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Paper No. 10
Presentation Time: 8:00 AM-6:00 PM


RODRIGUEZ, Linda A.1, HEISE, Elizabeth A.1, BENAVIDES, Jude A.1, CONTRERAS, Mara2, DEL ANGEL, Diana3, AGUILAR Jr, Jose M.4, CARDENAS, Andres5 and VAKHLAMOV, Pavel1, (1)Department of Chemistry and Environmental Sciences, University of Texas at Brownsville, 80 Fort Brown, Brownsville, TX 78520, (2)Department of Environmental Engineering, Texas A&M University - Kingsville, Kingsville, TX 78363, (3)Harte Research Institute, Texas A&M University - Corpus Christi, 6300 Ocean Drive, Unit 5869, Corpus Christi, TX 78412, (4)Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, Harlingen, TX 78550, (5)Marine Sciences Department, Texas A&M University - Galveston, Galveston, TX 77553,

Through a combination of several undergraduate students’ efforts, many small projects have been compiled to create a large research project on the sand dunes in the Town of South Padre Island, TX. It is located on the south most tip of Padre Island, a barrier island located between the Gulf of Mexico and Laguna Madre. Projects were either work for a class project or as an individual research project, and many of them built on each other.

As a class project in 2005, the vegetation on dunes on South Padre Island was mapped using aerial photographs along with ground-truthing. Areas of vegetated dunes and unvegetated sand berms were identified. Over the next 3 years, independent research projects studied strategies for revegetaion of the sand berms. In summer of 2008, a project included mapping many transects on areas that were identified in the 2005 class project.

September 13, 2008 Hurricane Ike made landfall 400 miles away from South Padre Island. However, waves from the storm surge worked their way through beach access footpaths on South Padre Island, then reflected off of hard surfaces and undercut many of the sand dunes by washing away the back of the dunes.

Immediately after landfall, a group of undergraduate students conducted beach profiles of the same vegetated, unvegetated and revegetated sites. The comparison of the profiles that were done immediately before and after the hurricane found that storm surges damaged unvegetated sand berms and recently revegetated sand dunes more than established vegetated dunes.

Sand dune profiles were conducted on the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Ike by another group of students for a group project. The same profiles were surveyed and compared to previous surveys to investigate how well the dunes recovered. The vegetated and revegetated sand dunes showed a more recovery than the unvegetated sand berms.

June 30, 2010 Hurricane Alex made landfall on the Gulf of Mexico coast. Once again, storm surges from this hurricane hit the Town of South Padre Island. Sand dune profiles of the vegetated, revegetated, and unvegetated sites were conducted on the second anniversary of Hurricane Ike.

The research conducted by the undergraduate students during the past 5 years helped them learn about designing research projects, working with data from others, and helped guide several of them to graduate studies.

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