Chelsea Volpano’s Field Work

Coastal processes are poorly studied in the Great Lakes region. My MS thesis research focuses on coastal erosion along Lake Michigan shorelines. I use high-precision GPS methods and a single-beam echosounder to generate bathymetric maps that are integrated into nearshore numerical modelling software to predict change related to storms. My field site is near Two Rivers, Wisconsin, within Point Beach State Forest. The area has experienced significant erosion over the last several years as a result of high lake levels. My research seeks to understand how sand moves in the nearshore region and how this can impact shoreline erosio.. We use the bathymetric data and numerical modelling software to simulate wave conditions. Bathymetric data collected in August 2020 was used as input to the model. Comparison of this simulation to findings of of a second survey conducted in September 2020 will enable us to determine how well the model predicted the response of the shoreline to sand transport. This research is a collaboration between the Department of Geoscience, Wisconsin Geologic & Natural History Survey, and UW–Madison Sea Grant Program.

I have been fortunate to do research during COVID_19 restrictions. My site is near UW–Madison and I was able to garner permission of the department and the Dean to conduct this field-based research. I was one of only a handful of faculty or students who were authorized to conduct field work in 2020. The restrictions did, however, hamper collaboration with researchers from other universities, as I had originally planned. Notwithstanding, I was able to collect the data needed to complete my MS thesis on time.

We were also able to collaborate with the Upham Woods Outdoor Learning Center to map the bathymetry of a section of the Wisconsin Dells near the Upper Narrows. Using the high-precision GPS and echosounder, we revealed a maximum river depth of 38 feet. This is part of a broader project to establish a curriculum for outdoor education that can involve younger students in geoscience research.