Southeastern Section - 68th Annual Meeting - 2019

Paper No. 13-6
Presentation Time: 10:15 AM


FENSTER, Michael S., Environmental Studies/Geology, Randolph-Macon College, Ashland, VA 23005

Understanding the fate of coastal systems and the potential impact of climate change on coastal systems (i.e., accelerations in sea-level rise and increases in storm frequency and intensity) has relied largely on empirical field data and modeling efforts. A review of field data collected during the past decade from the Eastern Shore of Virginia and Virginia barrier islands (VBI; shoreline, tidal prism, and geomorphic changes, etc.) suggests this natural (undeveloped) barrier island system may be approaching a “tipping point” or threshold. However, the data do not conclusively demonstrate that accelerations in climate change forcings contribute to VBI state changes. To answer a larger question regarding the impact of climate change on all of Virginia’s Chesapeake Bay and open ocean coasts, we sought out observational evidence from stakeholders who have lived and worked along Virginia’s coasts. Within the context of a project-based undergraduate course, students subdivided the Virginia coast into six regions based on geomorphic/geologic/oceanographic differences, identified the most germane private and public stakeholders in each region and conducted video/audio interviews with those stakeholders. The interviewees presented compelling stories about the impact of climate change on Virginia’s coasts independent of political persuasion. This talk focuses on (1) a review of existing data, (2) a summary of the compelling stories told by Virginia coastal stakeholders and (3) a broader research project aimed at using a stakeholder approach to document the role of climate change on the world’s coasts.