Hope College researchers study lakeshore movement

Rising Waters

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Researchers from Hope College have been studying the movement of soil and erosion along Lake Michigan.

Homeowners living along the lake shore have been trying to overcome recent bluff failures, which have been more prevalent because of high water levels.

Scientists are trying to find ways to predict where and when the soil might shift.

Jacob Stid, a recent graduate of Hope College, who is now a graduate student at Michigan State University, joined the lakeshore research project in 2018. He spent hundreds of hours trying to analyze dunes in the Saugatuck Harbor Natural Area.

“We used remote sensing and drone imaging to analyze different indices of coastal done mobility to try and model and potentially look at the future mobility of dunes to predict where and when dunes will be mobile,” Stid said.

According to him, researchers began documenting this area with drones in 2017 and plan to continue the process to get a sense of how the area changes overtime. The team is working on making a user interface for coastal dune managers.

“(Dune managers) can put in their own input, put in their own images and can kind of see on their own where to build (and) where not to build,” Stid said.

The use of drones provides a unique vantage point that can be very useful in scientific research.

“We used those images to analyze vegetation, slope, elevation and the wind shadow to try and pull together and try to make a total index of mobility,” Stid said.

Researchers say the presence of native vegetation greatly reduces the movement of soil.

Stid wants people to be more conscious of the natural environment when they are building along the lake shore.

“It may not be mobile for 10 to 15 years, but you still have to consider 10 to 15 years down the line when you’re building human infrastructure,” Stid said.

Hope College is continuing the research and the team plans to go back out Tuesday to document the dunes with drone photography.

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