Chen to Lead Grant in Creating Sustainable Deltaic Coasts


Since early 2019, Qin Jim Chen, a civil and environmental engineering professor with a joint appointment in marine and environmental sciences in COS, has been using Big Data to help protect society from climate and ecological changes.

Chen leads a $866K CyberSEES grant from the National Science Foundation, in collaboration with Louisiana State University and Texas A&M University, titled “A Coastal Resilience Collaboratory: Cyber-enabled Discoveries for Sustainable Deltaic Coasts.” As the principal investigator and executive project director leading the Coastal Resilience Collaboratory, Chen works to leverage the shared expertise of coastal engineers, earth scientists, and cyberinfrastructure specialists, as well as massive amounts of data from real-time observation and modeling of hurricanes, ocean waves, storm surges, and more to develop strategies for coastal sustainability.

Over the past year working with the CyberSEES program, Chen’s team has completed several models—including on vegetal drag force induced by nonlinear waves over inundated wetlands, and a 20-year coupled ocean-wave-sediment transport model for the Northern Gulf of Mexico—and shared them on the open source platform called the Coastal Modeling Repository.

“Our hope is that people who don’t have the supercomputing expertise but do have the data can still use the models to gain information about their own regional issues,” says Chen. “Some of the products are being used by federal agencies like the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, who are tasked with designing resilient coastal infrastructure.”

In the time since the grant began, Chen and his team have published frequently on their research findings, such as in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans, the Journal of Physical Oceanography, and Coastal Engineering. Chen and his team also presented their work at a number of conferences, including “Coastal Sediments 2019: Advancing Science and Engineering for Resilient Coastal Systems,” American Society of Civil Engineers Engineering Mechanics Institute Annual Conference, and Community Surface Dynamics Modeling System Annual Meeting.

Abstract Source: NSF

Communities on modern river deltas with total populations greater than 500 million people face threats from global reductions in river sediment, land subsidence and rising sea level. Risk mitigation efforts may require intensive computer simulations that are integrated with data collection and engineering analytics for guidance. This project establishes a Coastal Resilience Collaboratory with a three-fold mission: 1) enhance the collaboration among earth scientists, computer scientists, cyberinfrastructure specialists and coastal engineers tasked with solving the sustainability issues of deltaic coasts; 2) identify risk mitigation for coastal communities subject to flooding hazards using approaches that integrate restoration and protection; and 3) leverage NSF investments in cyberinfrastructure to address problems of major national importance involving engineering design guided by coastal system responses to specific hazard mitigation projects. Effective linkages of cyberinfrastructure that enables rapid sharing and integration of available data resources and computational tools will be evaluated. The project will also evaluate how effectively these cyberinfrastructure products promote the wider use of high-performance computing and data analytics in the coastal engineering and science research community. The proposed project has a wide range of broader impacts, ranging from education and workforce development, to dissemination of research results to the general public, K-12 students, and coastal managers and decision makers.

The Coastal Resilience Collaboratory core research program builds on a recently funded Coastal SEES project (EAR-1427389), which serves as the science driver for the cyberinfrastructre development and its enabled simulation experiments. One of the grand challenges for earth system science is to characterize dynamic environmental processes at appropriate space and time scales with integrated observation networks and models. The project advances four elements: 1) A simulation management system for a high-level web-based interface, improving multiphysics model usability for coastal scientists/engineers not familiar with advanced computing resources; 2) Application packaging for cloud-computing using Docker container technology to facilitate prototype simulation experiments in two large river deltas to test a range of hypotheses; 3) Accelerator technology to achieve high performance levels aimed at making a GPU- accelerated Boussinesq code base available to coastal engineers for the design of sustainable infrastructure; and 4)Aapplications for visualization and access to toolkits on mobile devices to support decision-making and educational activities. The three simulation experiments that test system interactions in the modeling framework proposed is expected to produce foundational knowledge that can evaluate potential impacts of deltaic landscape change on coasts around the world and suggest mitigation solutions.

Related Faculty: Qin Jim Chen

Related Departments:Civil & Environmental Engineering