2023 Near Surface Research Award Abstract
Subsurface controls on Padre Island dune morphology: Constraints from Ground Penetrating Radar, time domain, and frequency domain electromagnetic techniques
Padre Island is a critical coastal ecosystem located on the southern coast of Texas. This unique island plays a significant role in supporting the health and sustainability of coastal communities in the southeast region of the state. The island is flanked by the Gulf of Mexico to the east and the Laguna Madre to the west, providing essential habitats for various plant and animal species, including numerous migratory birds and endangered sea turtles. Radiocarbon dating has determined that Padre Island is between 3,000 and 3,500 years old. The island is composed of Holocene sediments, with a maximum thickness of approximately 10.7 to 12.2 meters. These sediments primarily consist of late Quaternary sand and clay deposits, which contribute to the formation of the island's dunes. These dunes are a vital aspect of the island's ecosystem, serving as natural buffers that protect the mainland from extreme events such as hurricanes and storms. By dissipating the energy of wind and waves, the dunes help to reduce erosion and prevent catastrophic damage to coastal areas during severe weather events. The morphology of Padre Island's dunes, including their height, shape, and volume, is strongly influenced by the subsurface geologic conditions. These conditions comprise lithology, stratigraphy, structures, and soil water content and chemistry. Gaining a clear understanding of how the subsurface framework affects the island's dune morphology is crucial for the preservation and management of this critical ecosystem.
The primary objectives of this research project are as follows:
- Utilize non-invasive and non-destructive ground penetrating radar (GPR), frequency domain electromagnetic (FDEM), and time domain electromagnetic (TDEM) geophysical techniques to comprehensively map the subsurface conditions of Padre Island.
- Conduct topographical surveys using differential GPS techniques to accurately map the dune and island morphology.
- Correlate the geologic conditions with the dune morphology to better understand the relationship between surface dune morphology and subsurface characteristics of the barrier islands.
By achieving these objectives, this research project will provide a comprehensive understanding of Padre Island's subsurface geological framework and its connection to the island's dune morphology. This research project aims to contribute to the understanding and preservation of the Padre Island ecosystem.
Measures of success for each of the research activities include:
- documentation of geological, geophysical, and topographical data acquired, processed, and interpreted;
- documentation of the number of published abstracts/presentations presented at national and international meetings;
- documentation of the number of published papers at peer-reviewed high-impact journals;
- documentation of the number of graduate and undergraduate students who show an interest in the field;
- documentation of the number of public, resource managers, stakeholders, and decision makers who show an interest in the project results; and documentation of number of community recognition and awards received while conducting this research.
By adhering to these measures, the project will demonstrate its impact on the scientific community, educational institutions, and relevant agencies, contributing to the broader goals of understanding and preserving the Padre Island ecosystem.