Award Number1939979
Funding AgencyNational Science Foundation
Effective Date2020-01-01
Expiration Date2021-12-31
Funding Amount$300,000


The severity of coastal hazards (e.g. erosion) requires better data and quantitative assessments to understand the physical changes to coastlines, their causes, and rates of change, and to develop evidence-based hazard mitigation strategies and policies. To address this need, this grant will conduct a pilot program (IC-CREAM): Interdisciplinary Citizen-based Coastal REmote Sensing for Adaptative Management) to test hypotheses about the feasibility and scientific value of a citizen-science approach to creating a localized, repeat aerial image database on coastal processes in the Great Lakes. The intellectual merit of this cross-disciplinary, mixed methods project will make several scientific advancements relevant to the fields of remote sensing, GIScience, coastal science, geomorphology, and geography. Using citizen-operated drones is a new approach to collecting remotely sensed high-resolution time series imagery about landscape change and processes. Citizen science monitoring with drones and smartphones will allow for the documentation of the impacts of coastal change across a broader geographic region than is currently possible. New and better data generated during this project is critical for improving modeling and assessments of coastal change, and for engaging communities on the topic of coastal resilience because the citizen-science collaboration offers a new way to get communities involved in developing sustainable coastal management strategies. Training graduate and undergraduate students in coastal geomorphology, remote sensing, and community engagement will be key component of this grant. Students participating in this project will develop field and laboratory skills associated with drone operations as well as strong communication skills through their participation in the community engagement workshops and on-going support and coordination with the citizen scientists.

This grant will train a team of citizen scientists composed of practitioners and community stakeholders to collect repeat aerial imagery, via an unoccupied aerial system (UAS), of coastal sites in six communities along Lakes Michigan, Huron, and Superior to document erosion and accretion associated with fluctuating water levels, storms, and human interventions. The long-term goal is to compile a database of localized, repeat imagery of coastal areas across the Great Lakes region to understand their physical changes, root causes of these physical changes, and the associated environmental, social, and economic impacts. This project will evaluate: (1) whether properly trained and supervised community-member citizen scientists can generate high quality data across a broad spatial scale that contributes to scientific research on local and regional coastal processes and (2) whether engaging community stakeholders in rigorous scientific investigations improves the public?s understanding of coastal processes and hazards enhances the capacity for proactive decision-making. Citizen scientists will be trained on the basics of UAS operation, data collection, and FAA regulations in order to pass the FAA part 107 exam and become certified remote pilots. They will then collect repeat aerial imagery of beaches, bluffs, and dunes (seasonal and before/after storms). Images will be processed using structure-from-motion photogrammetry into digital surface models (DSMs). These DSMs, along with the aerial images, will be analyzed to quantify coastal geomorphic change. Results will be shared with the citizen scientists who will assist the research team in communicating the findings publicly. Interviews and surveys will be conducted with citizen scientists and community stakeholders to evaluate whether the coupled researcher/citizen scientist approach is beneficial for educating the public on coastal change / hazards as well as assisting in making informed coastal management decisions. This project will be the first step towards developing a collaborative and coordinated researcher and stakeholder network focused on coastal hazards in the Great Lakes and will be a model for other coastal regions nationally.

This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.