Preliminary Results & Next Steps

As the summer draws to a close, I reflect on the volume of data I was able to to collect. This summer involved a combination of field and lab work that helped me gain new skills and gather data that begin to answer some of my research questions. For example, preliminary data suggest that the tidal flat I am studying will not remain a tidal flat as sea level continues to rise—it is being starved of enough sediment input to continue to build up vertically. This is problematic because coastal geologic features like tidal flats can protect communities and vital coastal infrastructure from the impacts of storms. Tidal flats are home to a diverse array of flora and fauna which thrive in environments where tides come in and out, a process unlikely to exist at the site as its morphology changes.

To better understand the long-term health of this system and make connections between this site and others like it, I need more time to process the data I collected. I’ll need to gather additional data this fall. My first step will be to begin processing and organizing more of my data from the XRF core scanner. This involves building a spreadsheet that quantifies the raw results and attractively and intuitively arranges and displays the results. As well, I will continue work on radioisotope dating using a gamma counter. Currently, this relies on Cesium-137 dating methods, which will allow us to see the amount of sediment input into the system by the Merrimack River in the last 50-60 years. Together, the results from these “next steps” in the project will better answer my research question about how humans have impacted the input of sediment from the Merrimack River to Joppa Flats in the last 400 years.