Tag Archives: Book reviews

Gulf of Mexico Origin, Waters, and Biota

Edited by Noreen A. Buster and Charles W. Holmes

Volume 3, Geology

Published by Texas A&M University Press

Volume 3 of Gulf of Mexico Origin, Waters, and Biota; a series edited by John W. Tunnell Jr., Darryl L. Felder, and Sylvia A. Earle

A continuation of the landmark scientific reference series from the Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies, Gulf of Mexico Origin, Waters, and Biota, Volume 3, Geology provides the most up-to-date, systematic, cohesive, and comprehensive description of the geology of the Gulf of Mexico Basin.

The six sections of the book address the geologic history, recent depositional environments, and processes offshore and along the coast of the Gulf of Mexico.

Scientific research in the Gulf of Mexico region is continuous, extensive, and has broad-based influence upon scientific, governmental, and educational communities.

This volume is a compilation of scientific knowledge from highly accomplished and experienced geologists who have focused most of their careers on gaining a better understanding of the geology of the Gulf of Mexico. Their research, presented in this volume, describes and explains the formation of the Gulf Basin, Holocene stratigraphic and sea-level history, energy resources, coral reefs, and depositional processes that affect and are represented along our Gulf coasts. It provides valuable synthesis and interpretation of what is known about the geology of the Gulf of Mexico.

Five years in the making, this monumental compilation is both a lasting record of the current state of knowledge and the starting point for a new millennium of study.

About the author:
Noreen A. Buster is a geologist at the U.S. Geological Survey, St. Petersburg Coastal and Marine Science Center, located in St. Petersburg, Florida.

Charles W. Holmes is retired from the U. S. Geological Survey. Specializing in geochemistry and sedimentology and focusing on geochronological issues, he is currently executive director of Environchron, LLC, and adjunct professor at Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, Florida.

What Readers Are Saying:
“Served as the standard reference work for the Gulf of Mexico.”

“A very detailed technical document that will be of interest to readers who want to know about the geology of the Gulf of Mexico.”

Available now at: Texas A&M University Press

Rising Seas: Past, Present, Future

A book by Vivien Gornitz

Published by Columbia University Press

The Earth’s climate is already warming due to increased concentrations of human-produced greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, and the specter of rising sea level is one of global warming’s most far-reaching threats. Sea level will keep rising long after greenhouse gas emissions have ceased, because of the delay in penetration of surface warming to the ocean depths and because of the slow dissipation of excess atmospheric carbon dioxide.

Adopting a long perspective that interprets sea level changes both underway and expected in the near future, Vivien Gornitz completes a highly relevant and necessary study of an unprecedented age in Earth’s history.

Gornitz consults past climate archives to help better anticipate future developments and prepare for them more effectively. She focuses on several understudied historical events, including the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Anomaly, the Messinian salinity crisis, the rapid filling of the Black Sea (which may have inspired the story of Noah’s flood), and the Storrega submarine slide, an incident possibly connected to a sea level occurrence roughly 8,000 years old.

By examining dramatic variations in past sea level and climate, Gornitz concretizes the potential consequences of rapid, human-induced warming. She builds historical precedent for coastal hazards associated with a higher ocean level, such as increased damage from storm surge flooding, even if storm characteristics remain unchanged. Citing the examples of Rotterdam, London, New York City, and other forward-looking urban centers that are effectively preparing for higher sea level, Gornitz also delineates the difficult economic and political choices of curbing carbon emissions while underscoring, through past geological analysis, the urgent need to do so.

About the Author:
Vivien Gornitz is a geologist and special research scientist with the Columbia University Center for Climate Systems Research and the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies. She has written numerous articles on sea level rise and the impacts of climate change on the coastal zone. She was a contributor to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in 2007 and to the New York City Panel on Climate Change and New York State Energy Research and Development Authority ClimAID in 2010 and 2011.

Order available now at: University Of Columbia Press

The Human Shore: Seacoasts In History

The Human Shore:

Seacoasts In History

A book by John R. Gillis

Published by The University of Chicago Press

“It is a pleasure to see the culture and science of our shores dovetailed into a history of such authority and grace. This will be required reading.” —John Stilgoe, Harvard University

After a long period of moving inland, humans are now rushing back to coasts, with 54 per cent of all Americans now living within fifty miles of an ocean. Yet according to a new book, the latest generation of coastal dwellers are ill equipped to deal with coastal environments, for they are ignorant of the shore’s natural and human history. They live on the shore but do not know how to live with it.

In his new book, The Human Shore: Seacoasts in History published by University of Chicago Press, November 2012, historian John R. Gillis explores the deep history of seacoasts, the original home of humankind.

Beginning with the moment that Africans came down to the shore, he follows the coastal migrations which ultimately populated the entire globe. Gillis shows how we have shaped coasts, and how they have shaped us.

“Coastlines are not found in nature,” he writes, “They are the product of human initiative, first imagined, then discovered, named, and, ultimately, surveyed and settled. As a historian, my task is to tell the story not of a physical object but of a cultural process, one by which our modern understanding of coasts came into being.”

The Human Shore: Seacoasts in History is the first comprehensive account of the rise of coastal civilizations on a global scale. It departs from conventional maritime history by focusing on the place where land and water meet.

Beginning with the first Homo sapiens that came down to the shore almost 164,000 years ago, it explores the misunderstood history of marine hunter- gatherers, showing how they laid the foundations for human progress. The story moves from the Mediterranean to the shores of Atlantic Europe, which launched the discovery of the seas and the coastal settlement of North America. Originally intent on exploiting the riches of the sea rather than land, Europeans lived lightly on the shores. For them, the coast was a frontier, facing both inland and seaward.

“Until the nineteenth century,” Gillis explains, “coasts were treated as a permeable, fluid boundary. Then, with the onset of industrialization and urbanization, attitudes toward shores changed. They became less a place of work than of leisure. The old coastal populations, who knew how to live in harmony with a fluid environment, were displaced by inlanders ignorant of this ancient way of life. Today, millennia of human experience is virtually forgotten.”

The Human Shore: Seacoasts in History explores the emergence of the modern coast from the
first seaside spas of the eighteenth century through the establishment of the beach holiday to contemporary surfing culture. It shows how waterfronts have changed as fishing and shipping have moved from old seaports to new locations. Gillis tracks the rise of the seascape as a unique element of modernity. He shows how central coasts have been to the identity of Europeans and Americans, even those who live far from the shore.

“Yet, even as we surge to the shore, lining it with summer and winter homes, we have become alienated from the sea,” says Gillis. “In the process, we have lost touch with its nature and our own human nature, as this was shaped over millennia of engagement with the precious place where land and water meet.”

Still, as it was from the first moment when Homo sapiens came down to the shore, coasts have remained a source of enormous cultural significance. As Rachel Carson predicted more than a half century ago, we are destined to return to the sea, not just physically but “mentally and imaginatively.” As a location for spiritual revelation, the importance of coasts remains undiminished, confirming Herman Melville’s observation that “meditation and water are wedded forever.”

Yet, this latest colonization of coasts from the interior has made them ever more vulnerable in this period of climate change. Many of the efforts to defend against sea rise, hurricanes, and tsunamis by hardening the shore have had the opposite effects. Gillis shows the folly of shoreline engineering and suggests that nature can protect itself if only we would allow wetlands and barrier islands to do their job.

“Every school child now knows that waters are rising, but few know anything about the multiple ways our species has coped, often successfully, with earlier episodes of inundation,” Gillis concludes. “We need to recover the wisdom of coastal peoples.”

The Human Shore: Seacoasts in History provides a needed corrective to coastal amnesia by providing multiple historical examples of the remarkable adaptability of our amphibious species.

About the author:
John R. Gillis is the author of Islands of the Mind, A World of their Own Making: Myth, Ritual, and the Quest for Family Values, and Commemorations. He is Professor History Emeritus at Rutgers University and now divides his time between two coasts: Northern California and Maine.

Order available now at: University Of Chicago Press

Inside Climate Change and Our World’s Beaches with Dr. Orrin Pilkey

By Clayton Moore, The Kirkus Review

There is a vivid and glorious history of writing about the environment, ecology and the world around us. In the seminal book Walden; or, Life in the Woods (1854), the great transcendentalist Henry David Thoreau chronicled his spiritual journal but also described in magnificent detail the richness of life in the woods.

When John Steinbeck decided to voyage down the coast of California with his friend Ed Ricketts in 1940, little did he know they were leaving behind incredible insight into both their philosophies about the world in The Log of the Sea of Cortez (1951). We still read works like A Sand County Almanac (1949) to delve into the relationship between people and their environs.

The fact is that these books continue to be important not only for armchair scientists but for the rest of us to contemplate our place in this tense, fragile world. Dr. Orrin H. Pilkey (Useless Arithmetic, 2007, etc.) offers two decidedly different takes on the genre in his latest works.

The World’s Beaches (2011), written with three fellow scientists from around the world, is a comprehensive but relatable guide to the science of the shoreline, teaching readers precisely how beaches work and how to read the “character” of any given shoreline.

His second book, Global Climate Change: A Primer (2011), offers an accurate, comprehensive introduction to a controversial subject, written with his son Keith Pilkey and richly illustrated through batik art by Mary Edna Fraser.

Pilkey, professor emeritus of Geology and of Earth and Ocean Sciences at Duke University, is unusual in his willingness to advocate for changes in policies that affect the environment. “Scientists, in my view, have a responsibility to spread the word,” he told Kirkus. “Part of the problem is that we scientists tend to be dullards when it comes to selling our case. Those who work in science tend to be very unsuited for spreading the word—that’s why they’re scientists. But although we should have opinions about policy, scientists should not determine policy per se, but should provide the basis for policy decisions.”

While the books may appear academic to the everyday reader, Pilkey warns that beaches remain one of the best indicators of things to come with global warming. “I believe that the first truly global crisis will be sea-level rise and the movement of beaches retreating into cities and other places requiring massive changes of one kind or another,” he says. “Understanding how shorelines work will be critical to our response to sea-level rise.”

As one of the world’s foremost experts, Pilkey also remains steadfastly at the eye of the hurricane when it comes to the political debate over global climate change. “The most common misconception is that put forth by ‘deniers,’ who argue that we scientists are biased and even incompetent. In trashing global change science, they damage science in general,” he says.

Pilkey believes the United States in particular is divided into two camps with radically different outlooks. “Simply put, there are those who believe that global warming is happening at that humans are responsible, and those who don’t,” he says. “I personally believe the level of education is greater in the first camp, but the rule is complex. One of the nation’s most prestigious papers, The Wall Street Journal, generally opposes the human connection and the idea of doing anything about global change. The New York Times, on the other hand, supports the concept of human involvement in climate change.”

Despite his immersive knowledge about beaches in particular, Pilkey admits that there’s more to learn. “In a broad way, we know a great deal about how beaches evolved,” he says. “When I look back, I find it embarrassing to think about what we believed were the principles of beaches. But there are still things we don’t know, like exactly what happens to all the sand that is disbursed from beaches during storms. Why do some beaches recover from storms, and others not?

“Part of the purpose of The World’s Beaches is to get people to love and appreciate beaches on a different level. They are the most dynamic geomorphic feature on the surface of the Earth.”

To the audience for Global Climate Change, Pilkey has a message, especially for those who remain burdened by doubt. “I want to tell the world that they should not read thermometers to determine warming,” he says. “They should read the Earth. Look at melting ice sheets, melting mountain glaciers, melting permafrost, warming oceans, rising seas, changing plant and animal patterns. There are many uncertainties about the future of global climate change, but the general trends are very strong. The public should not consider uncertainties to be a sign of weakness, but rather a sign that scientists are making careful statements. Strong, unbending statements about global change made with certainty are a sure sign of bad science.”

Food for thought.

Perhaps there’s something to be said for staring into the abyss and thinking about our place in it. As Steinbeck’s friend Doc Ricketts once wrote, “There are good things to see in the tide pools, and there are exciting and interesting thoughts to be generated from the seeing.”

Both The World’s Beaches and Global Climate Change are available now.

The World’s Beaches : A Global Guide to the Science of the Shoreline: A book by Orrin H. Pilkey, William J. Neal, James Andrew Graham Cooper and Joseph T. Kelley

Published by University Of California Press
” Beaches are the most dynamic features on Earth, constantly changing shape and providing vital ecological functions and a home to environments of amazing biodiversity. Understanding the importance of the beach’s role vis-a-vis the land, the nearshore and the ocean and its biodiversity is crucial to its protection and preservation.”
—Santa Aguila Foundation

Global Climate Change: A Primer; A Book by Orrin H. Pilkey and Keith C. Pilkey, Illustrated with batik art by Mary Edna Fraser

Published by Duke University Press

An internationally recognized expert on the geology of barrier islands, Orrin H. Pilkey is one of the rare academics who engages in public advocacy about science-related issues. He has written dozens of books and articles explaining coastal processes to lay readers, and he is a frequent and outspoken interviewee in the mainstream media. Here, the colorful scientist takes on climate change deniers in an outstanding and much-needed primer on the science of global change and its effects.

After explaining the greenhouse effect, Pilkey, writing with son Keith C. Pilkey, turns to the damage it is causing: sea level rise, ocean acidification, glacier and sea ice melting, changing habitats, desertification, and the threats to animals, humans, coral reefs, marshes, and mangroves. These explanations are accompanied by Mary Edna Fraser’s stunning batiks depicting the large-scale arenas in which climate change plays out.

The Pilkeys directly confront and rebut arguments typically advanced by global change deniers. Particularly valuable are their discussions of “Climategate,” a manufactured scandal that undermined respect for the scientific community, and the denial campaigns by the fossil fuel industry, which they compare to the tactics used by the tobacco companies a generation ago to obfuscate findings on the harm caused by cigarettes.

Sullie Saves the Seas

Sullie Saves the Seas

A book by By Goffinet McLaren

Published by Prose Press

Sullie Saves the Seas by Goffinet McLaren is a fun and educational little paperback for children that explores the human extremes of caring and indifference as a small group of dedicated birds battle to preserve our oceans.

When McLaren’s super-hero, Sullie, realized plastic pollution is destroying his precious Turtle Beach, he calls his friends to action. Sullie, the leader, forms a Secret Society with Speedy the Sandpiper, Plonkie the Pelican, Eddo the Eager Eagle, and Allo the Albatross. Together, this charming cast of characters creates a fun-filled, exciting adventure that takes aim ath the insensitive humans causing environmental damage to the beach, and to Sullie’s ocean pals.

Chapter by chapter, Sullie’s clever plot unfolds to deliver a delightful tale you will enjoy sharing with your children and friends. The story targets kids from eight to twelve years old, but kids of all ages will laugh with, learn from, and love a savvy seagull’s schemes to save his ocean.

The story is dedicated to all the sea birds, whales, dolphins, seals, and turtles that have lost their lives to plastic pollution…

About the authors:
Goffinet grew up in a small town in Northern Ireland. Surrounded by the sea, she was always aware of the importance of caring for the ocean’s creatures and her sense of right and wrong ripened into a positive passion to make a difference in the world.

With a Forward by Caption Charles Moore, discoverer of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, and founder, Algalita Marine Research Institute.

Order available now at: Amazon.com, and in local bookstores

Sullie Saves the Seas is recommended by the following (endorsements on back cover):
5 Gyres Institute, Sierra Club, PETA, Plastic Pollution Coalition, S. C. Coastal Conservation League, and the Algalita Marine Research Institute.

The Beach Book: Science of the Shore

The Beach Book: Science of the Shore

by Carl H. Hobbs

Published by Columbia University Press

Waves and tides, wind and storms, sea-level rise and shore erosion: these are the forces that shape our beaches, and beach lovers of all stripes can benefit from learning more about how these coastal processes work. With animation and clarity, The Beach Book tells sunbathers why beaches widen and narrow, and helps boaters and anglers understand why tidal inlets migrate.

It gives home buyers insight into erosion rates and provides natural-resource managers and interested citizens with rich information on beach nourishment and coastal-zone development. And for all of us concerned about the long-term health of our beaches, it outlines the latest scientific information on sea-level rise and introduces ways to combat not only the erosion of beaches but also the decline of other coastal habitats.

The more we learn about coastline formation and maintenance, Carl Hobbs argues, the better we can appreciate and cultivate our shores. Informed by the latest research and infused with a passion for its subject, The Beach Book provides a wide-ranging introduction to the shore, and all of us who love the beach and its associated environments will find it timely and useful.

About the author:
Carl H. Hobbs is a professor of marine science at Virginia Institute of Marine Science at the College of William & Mary. His research interests include coastal geology and processes, the geologic history of the Chesapeake Bay and the surrounding region, marine archaeology, and the environmental consequences of marine sand mining and beach nourishment. Additionally, with colleagues from the Center for Archaeological Research and the Department of Geology at William & Mary, he has investigated physical changes to Jamestown Island that have occurred since the beginning of the Holocene, when humans first inhabited the region.

Order available now at: Columbia University Press

Interview with Carl H. Hobbs

Author of The Beach Book: Science of the Shore

Published by Columbia University Press, 2012.

In the following interview Carl Hobbs, author of The Beach Book: Science of the Shore, answers questions such as How many grains of sand are there on the beach? How will climate change affect beaches? Can beaches be “renourished”? and What explains the difference in sand color?

Question: Why did you write The Beach Book: Science of the Shore?

Answer—Carl Hobbs: I think that the more we understand something the more we appreciate it, and the more we like something the more we want to know about it. The Beach Book can help readers develop a broader perspective by understanding why a beach “works,” and how individual pieces come together to constitute the beach. I also wrote The Beach Book to answer some of the questions that I’ve been asked throughout my career.

Q:Such as?

A: Where does sand come from? Every grain of sand on the beach was eroded from somewhere and moved to the shore. The erosion can be the result of the fragmentation of larger rocks caused by water freezing and expanding, by abrasion as small pieces break off a larger piece, or by the slow chemical weathering of more soluble minerals of a rock so that the more resistant sand grains are released.

Q:When I go to the beach in the spring, there isn’t much sand and it is narrow but when I return later in the summer, there is a lot of sand and the beach is wide. What happens?

A: Assuming that we’re just dealing with natural processes, that the beach had not been artificially “nourished” with sand from elsewhere, you’re seeing the normal cycle of beach growth. The low waves that occur between storms interact with the bottom in a way that moves sand toward the shore. The process builds a sand bar that parallels the shore and moves toward it. If there are no storms, the bar or ridge reaches and climbs up the front of the beach making it wider. Depending on local circumstances, this can take place in a few days, or it might take a couple of weeks, and it can happen over and over again making the beach even wider.

However the waves that accompany a storm such as a nor’easter have enough energy to rip sand from the beach and move it both along the shoreline and off shore. In a few hours a strong storm can erode a lot of sand. This is especially true if the storm occurs around the time of high tide. As soon as the storm abates, the building process starts again.

Q: You mentioned beach nourishment. Does it work?

A: It depends. Putting a lot of sand on a beach can be a good way to maintain a beach in some locations and can be something that should be avoided in others. Moreover, artificial nourishment is not a one-time fix and since it is being used to restore a beach that has lost sand through time, it stands to reason that the new sand will erode as well. One problem is the difficulty of estimating how long it will be until the area needs to be renourished. If the beach is hit by a hurricane, all of the just-placed sand might be lost over a short time. But if the area escapes severe storms for a few years, the nourishment might last five or ten years.

Q: What are other factors in determining renourishment projects?

A: There is also the question of economics: does the beach economy bring in enough money to justify the expense of the nourishment project? There probably is not an economic justification for nourishing a beach in an undeveloped, natural area, but maintaining the beach in front of the boardwalk of a developed tourist destination might be a necessity. Without a full, attractive beach, tourists are less likely to visit and the hotels, restaurants, t-shirt shops, and other businesses would lose business and the local economy would lose jobs and tax revenues.

Q: I’ve heard that nourishment projects can use huge amounts of sand – tens or hundreds of thousands of cubic yards or more. This begs the question: how many grains of sand are there in a beach?

A: A lot. Let’s start small and move up from there. If we take ball bearings that are 1 mm in diameter, the size of coarse sand, and put them in a line, ten of them will extend 1 cm. So if we fill a square 1 cm on a side, it’ll take 100 of the grains to cover. And if we make that square 1 cm tall, a volume of a cubic centimeter or a milliliter, it will take 1,000 grains to fill it. And lining the grains up in straight lines is not an efficient way to pack them together. It takes a thousand of the centimeter cubes to fill a one liter bottle, a million grains!

Now, let’s think of a fine-grained sand, as often is found around the Gulf of Mexico. Fine-grained sand can be 1/8th of a mm in diameter. It takes 80 grains to make a line 1 cm long. So the 1 cm cube would contain 80 times 80 times 80 or 512 thousand grains. The 1 liter bottle would contain a thousand times that, or 512 million grains.

A single cubic meter contains a million cubic centimeters (100 times 100 times 100). So would contain 512 billion grains. And a beach can easily contain hundreds of thousands of cubic yards of material. All in all, more grains than I want to count.

Q: At some beaches the sand is tan or almost white. At others there are patches of dark, nearly black, sand, and others are mostly dark. Why?

A: The mineralogy of the sand grains. The clean, white-tan sands consist mostly of the minerals quartz and feldspar. On the East Coast, south of Cape Hatteras, some of the light-colored sand comes from the shells of very small marine animals or sand-sized pieces of carbonate from offshore reefs or pulverized shells. The carbonate sands in Bermuda are known for their pinkish hue. The dark sands are what geologists call “heavy minerals.” The specific mineral depends upon what was available to the beach. In some parts of New England, the dark mineral is the purplish-red of garnet. In other areas magnetite – which, by the way you can collect it with a magnet –accumulates on the beach. Titanium is a component of some heavy minerals such as ilmenite. Many of the minerals associated with volcanoes are heavy and dark which explains the black sands of some of Hawaii’s beaches. In some places the minerals have economic value and the deposits have be collected (mined) for that reason.

Q: Why do some storms cause a lot of erosion while others barely seem to touch the beach?

A: Several factors work together to determine how much damage a storm will cause. Obviously the strength of the storm plays an important role. The frequency of storms makes a difference too. A single, small storm might cause a little erosion, but if other storms occur before the beach has had a chance to rebuild, the successive storms will do more and more damage. The relationship between the time the storm hits the shore and the tide is important too. A fast-moving storm that occurs during the time of low tide will have a diminished effect but a storm around the time of high tide or, will be more damaging. The high water that accompanies a storm, the storm surge, adds to the normal level of the tide. If the surge is at its peak during low tide, the water level might not be any higher than it would be at a normal high tide. But if the peak of the surge coincides with high tide, the elevated water level, in addition to flooding a large area, allows waves to reach farther inland where they can do more damage. A storm that lasts through two or more high tides will have more even more time to effect the shore.

The path of a storm such as a hurricane in relation to the shoreline is another factor. Storms that move parallel to the coast do not blast one area for a long time. But if the storm comes straight at the shore, the narrow zone ahead of and just to the right of the eye really gets slammed. This is what caused a lot of the anxiety last year as Hurricane Irene worked up the mid-Atlantic coast.

Q: If the elevated water level of a storm surge increases erosion, how about sea-level rise and climate change?

A: Sea-level rise is one result of climate change. Individual sections of the shore respond to the changes in the local sea level. In general, an increase in water level will contribute to shoreline erosion.

While there is an average, worldwide rate of sea-level rise, local subsidence or uplift can make a real differences. In some places where the land is rising, the local, or relative, sea level falls. But in areas of subsidence where the land is sinking, the rate of rise is faster than the average. There is subsidence from New Jersey south through North Carolina and in the Gulf Coast around the Mississippi Delta. If the rate of rise is not too fast, the beach will move landward, and will threaten or consume the shore-front houses and roads. Where there is a substantial sea wall, the beach will not be able to roll landward. When waves hit a sea wall, they erode the beach and this will happen more often as the high water level will bring the wave to the wall more frequently. With an even faster rate of rise, the barrier islands will flood from behind as well erode on the front and would be at risk of disappearing.

More broadly, from what I’ve read, climate change is like to cause hurricanes to be stronger but, perhaps, not more numerous. Stronger hurricanes coupled with higher sea level will lead to more erosion. We’re already seeing the range of some plants shift northward with the warming climate.

Coastal Heroes

A book by By Miles O. Hayes

Published by Pandion Books

“In Coastal Heroes, an ever-enthusiastic Miles Hayes tells the story of a long and very distinguished 50-year career as a field geologist and educator.

Carried out on all 7 continents, his investigations range from the study of earth history, oil spills, oil exploration, and barrier islands and beaches.

In each chapter he relates the conclusions of some studies and then recounts, with humor and candor, his adventures and misadventures in the field.

Hayes’ passion for life and for the science of geology is infectious and his story is a clear bit of evidence that scientists are real people too.”
—Dr. Orrin H. Pilkey, Professor Emeritus, Duke University, Nicholas School of the Environment.

“Honest. Funny. Irreverent. Coastal Heroes is a memoir of the extraordinary career of the “Father of Coastal Geomorphology“, Miles O. Hayes. From humble beginnings in the mountains of North Carolina to expeditions on every continent, Hayes brings to life the (often wild) adventures of a geologist. His brilliant descriptions of coastal landforms and the processes that mold and shape them are on display in each chapter, proving his powers of observation.

But this memoir also shows Hayes to be a keen observer of people and the human condition, through his diverse epigraphs, and often hilarious anecdotes gleaned from his private journals. Coastal Heroes carries the reader along on a fast-paced journey of scientific discovery spanning 50 years, which as Hayes readily admits couldn‘t have happened without a coterie of students, characters and colleagues, who provide an ongoing fabric to his story. After reading this book, you‘ll know why so many Hayes students did “heroic” things in the name of science. It was simply to be part of this constellation of discovery circling a unique man.”
—Dr. Tim Kana, Coastal Science & Engineering.

About the Author:
Chairman of Research Planning, Inc., in Columbia, South Carolina, Miles O. Hayes is a geologist and marine scientist with over fifty years of research experience. In 1997, he was awarded the Francis P. Shepard Medal in Marine Geology by the Society for Sedimentary Geology.

Order available now at: Pandion Books

How to Read a Florida Gulf Coast Beach

How to Read a Florida Gulf Coast Beach:

A Guide to Shadow Dunes, Ghost Forests, and Other Telltale Clues from an Ever-Changing Coast.

A book by Tonya Clayton

Published by The University of North Carolina Press

“Come explore the geology of Florida’s Gulf Coast beaches, from a bird’s-eye view down to a crab’s-eye view. You’ll journey from Panhandle sugar-sand beaches to southwestern shell beaches, taking a fresh look at the ever-changing landscape.

With Tonya Clayton as your guide, you’ll learn how to recognize the stories and read the clues of these dynamic shores, reshaped daily by winds, waves, and sometimes bulldozers or dump trucks.

This dynamic tour begins with a broad description of Florida’s Gulf Coast, roaming from popular Perdido Key in the northwest to remote Cape Sable in the south.

You’ll first fly over large-scale coastal features such as the barrier islands, learning to spot signs of the many processes that shape the shores. In subsequent chapters you’ll visit dunes and beaches to check out sand ripples, tracings, and other markings that show the handiwork of beach breezes, ocean waves, animal life, and even raindrops and air bubbles. You’ll also encounter signs of human shaping, including massive boulder structures and sand megatransfers.

With a conversational style and more than a hundred illustrations, How to Read a Florida Gulf Coast Beach makes coastal science accessible, carrying vacationers and Florida natives alike on a lively, informative tour of local beach features.”

About the authors:
Tonya Clayton is a freelance science writer and editor.

Order available now at: UNC Press


“An excellent guide to Florida’s Gulf Coast environment. As well as being a primer on coastal processes, the book conveys some important environmental messages. It will not only fill a niche in beach-goers’ reading, but will also spark a greater sense of concern about the future of these beaches.” —William J. Neal, Grand Valley State University.

“Tonya Clayton has written a comprehensive, eminently readable interpretation of the beaches of Floridas Gulf of Mexico. She has a knack for using clever metaphors to explain key elements of beaches. Claytons knowledge and observations greatly enhance a visit to the shore. Open your eyes!” —Albert Hine, University of South Florida.

“In her fun and engaging book, Tonya Clayton leads the uninitiated beach lover through an explanation of how the Florida Gulf Coast beaches work. With her original voice and clear explanations, Clayton brings visitors, homeowners, and voters to a nuanced understanding of the processes that shape this stretch of coastline.”—Joseph T. Kelley, University of Maine.

“Tonya Clayton shows you how to read the natural and man-made shapes and textures of Florida’s Gulf beaches, dunes, and islands like a tracker reads animal signs in the wild. You’ll be eager to go straight to the nearest beach to immerse yourself in your new, richer understanding of your favorite beaches. This is the book I’ve been waiting for!” —David McRee, “the BeachHunter,” Florida beach expert and blogger.

Cradle of Flames

Photo source: ©© Zoutedrop

Fire in Mediterranean Ecosystems

A Book by Professor Jon E. Keeley / USGS. Cambridge University Press.


We may tend to view fires as the bane of cities and wilderness areas, but they actually play an integral part in the evolution and ecology of the world’s “Mediterranean-type climate” regions: dry, temperate coastlands that cradle and nurture world cities such as Los Angeles, Santiago, Cape Town, Perth and Athens.

Exploring the impact of fire on Mediterranean-type ecosystems and plant communities is the focus of a new book, “Fire in Mediterranean Ecosystems,” published by Cambridge University Press. The book’s host of international authors is led by fire ecologist Jon Keeley of the U.S. Geological Survey.

“Understanding the relationship between wildland fire and healthy ecosystems is an essential ingredient in being able to effectively manage wilderness areas,” said USGS director Marcia McNutt. “Similarly, understanding what steps communities and homeowners can take to provide a safety buffer from these frequent fires should be the responsibility of all those who live in these very desirable regions.

“We are providing in-depth reviews of the role fire plays in each of the geographically separate regions, like Chile and southern California,” says Keeley, who is also an adjunct professor at University of California-Los Angeles. “These form the basis for a synthesis of how fire has shaped these environments.

The book provides new perspective on the global importance of fire, and a unique view of how fire has shaped Earth’s ecosystems. The five Mediterranean-climate regions of the world provide a framework for understanding a diversity of fire regimes and how those regimes have affected the evolution of plant traits and plant communities.

Binding these Mediterranean-climate regions together is the pattern of mild, wet winters alternating with hot, dry summers, Keeley says.

Such conditions lead to dense fuels — comprising highly flammable plant leaves and twigs — that are conducive to severe wildfires on an annual basis. Subtle differences in climates and geology of each region provide a framework for understanding how diverse fire environments shaped the evolution of plants and plant community assemblages. The authors also challenge the belief that climate and soils alone can explain the convergent characteristics of these ecosystems.

No less important is the discussion of humans, who have long been attracted to Mediterranean climate regions, but have not always successfully adapted to these fire-prone landscapes.

“Urban populations have been highly vulnerable to wildfires in some Mediterranean-type climate regions, with differences in vulnerability between regions being due largely to innate differences in fuel loads of indigenous vegetation types and profound differences in population density,” says Keeley. “This book explores how innate differences in vegetation and patterns of human development have molded fire management responses.”

Original Article, USGS

Fire in Mediterranean Ecosystems, Cambridge University