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CCU Atheneum: One long-term School of Coastal and Marine Systems Science project is directed at mapping areas of potentially important biological habitat and sites of significant cultural resources in regions where there is interest in building future wind energy farms.
One long-term School of Coastal and Marine Systems Science project is directed at mapping areas of potentially important biological habitat and sites of significant cultural resources in regions where there is interest in building future wind energy farms.

At sea with Coastal and Marine Systems Science team

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It was a busy summer for faculty, staff and students at the School of Coastal and Marine Systems Science (SCMSS) with several extended research cruises on the Coastal Explorer as well as federal and other vessels.

One long-term project is directed at mapping areas of potentially important biological habitat (essential fish habitat) and sites of significant cultural resources in regions where there is interest in building future wind energy farms. This study, funded by the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management through S.C. Sea Grant, is led by SCMSS Director Paul Gayes. Partners on the study include Camilla Knapp at USC’s Earth Science Research Center and Jim Spirek from the S.C. Institute of Archaeology and Anthropology. The Coastal Explorer, CCU’s 54-foot research vessel, was specially designed to support the school’s integrated geophysical sea floor mapping system. The study will establish 100 percent data coverage of an area from 11 to16 miles offshore of the City of North Myrtle Beach and a second site at similar distances from the coast south of Winyah Bay.

These areas are being considered for future development of arrays of wind turbines as a source of clean electrical energy for our state and region. Following up on previous SCMSS research establishing wind resource potential, the present studies within Long Bay are the beginning of environmental and cultural resource investigations to further refine the best areas for future energy production that also minimize disturbance of essential fish habitat or significant cultural resources such as ship wrecks. This is keeping the Coastal Explorer offshore most of the summer running its multibeam, chirp sub-bottom profiler, side scan sonar and magnetometer. CCU scientists and students are partnering with USC and the State Institute of Archaeology and Anthropology to conduct camera and scuba diver validation of interpretations of the regional geophysical survey.

On a related project, SCMSS faculty members Gayes, Rich Viso and Jenna Hill spent two weeks in July on board the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) research ship Nancy Foster, contributing their geophysical expertise and instrumentation to help test a fishery habitat model developed by NOAA. Chis Taylor from NOAA, who is a specialist in application of acoustics techniques to the characterization and quantification of fish resources, is leading the cruise. Coastal Marine and Wetland Studies graduate students Amanda Roach, Marylee King and Karsen Shottluetner are participating. The geophysical mapping will form the basis of Roach’s master’s thesis exploring the extension of the Pee Dee and Santee River systems across the continental shelf during the last lowstand in sea level and the geological changes that have occurred as the sea has risen to its present level. The geophysical data being collected will also help her and the team test NOAA’s habitat model.

While on the ship, SCMSS staff and students will also deploy one of the school’s met/ocean buoy systems to begin broadcasting wave, current, wind and other conditions at the new S.C. artificial reef established in honor Ron McManus. Ron, a longtime friend and supporter of the school who passed away recently, was a driving force for artificial reef development at the Jim Caudle Artificial Reef and for many other community initiatives. The data from the buoy will be relayed by satellite to campus and posted on the school’s Long Bay Observing System website every two hours. Efforts to validate models and finance future wind farms require physical data at elevations where marine wind turbines operate, on the order of 100 meters above the water surface. As a result, SODAR, a sonic technology that measures wind velocity and direction up to 400 meters above the surface, is particularly valuable to the wind initiatives. One SODAR is being installed at Waties Island through a consortium led by the Southeastern Wind Coalition, and a second SODAR from the SCMSS is being installed using the Coastal Explorer at the Frying Pan Shoal Light Tower, thus establishing a transect from the beach to 25 miles offshore in an area prime for future wind energy farm development.

SCMSS is the lead for the Department of Energy’s Southeastern Wind Resource Center, coordinating expertise and resources of James Madison University, N.C. State University, Clemson University, CCU, Georgia Tech, the Florida Energy Systems Consortium and Navigant Consulting. These groups from the Southeastern Wind Coalition, a science-based objective resource that facilitates societal discussions and consideration of wind energy research potential. CMWS graduate student Karsen Shottluenter is in the program’s professional track, working through the Southeastern Wind Coalition on a range of wind energy initiatives, one of which involves establishing and coordinating the transect data with the project partners and CMSS Observing System network. She sailed on the Nancy Foster, helping with the buoy deployments and other habitat related studies related to advancing wind energy initiatives. The data from the instrument transect will also help to further validate the SCMSS’s advanced fully interactively coupled ocean/wave/atmosphere model system developed by CMSS faculty member Shaowu Bao and his team of colleagues and students.

A set of Acoustic and Current Sensors (AWAC) on loan from the National Renewable Energy Lab partners in Colorado is being deployed from the Foster about 25 miles off Cape Fear near the Frying Pan Shoals Light Tower for a Department of Energy-funded study of wave forces future wind farm structures should be designed to withstand in our area. This study, a collaboration between Savannah River National Laboratory, SCMSS, the Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Lab and MMI Engineering, will refine wave forcing and design standards for future structures built off the southeastern coast of the U.S.

While on the Foster, SCMSS staff will also collect water samples for our colleagues at Clemson who are studying the distribution of microplastics in the region. Clemson researcher Stefanie Whitmire and National Park Service colleagues will process the samples collected on the cruise. CMSS Ph.D. student Samantha Ladewig is working with Bao and Clemson professor Alex Chow on modeling dispersal of microplastics in the region and will also benefit from the groundruthing afforded by the sampling on the NOAA ship.

The Explorer also spent a week completing a geophysical study off Folly Beach assisting the Corps of Engineers with planning for an upcoming beach nourishment project. The geophysical survey evaluated sand resource potential along the seaward edge of the Stono Inlet ebb tidal delta. The Corps public affairs office is running a story on the CCU-Corps cooperative and project.

Other recent field work and travel of note: Rich Viso and Rick Peterson recently completed some field work and participated in a National Science Foundation review of the Georgia Long Term Ecological Research Site at Sapelo Island, Ga. Peterson, Viso and students have been studying groundwater processes and influences in the marsh system as well as completed geophysical surveys of the creek system.


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