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Study to look at Masonboro Island erosion



Masonboro Island in New Hanover County is known as an undeveloped treasure among the state's barrier islands. Yet, its shoreline also carries a critical story — a history of erosion and accretion cycles, as well as dredging of nearby inlets.

That "geomorphologic evolution" is the topic of a research fellowship funded by North Carolina Sea Grant through a new partnership with the North Carolina Division of Coastal Management's (DCM) Coastal Reserve and National Estuarine Research Reserve Program (NCNERR). Kristen L. Hall, a graduate student at the University of North Carolina Wilmington, will use varied tools to review the changes on the island since 1857, providing valuable information according to John Fear, NCNERR research director.

"Understanding how the island has changed through time will help the NCNERR best manage the island in support of our core program activities: research, education and stewardship," Fear notes. "We look forward to the initiation of Kristin's project, and the realization of this new NCNERR/North Carolina Sea Grant partnership."

Steve Rebach, Sea Grant's associate director, agrees, noting that Hall's study will consider natural processes as well as changes by humans. "Her background in geology and sedimentology provided her experience with satellite mapping and radar-based measuring tools," he says.

The study data and results will be shared with the DCM, which is developing the state's Beach and Inlet Management Plan.

Working with Lynn Leonard at UNCW, Hall will use aerial photographs, as well as geographic information systems, better known as GIS, and LIDAR, an acronym for "light detection and ranging." In addition to working with DCM staff, she will gather and analyze data from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. She gathered initial information through a survey of Masonboro Island as a summer REACH intern for the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

Her more detailed project focusing on the island hits home. "I grew up in Wilmington, going to Masonboro Island all the time," says Hall, who has a bachelor's degree from North Carolina State University. She previously was a Marine Quest camp counselor at UNCW; an educator and dive team member at the N.C. Aquarium at Fort Fisher; and part of a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration team that looked at harmful algal blooms.

Located in the southern portion of Onslow Bay, Masonboro Island is eight miles long, with Carolina Beach Inlet to the south and Masonboro Inlet to the north. Masonboro Island is a component of the NCNERR.

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