Kites show Spills, Sand, and our Shifting Landscape

The wind is a constant factor in coastal life, but how often can we harvest it for science?The Public Laboratory for Open Technology and Science has aided GRN and others with low-cost aerial monitoring of pollution, but their tools and method can also be used to map the shifting sands beneath our feet.Read more at their website, follow the link below to view and annotate the map made by Matt Prendergast, Julia Lightner, and myself. you’d like to learn more, come out to Loyola tomorrow, as Dredgefest explores Louisiana’s relationship with the natural and built environment through technology that moves dirt.Symposium January 11-January 12 in New Orleans, Loyola UniversityIntensive Workshops January 13-January 16 in Baton RougeA Tour of Dredge Landscapes January 17 leaving from Spanish Fort at Lake PontchartrainRead more about the most recent map, below.Matt Prendergast, Scott Eustis, and Julia Lightner flew kites on and Grand Isle and Elmer’s on 2nd January, 2014.The Initial idea was to map Matt’s Grand Isle sites, as well as the evolving sand spit on the east side of Elmer’s. These islands are constantly transgressing (moving inland) AND migrating. the spots in question are the “forward” parts of the respective headland and island.Matt Prendergast did work for a Master’s thesis on these grand isle sites. Julia Lightner knows everything about Elmer’s Island. and probably Grand Isle, and seeks to tend to the plant and animal life on the Island for LDWF.(Elmer’s 29.195328, -90.049828 ) (Grand Isle sites 29.268281,-89.951294, 29.269442,-89.957045 )The wind was intense, 20 mph increasing to 30, gusting to 40 mph throughout the day. lWe went to the Grand Isle site first; by the time we arrived at the Elmer’s breach, the wind was unmanageable. And a little frightening.Our first flight had some issues. We found that Matt’s camera and Julia’s camera both failed to trigger with the knot + rubber band. We used a default Canon 1400 mounted to a soda bottle rig.The next step is to overlay the new photography with sets from Google (Oct 2012), and Bing (2013) and compare the movement of the sand, and make a simple graphic.There’s also a good set of obliques of this area, captured with the RC Picavet. this will be a second Mapknitter.This ever-shifting area of the world remains difficult to document. Julia Lightner, LDWF, and others could benefit from the documentation of restoration efforts that are ongoing in this system. Julia seeks to use kite photography to document the movement of sand, the viability of sand fencing and plantings on the Island– for the simple reason that storms can alter the island multiple times a year, while aerial photography happens once a year at most, and often at different tidal stages.Some subjects Julia needs to know more about for the management of Elmer’s:Panicum establishment rate of success in Elmer’s Island washovers (29.183658,-90.062486, 29.178693,-90.070817)Survival of existing plantings through multiple coastal storms (29.184988,-90.058218, 29.188425,-90.051532, 29.19191,-90.047809) –how long can we expect plantings to survive?Hillocks vs Linear Sand Fences: what builds a more sustainable dune?This area was oiled well during the BP disaster, but the Elmer’s portions of it are part of a larger restoration program. As sand is included in the Caminada Headland restoration, it will be re-washed and “transgress” inland via the washouts, but it will also migrate east and build the evolving spit.Grand Isle is more stabilized, because it is inhabited, but it will also transgress and build to the east.Questions remain about the methods and value of armoring mobile beaches’ both these spits have a similar method of armoring.But there is no question that this feature is worth monitoring and restoring, and safeguarding for its ecological values. The birds for whom the island is a refuge from industrial development, or a stopover point for a Gulf migration, the island is home. Human ideas about the ecological value of this slippery place must evolve with the footprint of the island, and cheap aerial photography plays a role in communicating the evolving values of the island to government and the public.Scott Eustis, M.S., is GRN’s Coastal Wetland Specialist.

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