Happy summer!

Hello Sea Grant readers,

It’s been an exciting (and busy) term, both in Corvallis and on the road.  I went to two weeklong conferences in April/May, which were interesting but very different experiences.  The first was the Marine Energy Technology Symposium (METS) in Seattle, which was held in conjunction with the Global Marine Renewable Energy Conference (GMREC).  The GMREC/METS conference focused heavily on the mechanical and industrial side of marine renewable energy.  I learned a lot about the history of the marine renewable industry, recent progress in the industry, and well as the major setbacks and obstacles.  The second conference was the Environmental Interactions with Marine Renewables (EIMR) conference, in Stornoway, Scotland.  Scotland was beautiful, and we had unexpectedly great weather for the entire week (!), which was wonderful.  The conference focused on the impacts of marine energy devices on the physical environment, on the wave climate, and on marine organisms and ecosystems.  Although the main focus of the conference was marine biology/ecology, I met several other wave modelers looking at the far-field effects of WEC arrays and tidal turbines.  I was really excited to have the opportunity to discuss goals, methods, and model issues with other researchers with a similar focus, and I came back with a lot of new ideas and new contacts.

Now that I’m back in Corvallis, I’m trying to get myself ready for a summer spent in front of my computer, writing my thesis and a journal article (or two).  I plan to defend my thesis in mid-September.  It’s almost hard to believe I have already been in Corvallis for 2 years! I love Corvallis and I am sad to leave, but I am really excited about the next step.  I was recently awarded a Fulbright Fellowship to do a yearlong study on coastal evolution and coastal hazards in Dakar, Senegal, which I plan to start in October.  With writing and defending my thesis, moving overseas, and starting the Fulbright, I expect the next 6 months to be a whirlwind!

Before any of that, though, we have another important event: the 2014 WORLD CUP.  I am so excited!!

Thanks for reading, and I hope to see you out cheering on team USA!

Winter update!

Hello again and happy spring!

In my last post, I talked a bit about my research on the environmental impacts of wave energy converters (WECs).  In this post, I’d like to give you a few updates on how my work is progressing and where it is heading next.

I am interested in how the presence of WEC arrays will change the wave climate at the shoreline.  I use a numerical model called SWAN to determine the changes in the nearshore wave height, wave direction, and wave-induced forces as a result of offshore WEC arrays.  I started with an idealized coastline, with the goal of developing general conclusions on the nearshore effects of WEC arrays that could be used as guidelines in the preliminary design and development of future arrays.  To do this, I simulated changes in the nearshore wave climate on generic planar beaches for a range of wave conditions, array configurations, and array locations.  I am currently applying the same model to two permitted wave energy test sites along the Oregon coast, the Northwest National Marine Renewable Energy Center (NNMREC) North Energy Test Site (NETS) and the NNMREC South Energy Test Site (SETS) in Newport.  The analyses of the SETS and NETS sites will help determine if the generalized conclusions made in the first part of the study are applicable to sites with more complicated bathymetries (underwater topographies).  Additionally, these analyses will provide relevant, site-specific data that can be used in larger environmental assessments of the NETS and SETS test sites.

Things are coming along nicely, albeit a bit slower than expected.  Numerical modeling is a true test of patience!  Although I expected to move a bit more quickly, I did make a lot of progress this past term, and I was able to submit my first conference paper in January.  The paper was accepted yesterday, which is really exciting.  Additionally, I will be presenting in a few weeks at the Annual Global Marine Renewable Energy Conference (GMREC) and the Marine Energy Technology Symposium (METS), a joint week-long conference in Seattle.  This will be a great opportunity to meet and build connections with a range of researchers and professionals in the field, to share my current research and information on other research being conducted at OSU, and to broaden my understanding of current developments in the field of marine energy.  I’m really looking forward to the conference and I’m excited for a week in Seattle!

Overall, I’m happy with the progress I’ve made this year.  I just finished my last class, and I’m really excited to be able to focus exclusively on my research in the upcoming quarter.  There is still a lot that needs to be done!

Thanks for reading, and enjoy spring break!

This post has been a long time in the making.  No matter how hard I try to stay on top of things early in the quarter, November and December always end up being a bit of a whirlwind.  I have (finally!) finished the quarter, and I have moved on to regular 40 hour work weeks.  It almost feels like vacation.

This quarter was a particularly busy one.  In addition to my classes, I was presenting my research at the American Geophysical Union (AGU) Fall Meeting, a weeklong conference in San Francisco that gathers more than 20,000 researchers from a range of fields. The conference very inconveniently occurs during finals week, but it’s an incredible opportunity to interact with fellow scientists and to learn more about the work being conducted in the field.

A bit of background: I am an MS candidate at Oregon State University and one of three Robert E. Malouf scholars for 2014.  I work with Dr. Merrick Haller in the Coastal and Ocean Engineering group on the effects of offshore Wave Energy Converter (WEC) arrays on the nearshore wave field. This research is part of a large and multidisciplinary effort to understand the potential environmental impacts of WEC devices.  The Malouf Fellowship allows me to be more active in the scientific community through conferences such as AGU and the Marine Energy Technology Symposium (METS) (where I will be presenting my research in April 2014) and it has given me insight into other Sea Grant related work being done at a more local level.  I am very grateful for the support of the Oregon Sea Grant and for the opportunity to be part of the Sea Grant community.

More specifically, my research focuses on how the presence of WEC arrays changes the waves at the shoreline, and the potential impacts of these changes on nearshore processes.  WEC devices extract energy from the waves, which results in a low energy area behind the devices, referred to as the WEC shadow.  The extraction of energy results in a reduction in wave height and a change in wave direction in the WEC shadow.  Wave height and direction are important parameters in nearshore processes, and are especially important in the generation of rip currents and longshore currents that drive sediment transport.  Coastal erosion is a serious problem on certain parts of the Oregon coast.  Could the deployment of offshore WEC arrays increase erosion in vulnerable areas? Could it result in the generation of rip currents that pose serious risks for swimmers and beach users?  If so, where?  It is important to understand the potential impacts of WEC arrays in order to choose the best size, design, and location for arrays before they are deployed.

To address these issues, I am using the numerical model SWAN to simulate the changes on the wave field resulting from each individual device.  The past few months I have spent developing a technique for representing the WEC arrays in the model, and then applying this technique on an idealized coastline to make a few general conclusions about the effects of WEC arrays on the nearshore zone.  In the upcoming months, I will be using this same technique to simulate arrays at two permitted wave energy test sites off the coast of Newport, the Northwest National Marine Renewable Energy Center (NNMREC) North Energy Test Site (NETS) and the South Energy Test Site (SETS), using high resolution bathymetry and directional wave spectra from a 2011 hindcast.  This will allow us to gain insight into the effects of WEC arrays on a more realistic coastline, and to see how the deployment of a WEC array could potentially affect the nearshore environment and communities in the Newport area.

I am happy with the progress I’ve made in the past few months, and I’m really excited to continue.  At the moment, though, I am very ready to enjoy winter break.  Happy 2014!