GSA Connects 2021 in Portland, Oregon

Paper No. 115-6
Presentation Time: 3:00 PM


HEBERER, Mikelia1, JENINGA, Esther2, STECK, Brett3, SANDERS, Peyton1 and BHATTACHARYYA, PRAJUKTI (juk)1, (1)Geography, Geology, and Environmental Science, University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, 120 Upham Hall, 800 Main Street, WHITEWATER, WI 53190, (2)Graphic Design, University of Wisconsin Whitewater, College of Arts and Communications, 800 Main Street, WHITEWATER, WI 53190, (3)Geography, Geology, and Environmental Science, University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, 120 Upham Hall, 800 Main Street, Whitewater, WI 53190

Increased precipitation and severe weather patterns, sea and lake level rise, wildfires, etc., hazards resulting from climate change have increased the likelihood of slope failures. However the general public seem mostly unaware of the various factors that can cause slope failure events in their own communities. Unless bridged, this knowledge gap can lead to potential death and property damage as people may fail to take appropriate and timely slope stabilization measures to protect their communities. To address this issue, we have designed a simple demonstration of how different factors can cause slope failures using sand and water. In this activity, we demonstrate how slopes can be undercut by rising lake levels and wave action, thus steepening the slope and causing failure, how increased precipitation and oversaturation of unconsolidated materials can weaken slopes, and most importantly, how adding buildings and other impermeable and weighty structures on unstable slopes can lead to slope failure, which can potentially cause property damage and even loss of life. We originally designed this demonstration to complement the contour lines and topographic map lab for our introductory geology course, but we plan to eventually use this hands-on activity for community outreach and other informal educational events to highlight how geoscience can be used for addressing current and relevant societal issues.

Student response to this demonstration has been positive. Anecdotal evidence shows that students found this demonstration engaging and relevant to their everyday lives, and some students stated that this demonstration sparked their interest in learning more about coastal erosion issues that are affecting their own communities along Lake Michigan shoreline. In this presentation, we will share a video of our demonstration as we describe the model design, setup, student learning goals, and how we can use this physical model to help communities understand the underlying factors causing shoreline erosion and slope failure hazards so people can take appropriate mitigating measures.