University of Miami engineers explore reef restoration approaches to coastal resilience

Coastal cities play a crucial role in the global economy. Worldwide, about 80% of people will live within 62 miles of a coast.

But these cities are being increasingly exposed to natural hazards and disasters, such as hurricanes, and recurrent flooding due to the rise of sea levels caused by climate change.

Such disasters directly impact infrastructure such as energy, transportation, water and sewer systems, as well as streets, buildings and houses. As a result, public and private researchers worldwide are busy exploring new and innovative ways to increase the resilience of such places.

Now, in January of 2019, a University of Miami (UM) interdisciplinary team of researchers is exploring ways to merge engineering with ecology to foster coastal resilience through the development of artificial coral reef structures.

The research team will be using the SUrge StTucture Atmosphere INteraction (SUSTAIN) Facility, a 38,000-gallon tank that allows researchers to generate wind-wave hurricane conditions with the flip of a switch, to appropriately design a system by improving knowledge on the wave-breaking loads and evaluating the system’s performance.

This testing will assist in developing better strategies for restoring green infrastructure through numerical and physical modeling, field validation studies, and wind-wave experiments with the goal to develop green/grey solutions that can mitigate the impacts of waves in a sustainable, efficient and cost-effective manner.

The findings will provide the baseline to develop a shoreline protection system that effectively dissipates the impact of waves while providing a hospitable environment for native species.

Team members include Diego Lirman, associate professor at University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School for Marine and Atmospheric Science in the Department of Marine Biology and Ecology; Jane Carrick, research associate also in Marine Biology and Ecology; Andrew Baker, associate professor in Marine Biology and Fisheries; Brian Haus, professor and chair of the Department of Ocean Sciences; David Letson, professor in Marine Ecosystems and Society; Jyotika Ramaprasad, professor in the School of Communication; Sonia Chao, research associate professor at the School of Architecture; and Landolf Rhode-Barbarigos, assistant professor at the College of Engineering’s Department of Civil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering.

U-LINK is a university-wide platform for incubating ideas, fostering interdisciplinary collaborations and providing funding to facilitate new approaches to difficult problems. U-LINK invites interdisciplinary groups to seek funding for novel, solution-oriented projects.

Photo courtesy of University of Miami.

See University of Miami College of Engineering website.

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