URI introduces new app to keep track of shorelines
SOUTH KINGSTOWN – Want to help document and monitor climate change along Rhode Island’s shoreline? There’s an app for that. The University of Rhode Island and the state Department of Environmental Management have teamed up on a project that lets the public use cell phones to take photos of climate change effects such as flooding and erosion, and ultimately inform practical planning and projects to address them.
Using a cell phone cradle that has been installed at three coastal locations, people can take photos at the sites and upload them to CoastSnap, an app for online photo collection and crowdsourcing.
South Kingstown is one of three coastal sites participating in the CoastSnap project. There is a CoastSnap site at East Matunuck State Beach.
Latham Park in Barrington and Misquamicut State Beach Westerly also are CoastSnap app-based shoreline monitoring sites.
The phone cradle position at each site ensures that all photos are taken from the same view and can be combined into time-lapse video sequences showing shoreline change. Change can occur, for example, with flooding and erosion tied to strong storms, tides and sea-level rise.
“Sea-level rise speeds up and worsens the natural coastal erosion that’s continually taking place in Rhode Island, where in the last 90 years, the sea level has risen nearly a foot,” DEM Director Terry Gray said. “This already is affecting the eight state surf beaches that DEM manages that more than a million people flock to every summer. For this reason, along with our deep belief in community science initiatives, DEM strongly supports this. We encourage visitors to East Matunuck and Misquamicut state beaches to snap pictures and help document the changes to our shoreline.”
Instructional signage at each location guides picture taking and uploading to CoastSnap, an online platform created by the University of New South Wales, Australia, and active in 22 countries.
Led by the URI Coastal Resources Center and Rhode Island Sea Grant, both located at the URI Graduate School of Oceanography, the project includes the DEM, which serves as both state site provider and cradle installer.
On the municipal level, Barrington, South Kingstown and Westerly are taking part to increase community education and evidence collection around coastal change.
“Our hope is that community members gain an easy and enjoyable means of contributing to local-level efforts to address climate change impacts,” Pam Rubinoff, a resilience specialist for URI CRC/Sea Grant leading the app effort, said.
For Barrington, the Latham Park site is ideal for the CoastSnap project, as the work will dovetail with a planned shoreline stabilization project.
In related work, URI CRC/Sea Grant is also planning to introduce another shoreline monitoring app to local communities. MyCoastRI ( https:// mycoast. org/ ri) supports the collection and sharing of smartphone photos depicting coastal change, including flooding, erosion and marine debris. Partners for this work are Save The Bay, Clean Ocean Access and the Rhode Island Coastal Resources Management Council.
URI CRC/Sea Grant carries out its community shoreline monitoring work with funding from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. All state partners and Barrington are providing staff to install and maintain the CoastSnap equipment stations.