reefs for coastal defense. “We’re just starting to get our projects off the ground.”
Shore erosion is a global issue. Morris spoke of the expensive economic and ecological impacts erosion causes in Australia that lead to flooding and land loss. Morris wants to learn what methods work and don’t work in natural shore line defense.
Following the mid-Atlantic stop, Morris headed south to Florida, Virginia, Alabama and Louisiana.