I am interested in many aspects of offshore and nearshore wave propagation, and their resultant effects on the nearshore environment. These include nonlinear wave-wave interactions, spectral wave transformation and generation over large scales, wave-current interaction, wave breaking, nearshore circulation, nearshore morphology and sediment transport, and tsunami inundation. I also have a strong interest in wave propagation over cohesive sediments. Most recently, I have been involved in the transport of contaminated flood water and sediments in the Houston Ship Channel and Galveston Bay, as well as wetlands erosion due to cold fronts in the region.
However, while models have progressed to the point where they are quite skillful, their performance is often highly dependent on the quality of their inputs. If data were available within the domain of interest, it can be used to correct faulty inputs at the boundaries. This is known as “data assimilation” and is a burgeoning field in the nearshore, particularly with respect to deducing difficult-to-quantify model inputs from measurements. With the advent of remote sensing, the use of such rich data to help infer physical properties is indeed timely. In addition, certain aspects of data assimilation (sensitivity measures, for example) can be used to determine the feasibility of a measurement campaign, or the adequacy of a grid resolution for a model.
While these elements are interesting in and of themselves, recent coastal disasters of note (the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami, the 2004 and 2005 Gulf of Mexico hurricane seasons, 2008’s Hurricane Ike) have underscored the necessity of pursuing many aspects of coastal research in the context of coastal resilience and sustainability. This is a broadly defined term which encompasses virtually all aspects of civil engineering along with the social sciences, economics and public policy, among others. The coast will always be inhabited; there is simply too much critical infrastructure and too many important industries located on the coast for it to be otherwise. The challenge, therefore, is to help make coastal communities less vulnerable to effects from a coastal disaster, and find ways to shorten the overall recovery time. My own experience in South Mississippi with Hurricane Katrina has given me some perspective on this issue, primarily in how a slow, incomplete recovery can hurt a community.